Stranger in a Strange Land

I just finished reading Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein. This rarely happens, but the book pissed me off enough that by about page 300, I had to put it down for a couple days and then come back and finish it later.

Did anyone have a similar experience with it? Or did you have the opposite experience and really love it? I’d definitely be interested in why anyone may have loved the book, since there may be some things of value I missed in my anger.

It would help if you could tell us what made you angry. Remember, the book is going on 35 years old. The past is a different country, and all that.

I think it should have stopped when Mike laughed at the monkey.

I loved it when I was 14; haven’t read it since.

Just re-read it recently. Heinlein’s political commentary was never subtle, and it is less so after 35 years. I think it still hangs together, but it’s not aging gracefully. IMHO.

I too loved it many years ago–less now.

Worst book I ever read, beating out Hannibal by a wide margin. Apparently Heinlein is not the official worst author in the world, but I will never, no never, pick up another book he has written.

I would never judge any author by just one book, especially someone like Heinlein. I am not an expert and I have not read SiaSL but I have enjoyed many of his books. H epurposely changed writing styles depending on what he was trying to accomplish. Try some of his less controversial books or short stories first and then judge.

The first time I read it I really enjoyed it. The second time through, 10 years later, I was very annoyed. I found it much to pompous and judgemental. Years after that, I found I enjoyed it again.

When I saw the thread title I wasn’t sure if it would be about RH, or about Leon Russell’s song, SIASL.

It’s been so long, I think I need to re-read it.

Stranger in a Strange Land should absolutely not be the first Heinlein book you read, for exactly this reason. I love Heinlein. He’s one of my favorite authors (right after Tolkien). And I got about a third of the way through Stranger and wasn’t able to finish it, it was so painful to me.

Do yourself and Heinlein both a big favor and go read The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, or Double Star, or any of his juvenile novels (Farmer in the Sky, Red Planet, Space Cadet, etc.). After you’ve read a few of his other books, then you can start to form an opinion of his writing. And after you’ve read about a half-dozen, then pick up Stranger.

I won’t say that it’s a bad book. Apparently, there are a great many folks who love it. If you turn out to be one of those people, then you won’t love it any less for having read other Heinlein books. But there are also a great many people who can’t stand it, and it would be a terrible pity to be turned off to all of Heinlein because of that.

I’m a Stephen King fan myself, and I know how it would hurt me for someone to dismiss him after reading only Dreamcatcher, so, although I said “never, no never”…I will consider it.
As for re-reading Stranger, I think I’ll pass.

I once met a musician who loved the book and wanted to write a musical version of it. As a budding writer, I agreed that I would attempt to collaborate with him and hack out what was to be my very first script. I had not yet read the book when I agreed to this.

Well, I hated the damn book so much that I couldn’t finish it. To this day it remains the only book that I have never seen through (and that’s saying a lot, considering I forced myself to finish Robert E. Newcomb’s The Fifth Sorceress, even though it made my eyeballs bleed). The only way I can describe what reading it felt like: painful. And the constant subtext in the back of my mind: How the hell could anyone make a musical out of this?!?!

So, that guy who wanted to make a musical of it because he loved it so much? Two years later, I found out that he had been committed to a psychiatric ward for attempted suicide. Poor Mr. E.G., your vision may never be realized.

Was forced to read (and therefore, finish) SiaSL in a high school english class. Took me 5 years before I read another Heinlein novel, and that was only because Larry Niven seemed to hold him in such godlike adoration and I was out of books written by “known good” authors.

Try “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” instead, that’s my personal favorite.


Well, **wevets{/b], what made you so angry? FTR, this book is one of my favorites.

Damn coding At least my screw up gave me a reason to subscribe to the thread.

I read this quite a while ago. IIRC, in the new expanded unabridged version, since that’s all the library had. It was good enough at the start but it just went on and on and on. Like the others here, I never finished it.

I guess I’m dumb, or dense or something. All I’ve seen is posts like “I hated this book” and “Yeah, I hated it too.”

I feel like I’m with two old friends who know all the punchlines to each other’s jokes, so they don’t bother telling the rest of them. They just chuckle at each other and say “yeah, that was a funny one.”

Why do you guys hate it so much? I’ve read it a couple of times over the years, and although it’s not my favorite Heinlein, I wouldn’t start a fire with it.

What’s the scoop? Share the joke.

A lot of what made me angry about the book can be related to its age - the copyright on my copy says 1961, so I suppose it’s hard to hold a lot of the chauvinist and anti-homosexual statements against him because of the times he was writing in. But then again, he is trying to envision an alien view of human sexuality that would reject nonsensical (in the alien view) taboos. I suppose it’s difficult to expect him to have succeeded in placing the biases he inherits from society aside. Failing to do so made it look like cheap use of sex to help sell the book, though.

I also found Mike to be a fairly repugnant character. Too ready to admit the possibility of being wrong at first, and then once he ‘matures,’ incapable of grasping the idea that he may have done wrong or erred. A character with too much power and not enough internal conflict.

The bits about rejecting evolution didn’t help, either.

In all, I think my expectations were too high. I’d read Magic, Inc. and really liked it, and I’d heard so many people say great things about Stranger in a Strange Land, so I thought I would like that too.

Heinlein needed to get off his soap box for a bit.

SiaSL pissed me off for one reason already stated, the whole “I can’t grok gay male sex but I can grok lesbian sex because it turns me on” bullshit.

It also annoyed me because people actually formed a church based on it, and we already have enough religions based on works of fiction.

He did get a bit more liberal re: gay men in his later books - one of the few scenes I remember from The Cat Who Walked Through Walls is one where the hero wakes up between a guy and a girl and kisses them both good morning.