Saturday, November 2, 2013

Stranger in a strange land by Heinlein

Robert A Heinlein - Stranger in a Strange Land
This novel was said to be Heinlein's masterpiece. "The most famous science fiction novel ever written" the front page boasts...well I just finished the four hundred and thirty eight page novel and I am left with many mixed feelings. This story is most surely a must read for any science fiction fan, and if you have an open mind about the world around may just learn something about yourself.
I have only read one other of Heinlein's novels, "Have Spacesuit - Will Travel" so I had some idea of the authors writing style...but this novel was something else entirely. All of the main characters are well developed which allows the reader to fully "grok" every character in their fullness. This term is used over and over and over again however there is nothing like it in the English language. The entire book is about human trying to understand what it means to "grok" something...which simply means to "comprehend it in its fullness"...but not just that simple, you must develop an understanding on a intimate and molecular level before something is "grokked to fullness".
The novel starts with a team of scientists and physicists traveling to Mars. There are six married couples on the voyage and each has a particular skill set to ensure the success of the exploration party. The ship never makes the trip home and the Federation sends a larger ship to investigate.
The Champion send Earth three messages:
"Rocket Ship Envoy survivors"
second was "Mars is inhabited" and third
"Correction to dispatch 23-105: One survivor of Envoy located."
And that is where the plot begins to unfold. The survivor was not of the original crew, but a child that was conceived from two of the parents from Envoy...however the parents were not married. The child grew up with the Martians and he learned the way of the Martians. Their race is much more patient and tolerant than humans could ever dream. They also have great ability to have total control over their mind and body to the point where no one ever dies or get killed...they simply "discorporate"...not a sad happening but a joyous occasion, for once discorporate the Martian joins the "Old Ones"...the ancestors/ghosts of the civilization.
Valentine Michael Smith aka the Man from Mars has, because of his family and some odd government laws, inherited everything from all of the members of Envoy. Several businesses, a large fortune, and the rights to colonize Mars....unfortunately he has no idea what any of this means and can't even stand on Earth by himself. The government has his held up in a hospital where no one can see or speak with him. Eventually the Federation says the Man from Mars is on retreat somewhere else, but a nurse happens to find him in the same room of the hospital. Gillian decides to rescue the man from Mars before it is too late....however she does not really know where to go so she takes the Martian Man to her friends place to get him in proper clothes and make an escape.
Unfortunately some men show up from the Federation to take her and the Man from Mars into custody however when one of the men in a suit pulls a gun he disappears...and then the other man disappears. Apparently Martians have a few skills humans cannot begin to comprehend. Valentine Michael Smith has the ability to rotate anything he "groks" as badness 90 degrees from everything else...
It took me a while to understand exactly...but if you think about it something perpendicular to everything else does not exist in this dimension at in effect Michael can make this disappear, but that is only the beginning to what he can do.
And I stop there to hopefully keep the plot twists a secret and entice you to read the novel yourself...

1 comment:

  1. I have read every book that Heinlein wrote, and have owned them all at one time or another; gave most to my daughter. SIASL is excellent, but I like The Moon is a Harsh Mistress better. Of course that may be because I have a simpler mind. BTW, I have owned three copies of both of these books, as I have reread them so many times that I have broken them. And if I rotate something 90 degrees from my space/time, then it is no longer in my universe. See a couple of his later books for the multiverse.