Valentine Smith is 100% Martian in terms of his attitude and personality and his initial exposure to humanity is a significant shock to his system. With the training that he has received from the Martians, Valentine Smith is at the pinnacle of Human development and is able to control all of his body functions and also has a significant amount of psychic abilities. Upon his return to Earth he is taken into custody by the government for his “own protection” and is only rescued by a nurse (Gillian Boardman) in the hospital that he is being held in. Gillian takes him to Jubal Harshaw for protection and this where the story really starts.
Definitely one that is a classic of the SciFi genre, Stranger in a Strange Land is actually quite a hefty and difficult book. Heinlein‘s writing style is very evident throughout this book and this is probably one of his most famous works.
The story while based in the future, is definitely driven by the current conditions of the times. First written in the 60’s, the prevalent anti government attitudes are evident throughout this book, but as a teenager, my first impression or remembrance of this book is more to do with the wanton sexuality that pervades it!
However on re-reading it in later years, I grew to love this book for many more reasons and Valentine Michael Smith is someone I would very much have liked to meet. I hope that I have “grokked” the book properly, but there are many layers to it and in my multiple re-reads over the years, I’ve frequently discovered something else that I missed in an earlier read. The word “grok” itself is something that has passed down in geek lexicon and it basically means to understand something COMPLETELY – understand it so completely that it literally becomes part of you and you can see all parts of it both the positive and the negative. If someone ever tells you that they grok-Hitler, I’d suggest you run away really, really fast!
Valentine Michael Smith is genetically a human. But he was born on Mars and he is now the only survivor of the first manned mission to Mars. As such when the 2nd expedition recovers him and brings him back to Earth, by the laws of the land, he is not only the owner of Mars, but also its sovereign. In addition, he – as the last survivor of the 1st mission – is the sole inheritor of the wealth of the entire crew and is enormously wealthy and a definite threat to the government of the USA. While this might be problem enough – the fact is that Mars is inhabited by an extremely ancient and powerful race. While they raised Valentine when the first expedition died, they are in no way accepting of the foibles of humanity and are presently sitting in judgement on the worth of Humanity and its overall place in the universe.
Jubal is someone else I’d wish to meet or know. He is a lawyer and author and has an immense amount of influence that he is not afraid to utilize when “fighting the good fight”. He is also in a way – Hugh Hefner … or perhaps what Heinlein thought Hefner could have been. Jubal helps Valentine (Mike) Smith in his fight against the government and in addition helps him in his education of humanity and its culture.
Gradually Mike branches out on his own, becoming more and more familiar with the positives and negatives of “his” people in the process.
I’ll let you read the rest of it – however there are some interesting speculations and thoughts about government, religions and humanity in general. It’s a really good read and
won one that you will not regret once you start.
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I'm a geek! I love all things SciFi and Fantasy and have done since I first read LOTR as a kid. Escapism to fantastic worlds filled with weird and wonderful creatures initially for me was via books and comics, but with the recent surge in popularity of this fare in film and television also - I'm in a state of bliss! As the editor of Zone Six, I've been lucky to meet some other awesome authors and writers that share this love and passion. The great Ray Bradbury said - "Science fiction is any idea that occurs in the head and doesn't exist yet, but soon will .. it will change everything for everybody, and nothing will ever be the same again."