Friday, February 26, 2010

Book Review: Stranger in a Strange Land

Robert A. Heinlein
Awards: Hugo
Rating: ★ – – – –


Ick. Ick. Ick.

I think possibly the worst part of this book is the way women are written. They are all perfect people who are calm and soothing and never get mad and are always gorgeous and often clad only in robes. They also totally adore the extremely irritating main character.

The main character, Valentine Michael Smith, is a human who was born during the first manned mission to Mars. He was raised by Martians after all the other humans in his mission died in an accident. He comes back to Earth when he is about twenty.

Because of his Martian upbringing, he has some telekinetic powers and he is dreamy and optimistic and believes in things like free love and individual freedom and self-actualization. He develops a cult of followers which eventually grows into a church and his influence spreads rapidly. He introduces humans to the concept of “groking” which, from what I understand, became quite a popular term after the book came out. “To grok” is to understand on a much, much deeper, sort of spiritual level than just plain old superficial understanding.

There is an implication in Heinlein’s writing that if you grok what Smith is about, and you believe in his creepy libertarian vision of what we can make the world become, then you are vastly superior to other people.

Of course, a la Jesus Christ, it is inevitable that established powers on Earth don’t like that Smith is saying these things and that he is gaining quite a lot of popular power. So they try to kill him. Eventually Smith does beat the evil establishment guys but only after his non-corporeal, form-of-energy Martian foster ancestors help out at the last minute by suddenly giving him even more amazing powers than he had before and transporting him to another plane of existence. Deus ex machina.

Not too easy to buy.

Or grok.

1 comment:

BJ Weedman said...

Yes! Yes! Yes! This book sucks and is super creepy! And I love free love. But the free love in this book is NOT egalitarian. Groking is also appareny some kind of fucking, which enfoces the wrong, stupid idea that sex is somehow related to spiritual intimacy.

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