peteg's blog - noise - books - 2010 11 14 Heinlein StrangerInAStrangeLand

Robert Heinlein: Stranger in a Strange Land

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I read this for the first time in 1996, my first year at uni, and as such it was like running into an old (American) friend after too many years and maybe too many drugs. The edition I had then was an ancient paperback, bought for a dollar or two at the UNSW book sale. This time it was the uncut version from 1991, a flabby 650-ish page doorstop published soon after the author died.

Well, it is an airport novel. The plot is just a skeleton on which to hang the authorial opinions, which are mouthed by Jubal "all-father" Harshaw, the other characters acting as foils and provocateurs for some fairly stock libertarian / anarchist propaganda, doubtlessly shocking at the time, typical of Heinlein. These monologues really start to drag by the second half of the book. Some of the window dressing is similar to what John Brunner does, the news flashes, the titillation, but my gut feeling is that Brunner's worlds are a bit more complete and take a broader view of things.

Would it make a good movie? Maybe, but I doubt the religious stuff would translate too well, and there's too much talking and not enough doing. Perhaps Heinlein was disappointed that it is not the foundation stone of a church as well known as Scientology...