Saturday, April 10, 2010
Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein
One of the classics of science fiction. Hugo award winner. One of Heinlein's best known works. But is it any good when read today? Well, lets say this way: 60000 words were cut from this book before it was first published. If another 60000 were cut from the book, then the result would probably be pretty good book.
This book tells about Valentine Smith, a human child who has been raised by Martians, and as such isn't familiar with human norms and habits. By some very contrived plot twist he is supposed to own the whole Mars and is also by another hard to believe plot point he is the inheritor of everyone of the whole perished first human expedition to Mars, who all by another convenient plot point were very rich. As a result Valentine is extremely wealthy, and first is almost “swept under a rug” by government. When he gets that sorted out, and has explored earth and its customs for a while, he founds a religion which mainly seems to speak for brotherhood of all men and for sexual freedom.
The book has far too many discussions and rants about various subjects (which sometimes have little do do with the main plot) from worthlessness of modern art to religion. The world where characters are supposed to live is an undated future, but everyone seems to have very American norms and those norms are very fifties like. Yeah, there are cosmetic changes, but the main things (the place of women in society, attitudes towards nakedness and so on feel ridiculously old fashionable)
The portrayal of women is really bad and irritating, even from a male reader's point of view. A woman character is really liberated,when she notices that the most important thing in the world is to look beautiful and strip for men. Also, according to Heinlein's character, 95% of all rapes are woman's fault. And all women should be ready to have sex with all men in the “inner circle”, but homosexuality is something “wrong”.
The book is really past by its sell-by date. The basic idea is very good, and writing as such is pretty ok. By cutting some of the more ridiculous ranting conversations and some of very sixties style of moral norms this might be very good book.