So, this was first published in 1961, although the uncut version I read didn't make it to the market before 1991. It's easy to dismiss this book as a child of its time. However, I don't buy that as an excuse for being that
sexist, homophobic/queerphobic, casually racist, hopelessly outdated, and annoyingly preachy. Stranger in a Strange Land
is all that.
It's also utterly amusing.
Through the Man from Mars and his quasi-religious following this book exposes, although unintentionally, how paternalistic and narrow-minded those people actually were, who later formed the polyamorous part of the hippie movement.
It also offers an abundance of fodder for thought.
Sure, Heinlein put some pretty awful things into his characters' mouths. He put some intelligent and thoughtful things into their mouths, too.
That leaves me with
* some interesting ideas I agree with or that resonate with me - the difficulty of cross-cultural communication and understanding, Mike's ideas about beauty;
* some trite ideas - the whole yippie-yeah-free-love-for-all-yadda-yadda *yawns* and, related, the New Age pseudo-religious “philosophy”, which is as shallow as it gets and has never been very original;
* some disgusting ideas - see 1st paragraph of this review - it's interesting to note that the most blatantly sexist, homophobic, and asexual-bashing remarks are expressed through Jill and our supposedly society-renewing Magic Mike; the group-think of his quasi-religious cult made me want to vomit; and this business with “discorporating” anyone in whom the cult-leader detected a “wrongness” - do I even need to start?
* some interesting ideas I don't fully agree with but think are worth thinking about anyway – Mike's musings about laughing and pretty much everything that old, preachy git Jubal says - Heinlein's mouthpiece without doubt, but an amusing fellow. I'd like to discuss art with him.
No, I did not like
this book. But I don't have to like everything said and done here to think that reading it was time well spent. I learned some things about my limits to boot: I'd rather live on being an unhappy, cranky individualist than becoming a happy-go-lucky member of any group, thanks very much!