Stranger In A Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein
Cover Concept by Lorenzo Princi, 26 February 2012

Stranger In A Strange Land

Author: Robert A. Heinlein

Reviewed by Lorenzo Princi

Touted as the greatest science fiction novel ever written and winner of the hugo award; this book is required reading for all science fiction enthusiast. Though the controversy it caused when it was released may have subdued, its message and entertainment value have not.

The book begins with the conception of Valentine Michael Smith (lover, saint and everyman) on Mars. He is an orphan, due to the failed expedition of his parents to Mars. Like a black swan raised by the white, he learns the Martian ways and believes them his own. Much like the story of Jesus in the new testament, we do not follow the childhood of Smith, but rather skip to his prime when he is returned to Earth.

Once on Earth, he is received with intrigue and suspicion and held in captivity by the authorities. The curiosity and pity of his nurse Jill leads to his escape. In the process she also becomes Smith's water-brother when they share a drink (she is not initially aware of the importance of such an event on Mars, where water is scarce). The first half of the book is all action and suspence as the authorities try and re-capture Smith and we learn more and more about his great power and earthly riches (being heir to a great fortune). Though Smith is somewhat treated as a child, it is he who slowly teaches those around him the ways of Mars; Grokking, Water-sharing and love.

By the second part of the book, Heinlein's work becomes focused on Valentine Michael Smith as a messiah figure, a spiritual leader of the “Church of All World's” and the timeless science fiction style becomes more fixated on a 1960's free love environment. This significantly slows the narrative but by no means the interest. Smith's followers are rebels to social norms and ultimately make enemies of conservative parties leading to inevitable conflict.

Stranger In A Strange Land is epic, powerful and ultimately hopeful, challenging us with an open-minded, innocent and powerful messiah figure who comes home to teach love, understanding and the importance of cherishing the elements of life.