Known as the best science fiction book, Stranger in a Strange Land definitely lives up to its name, because it is exactly that: strange.
Michael Valentine Smith is a human who was brought up as a child by aliens on Mars. Although born out of wedlock, he inherits a large sum of money, and the fame to go with it, when a group of scientists discovery his survival. Bringing him back to Earth under government supervision, Mike escapes with the help of a nurse named Jill. But it doesn’t take long for the two to settle in with Jubal Harshaw and his three secretaries, who help free him from government rule. Living with Jubal helps Mike discover who he is and the difference between him and his fellow humans.
I borrowed a copy of this book from my fiancé, and was sad to find that the back didn’t really give a synopsis of what the book was about. It only mentions the high praise for it as a science fiction novel. But after reading it I found it hard to describe what the book was about. It starts off very science fiction like, but half way through it suddenly turns very religious. I don’t meat that Robert A. Heinlein preaches anything on religion to the reader. Toward the beginning of the novel, Michael discovers the Fosterites, a religious group that has very strong beliefs, and is immediately fascinated by them. I should have known that they would play a big role in the novel, but I didn’t realize until half way through when Michael begins to fully “grok” religion and starts his own.
It’s really when Mike starts his own religion that the novel made me crinkle my nose a bit, mostly because the attitudes of all the characters changed and they began to act in a way that seemed like they were brain washed. After finishing the novel, I thought about it and realized that there was a deeper meaning than what was on the surface. I believe Heinlein was showing the reader how even though all religions are different, in some ways they are the same. Some people may find that a certain religion is very cultish, but what they may not realize is that their religion may seem just a cultish to an outsider. Heinlein was showing us part of the human condition and how going against the norm can lead to big consequences.
So, even though I feel that Stranger in a Strange Land strays a bit from science fiction, it has a deeper philosophical meaning to be discussed.
If you liked Stranger in a Strange Land, I recommend reading: Brave New World by Aldus Huxley.