I was on the prowl for some sci-fi to read last time I was at the library. They are courteous enough to have the sci-fi genre split out into its own section, so browsing the shelves is a fairly straightforward means of finding some new sci-fi to read. (I will confess to scratching my head at the inclusion of the whole Left Behind series in the sci-fi section, but that’s neither here nor there.) My browsing led me to Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land, with cover boasting that it was “original and un-cut for the first time”. I skimmed the flyleaf and it seemed like I might possibly be interested in the story, so I borrowed the book and brought it home.
Stranger in a Strange Land seemed to me to be two different stories, only tangentially related. The first story, nearly the first half of the book, concerns Michael, the Man from Mars; he is the child of two human Martian explorers. They died when he was a small child and then he was raised by Martians. As the story begins Michael has just returned to earth and must deal with an unfamiliar world filled with people looking to take advantage of him. It’s a fairly imaginative fish-out-of-water story.
The second half of the book departs from this exploration into a treatise on the 1960’s hippie ideals of uninhibited carnality, free love and open marriage. Michael (who possesses amazing cosmic powers, thanks to his understanding of the Martian language and Martian mind techniques) founds a “church” which is a multi-level scheme; novitiates are presented with a study of Martian and the mind techniques; it’s not until they reached the highest levels of the organization that they were brought into the sexual free-for-all. In the end, they are persecuted, they scatter to spread their “church” abroad, and Michael *poofs* himself back to Mars.
I was ready to put down the book about halfway through the second section; the story takes a turn for the worse at that point. It appears to me that Mr. Heinlein wanted to write his hippie treatise, and found that it was easiest to do in the guise of other-worldly values. Enter enlightened Martians telling us that the answer to all our troubles is a lot of free sex and some cool cosmic powers… ugh. Oh well, on to the next book.