This week’s book recommendation is Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein. This book was published in 1961 and is often considered a “staple” for science fiction as a genre and an essential for any science fiction fan. Though this is how I first discovered this book, I don’t fully agree with that statement. I do think it is a great science fiction book that is written extremely well. Even after almost 60 years, the prose reads like it could have been written yesterday (though at times it did remind me of the 50’s).
The premise: A team of explorers goes to Mars. World War III breaks out and humans don’t go back to Mars until 25 years later. When they do, they find the native Martians and one human, the son of two original explorers. He is brought back to Earth (it’s actually his first time on Earth) and he has to adjust to human society. The kicker is, he has supernatural abilities that he developed while being raised by Martians. What ensues is a wild ride.
The book itself is split into five parts. I, in my mind, have split it into three based on the events that take place. The final “act” took a weird turn that I won’t elaborate on but it dives into theological inquiry. I don’t participate in religion (non-theistic here), but I still find religion interesting and like to learn about it. This is a fictional work but like many other fictional works, it tackles real world problems/ideas. This book does not condemn or support any specific religions. I hope this puts your mind at ease if the topic of religion in fiction puts you off of reading.
Anyway, I did enjoy the first half of this book more than the second, but I did enjoy how the second half made me question things about our society. Technically the whole book did, but the second half more so than the first. That’s part of what reading is about. Learning things and looking at life a little differently. Even if some people think they read only as a “mini-vacation” from life, they are still going to grow from the experience.
I did think it was really cool that Robert Heinlein invented his own word for this book. Grok. If you’ve read this book, then you grok the meaning of the word. This book was also the first I’ve read by Robert Heinlein, but it won’t be the last. I’ve already got another of his on my to-be-read list.