Stranger in a Strange Land - Robert Heinlein (Review)

Summary: Stranger in a Strange Land, winner of the 1962 Hugo Award, is the story of Valentine Michael Smith, born during, and the only survivor of, the first manned mission to Mars. Michael is raised by Martians, and he arrives on Earth as a true innocent: he has never seen a woman and has no knowledge of Earth’s cultures or religions. But he brings turmoil with him, as he is the legal heir to an enormous financial empire, not to mention de facto owner of the planet Mars. With the irascible popular author Jubal Harshaw to protect him, Michael explores human morality and the meanings of love. He founds his own church, preaching free love and disseminating the psychic talents taught him by the Martians. Ultimately, he confronts the fate reserved for all messiahs.

Rating: 1.5/5

Review: I’m really debating between giving this book a 1 or a 2. My main feeling towards it can be summed up as: UGHHHHHHHHH. I can’t even believe how LONG it took me to get through it, but by the time I came to the conclusion that Heinlein and I do not get along, I was too far along to just give up.

Let me be blunt - like many white, male authors this book was clearly Heinlein’s little self-masturbation piece thinly covered up by his “science fiction” story of Mike the alien. Masturbation, in a sexual sense as well as an intellectual one. There are scenes where he seriously just goes off the fucking deep end with his sex fantasies where I can literally imagine him sitting there jerking off and writing before realizing he went way off course, ignoring it, and picking back up again.

I'm a douche.
This book was alll over the place. The characters were fucking beyond ridiculous and had no personality. Heinlein uses them as tools to rant about the world and be a pretentious asshat. I’m not saying his “free-love” concepts were bad, in fact a lot of his ideas were good and whatever, and certainly progressive for the time in which it was written. But at this point it is DATED and I have to laugh at all of the reviews saying that the book “CHANGED THEIR WORLD VIEW”. Seriously? You have never before considered that maybe sex isn’t a bad thing? Questioned the merits of religion? It was a pretty basic philosophical and sexual ideology for the modern world, I would think. I just don’t see the merit it has anymore.


“If a girl gets raped nine times out of ten it’s her fault.”

Following this gem, we have Jill (the main girlfriend of martian Mike) taking back all that she has felt about “pornography” and “erotica” and admitting that she secretly luuuuvs having men watch her all the time and it’s just a “female” thing (guys apparently don’t have voyeuristic feelings ever?) so like, she’s totally going to take tons of sexy pictures for her martian BF. (Heinlein: fapfapfapfap)

Heinlein's writing process

“They quit their jobs and saw every revue on the Strip. Jill found that she ‘grokked naughty pictures’ only through a man’s eyes. If Mike watched, she shared his mood, from sensuous pleasure to full rut - but if Mike’s attention wandered, the model, dancer, or peeler was just another woman. She decided that this was fortunate; to have discovered in herself Lesbian tendencies would have been too much.”

Do I really have to discuss what is wrong with this entire thing? Obviousllyyy only men understand erotica because us dumb asexual women don’t get it. And with all of his free-love shit that he talks about the entire second half of the book he REALLY was incapable of understanding homosexuality? Like, really? The all-knowing Mike informs everyone that it is a “wrongness”! Listen, I understand this was written in the early 60’s and “times were different” but I have a weird feeling there were SOME people who understood homosexuality, and I’d hope the man claiming to be a huge progressive figure would at least make an attempt.

After all of the characters join Mike’s church/group and start learning martian and how to “take control of their bodies” it is explained to us as this:

“I used to be that sort of whiny woman who is never quite well and given to female complaints. Now I’m more female than ever but I’m twenty pounds lighter, years younger, and have nothing to complain about.”


Discussing the merits of a free-love, self-sufficient society and the eventual collapse of big industry due to this:

“What happens to a cloak and suit industry when clothing isn’t necessary and women aren’t so engrossed in dressing up (they’ll never lose interest entirely)”

SERIOUSLY? You have the gall to write some sort of free-love anarchist manifesto but you can’t rid yourself of the societal driven ideal that women are obsessed with clothes? Must just be a natural urge LOL!

And the creepiest scene. Jubal is some old ass misogynistic man who helped Mike when he first came to Earth. He also has three sexy lady maids who call him “boss” and do his every bidding and put up with constant deprecating remarks about the fact that they have vaginas. It’s nice Heinlein tried to make them seem sassy and “independent” so we couldn’t call him out on the sexism, but it doesn’t really work like that.

So, this lady Dawn is a character introduced halfway through the novel as some sort of ex-stripper religious sex goddess. We see .. no interaction between them at all. But when Jubal comes to hang out at the Martian free-love household for a day we are meant to believe that beautiful Dawn is so helplessly in love with old man Jubal (even though we’ve seen no evidence of this at all??) that she will DO ANYTHING to make him fuck her. After confessing her love (??) for him:

“‘You will sleep, when waiting is filled. Jubal…I could lend you strength. But I grok clearly that it is not necessary.’ (Goddamit, it wasn’t necessary!
‘No Dawn. Thank you, dear.’ She got to her knees and bent over him. 
‘Just one more word, then. Jill told me that if you argued, I was to cry. Shall I get my tears all over your chest? And share water with you that way?’ 
‘I’m going to spank Jill!’ 
‘Yes, Jubal. I’m starting to cry.’ 
She made no sound, but in a second or two a warm, full tear splashed on his chest - was followed by another … and another - and still more. She sobbed almost silently. Jubal cursed and reached for her … and cooperated with the inevitable.”

UHHHHH…… so Jubal was telling her “no thank you” and this BEAUTIFUL STRIPPER got on her knees and cried because she SO badly wanted to have sex with his old ass, and he was just such a nice guy he “cooperated with the inevitable”. (Heinlein: FAPFAPFAFPAFAFFAPFPFPAFP .. OOH GODDD!)

I didn’t understand why (especially in the beginning) everyone in this fucking book was SO DENSE? Oh wow, hey - we have a human who grew up as an infant on Mars! Clearly, he knows NOTHING about Earth or humans since he’s grown up with Martians, a completely different race. He barely speaks English. Let me talk in really convoluted, abstract ways and get angry when he doesn’t understand! Like .. I get that people would have a difficult time getting meanings across to him. But I have a feeling we would be smart enough to realize you can’t just say any random ole sentence and expect that he will grasp it the first week he’s arrived from another planet.

“Listen,” he said in a low voice, “I’ve got a fat proposition for you.” “Beg pardon?” “A deal, a way for you to make money fast and easy.” “Money? What is money?” “Never mind the philosophy; everybody needs money.”  and blahblahblah

Sorry, no one who hears “a man who has grown up since a small baby on ANOTHER PLANET without any human interaction is now on Earth” is going to assume “YEAH WELL, HE’LL TOTALLY UNDERSTAND ENGLISH AT ALL - LET ALONE THE PHRASE ‘A FAT PROPOSITION’ AND THE CONCEPT OF MONEY’” Like .. ugh WHAT? I know that’s kind of the point Heinlein is going for (self-interested, money hungry humans don’t bother to learn about the Martian Man) but that is so extreme and unrealistic it ceases to make a point.

And it also bothered me that in this universe, we clearly have plenty of interaction with Mars since we sent humans there, and were able to retrieve Mike. And yet no one seems to have any knowledge or information about the atmosphere, culture, or anything. One character asks “what the martians look like”. You’re telling me in your futuristic societies where we just fly on up to Mars to do shit we don’t have pictures plastered all the fuck over the television and newspaper? No? We were just like “eh whatever, aliens” and no one bothered to report on their existence? I repeat: UGHHH.

Final Thoughts: SERIOUSLY, don’t read this shit. Just don’t. DON’T!!!! Read Dune. Read Ender’s Game. Don’t read Stranger in a Strange Land. It’s a dated, fantasy-world of a sexist, homophobic, average-at-best writer.

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