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Stranger in a Strange Land

What to say about a 1961 "cult classic" sf novel that I read multiple times in the late 60's and early 70's? Reopening Robert A. Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land now, so much of it is still familiar that it must have lodged deeper than I realized. Flaws are evident, as are strengths. Heinlein's dialogue is smooth—but almost all the characters speak with his own voice, sometimes so like one another that it's hard to tell them apart. His roller-coaster plot swerves and lurches but never quite flies off the tracks; coincidence goes beyond Dickensian. Sexuality is treated with arch humor, politely and analytically—but by today's standards there's heavy-handed sexism in many areas.

Overall, though, Stranger still reads splendidly. The legendary competence of virutally everyone in Heinlein's universe is fun, if hard to believe at times. The clever mix of fantasy, religion, and science somehow works. "Grok" and "Thou art God" aren't clichés. Jubal Harshaw, elder demigod of the story, is easier for me to identify with now that I'm 40 years older than I was last time I cracked the book. And the "lessons" brought back from Mars by protagonist Valentine Michael Smith—patience, objectivity, joy, fearless love—yet remain. A book worth cherishing, not worshiping.

(cf. MarryTheOne (2005-05-20), Hurry Patiently (2008-12-14), ...) - ^z - 2009-12-11