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Summary

Epic, entertaining, blasphemous, this is the most influential and controversial of Science Fiction novels.

Stranger in a Strange Land caused uproar when it was first published as it savaged conventional religious, sexual, and social ideals. Many years in the future, Valentine Michael Smith's upbringing is exceptional. Orphan child to two astronauts killed in space, he is raised on Mars. Twenty-five years later he is "rescued" and brought back to Earth. The initial enthusiasm of the administration in Smith's safe return is soon dampened by the realisation that they cannot control him. Possessed with superhuman skills and a unique philosophy he threatens their society - Smith must be contained.

Then a nurse helps him escape his hospital jail. Their flight becomes a journey of discovery, enlightenment and wonder. But danger is following fast behind, and there will be no escape from the final confrontation.

©1961 Robert A. Heinlein (P)2012 Hodder & Stoughton

What listeners say about Stranger in a Strange Land

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    5 out of 5 stars

Great book, lousy narration.

I shouldn't have to review "Stranger....", it's a classic, Mr Heinlein's most philosophic and sophisticated works, a joy to read. Shame that Mr McDougal is an uncultured oaf who obviously doesn't get the books at all (and couldn't be bothered to check his pronunciations either).

If you haven't come across this novel before then don't let me put you off, it IS a great novel, very human and very thought provoking, but do keep in mind that the narrator is just not very good. He sounds bored and uninterested, and reads it like it's a pre-war pulp..

Audible, please get a better reading of this work, it is THE scifi classic of the early sixties and a key work for the counter-culture that started and grew through the decade., it deserves a good reader.

7 people found this helpful

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A point in time

This is one of those seminal classics which deserves every respect. I understand it was included in a Library of Congress exhibition of "Books That Shaped America" so it's not to be taken lightly by any measure.

It will still divide opinions today in terms of its value and much will depend on your stance on political correctness. Me, I loved the early expressions of some of the free-thinking and libertarian views and the joyous disrespect for a lot of society's norms. I may not agreed with it all but it was good to be free of some of today's shackles on such opinions.

However, after a while it seemed to me that the author was taking it too far to be a genuinely credible attempt at social commentary. Jubal Harshaw, the main instrument for expressing these opinions went from being something of an inspirational character to something of a bore over the course of the piece.

In fact, someone like myself would probably actually benefit from something I normally avoid like the plague . . . an abridged version! (Just don't tell anyone I said that!) This is because the concept and characters are strong and I warmed to them but in an effort to be an epic it just went on too long for me and there was too much of the narrative that didn't move the story forwards in any real way or add much new to the social commentary.

It's probably one of those books you have to read and I always think that a book that divides opinion like this probably has something going for it. Especially as it continues to do so more half a century since its publication.

So, I have genuine admiration for Heinlein and his creation, it was just too long-winded in parts and a bit over the top so overall these things detracted from my enjoyment of it. I'm glad I read it but I won't be hurrying back to go through it again!

21 people found this helpful

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Excellent exploration of ideas let down by a poor

This book is a fascinating discussion of ideas. The author uses the narrative mechanism of a Man From Mars to explore the concepts of religion, laws, society and morals. Some ideas in some areas have moved on since the book was written but most remain relevant and some, indeed, have become more so. Having read this book I will almost guarantee you will think about things differently or at least in more depth. On this basis I would happily recommend reading this book.

What I can't recommend is listening to this recording. The reading is the worst of any audiobook I have listened to so far (which is more than 20) by a margin. The reader only does one voice. This is a book made up of numerous conversations. If you cannot readily spot when the speaker changes it makes it hard sometimes to follow what is going on. To make matters worst, that one voice is strident and confrontational. With this reader all people bark out what they are saying. Even if he starts a female voice with a softer tone, it doesn't last long (although most of the long conversations are between male characters and so it is of limited help).

In places the reader doesn't even understand the text. A trivial example (but far from the only one), when talking about the navy hospital in Washington growing in size he reads 'by [then] it was still larger' in the manner of 'it remains larger' rather than 'it had continued to grow larger'.

I would recommend the book to anyone exploring the ideas that form our society. I cannot recommend the reading however.

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interesting but a bit pointless

The narration feels dated but the overall story is captivating enough. Filled with philosophy and an odd sort of wisdom. maybe we could all learn something from mike

3 people found this helpful

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Stranger in a strange land

This. Is a classic Heinlein , thought provoking with echoes of modern times. His characterisation of the press is amusingly accurate, even if he could not have guessed the technology at this distance in time. I first read the book some 30+ years ago and the authors cynical views on government ring true especially since Trumps election. He also takes a run at religion and the zealots. With a strong plot it is a thoroughly good story that I heartily recommend.

6 people found this helpful

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Mixed bag

This is not a particularly well-written book, but it has achieved an iconic status for its ability to make people think. It is pretty damn long and some passages are excruciatingly expository, but if you're into anything "New Age" or consider yourself an alternative thinker, you'll enjoy it.
The big downside is Martin McDougall's narrative performance, which is, quite frankly, one of the worst readings I've ever heard. He has roughly the vocal range of an early-career Arnold Schwarzenegger and will pause in mid-sentence for roughly twice as long as you normally would for the end of one before continuing, which gives a very disjointed and sometimes confusing experience for the listener. Can't believe this guy can make a living doing this job.

5 people found this helpful

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What a waffling pointless drivel

Some sections are surely interesting, but boy, there are many pointless and wordy segments which made me put this book down on a few occasions.

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I thought this was meant to be good?

Look, the narrator does a fine job. But, the story... it wasn't particularly good. I found it quite boring, waiting for something exciting to happen. Sure, the martian can do some cool stuff, but it wasn't a very good story + the characters naval gazing was yawn-inducting and not very 'deep'. Also, what's up with the sexual relations in this book.

This book should be called 'Martian joins fantasy hippy commune'.

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Not very pc

This book is sexist racist and homophobic but it was written a long time ago, if u can cope with this and at times it becomes abit lecherous , then it’s essentially a good story

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Starts off strong, but...

The story starts off strong but soon slows down to a rambling bore after the first few hours. Really can’t see what the fuss is about with this one. The narrator is awful too. He has a penchant to read almost every character in very highly strung manner which made me feel like I was being told off for hours on end. Most unenjoyable. I’ll be sure to avoid anything else with the name Martin McDougall attached to it.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Paul McMahon
  • 12-06-14

Still relevant

Worryingly many of the threads of the book are still relevant today; of course, not all. It is remarkable how many things writers of that time, it was published in 1961, got predictions right - video phoning, mobile phones in cars, etc. But some of his notions are really out of date; his writing of women characters is very much the thinking of the 50s; although I can see him struggle with modern concepts of their place in changing times.

The reader does a good job with a long book. Sometimes the voices lose distinction and it is momentarily hard to work out who is speaking, but that is a minor issue. More difficult is the he uses whispering to indicate some of the "speech" which makes the dialogue un-hearable; good intentions, but doesn't work with an audiobook.

Some parts can drag on ... mainly because their novelty at the time doesn't translate to our modern times, but it's worth persevering. The original draft was 220,000 words, published in 1991, but the editors got him to cut it down to 160,067 words, 1961. I'm not sure which version this is. Received the Hugo Award for Best Novel (Wikipedia).

2 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 29-03-19

Exceptional

This is my new favourite book, an insightful journey through human interactions read by a talented narrator.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 25-11-19

Good goes weird

I loved the moon is a harsh mistress and troopers, but this just takes an interesting concept and deraiils it by going on long after the climax into a weird religious direction.
Performance was incredible!

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  • RTE Williamson
  • 02-08-19

An "uncanny valley" of fiction

Firstly, I read this book when i was an early teen. I read a lot of Heinlein around that time.
I think SIASL deserved its Hugo award in 1962 and deserves to be treated as a key item of Sci Fi.
For me it is not so old and crusty and distant that i can forgive/cope with the aspects of story that have not aged well in 50 years.
If the book was deliberately provocative then it worked.
The trouble is that after 50 years it only half works. I expect it worked better in the 60's and may work better in an 100 years. I detect some sort of temporal uncanny valley thing going on.

I still like the parts of the critique of organised and politically powerful religion and the critique of the prudish part of US culture.
On the other hand the gender roles just don't scan well anymore and i suspect they were borderline even in the 60's. Big chunks of dialog between gendered characters just grate in 2019.

The narration works. I imagine this was a marathon effort for Martin McDougall.

In summary, I figured this would be an interesting experiment after 50 years. It was.

Maybe people should treat this as a literary cod liver oil. Listen despite the odd taste it leaves