I know it’s been long since the last time I wrote post about a book, which is strange taking into account that I usually read about 20 books per year but the truth is that since I arrived to Karlskrona, I haven’t had too much time for that.
Original title: Stranger in a Strange Land.
Spanish title: Forastero en Tierra Extraña.
Author: Robert A. Heinlein (USA, 1907 – USA 1988).
Year: 1991 (1961).
Read in: English.
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton LTD.
ISBN: 0 340 83795 0.
The Earth sent a first human expedition to Mars, but soon they lost contact with them. 25 years later, The Earth sent another human expedition, and there they found Valentine Michael Smith, the Mars-born son of two astronauts from the first expedition, whom, due to the death of the astronauts, has been raised by the natives of Mars. After asking the Martians for permission, this second expedition sends Valentine Michael to Earth.
Comment without Spoilers
This novel was initially published in 1961, but that text was a short version from the original, which was cut from 220,000 word long to a 160,000 version. This comment is about the 220,000 words version, originally published in 1991 by the widow of Robert A. Heinlein.
The script is very fluent and easy to read, but I must say that it disappointed me, because despite the fact that the idea of the story is quite interesting and the beginning is very good, I didn’t liked how it followed, but I won’t explain this here… I’ll do it some lines below, in the spoilers part.
Every character of the novel is accurately defined from the very first moment in which appears, with the main purpose that the reader can trace the drastic evolution that follows each one of them, for there’re a lot of changes in the behavior of the characters.
The background of the story is quite good, being very immersive. Also, despite the introduction of new technologies and inventions that doesn’t exist, is very easy to fully understand them, as a contrast with what happens with certain Sci-Fi novels like Neuromancer .
The edition is a standard English/US paperback edition, so it’s not of great quality. Because despite the fact that the book itself is quite robust, the pages are of a gray shade and both the font and the printing are not the best for reading easily. However, is true that I’ve seen worse combinations of font and printing in other paperback books.
So, in conclusion, I consider this a technically great novel to read, having a very fluent rhythm and well defined characters that evolve drastically, but unfortunately, I don’t think it’s as good as it could have been, thanks to how the story is developed approximately from the second third of the novel. It’s a pity, but it could have been a much better story.
Also this novel is considered by Guardian Unlimited as the 15th top geek novel written in English since 1932.
The story soon sets aside the science-fiction as the main purpose of the book, making it just a tool for creating a story which strongly criticizes the social mores (such as politics, capitalism, religion, sexual life, death, etc) of the date in which it was written (and that can also be found nowadays). I don’t really see a problem with it, in fact, I like the idea, and I don’t feel my own ideas challenged, so that’s not why I’m writing this complaint. The problem I see is that, to me, Heinlein doesn’t mix the sci-fi and the criticism in a good way, because for my standards, the book is not the great sci-fi story it could have been, but it neither is the sharp challenge he tried to write, ending with a novel which is soft and which doesn’t fulfills any of its points. That’s what really disappoints me.
End of SPOILERS