Stranger in a Strange Land

Stranger in a Strange Land - Robert A. Heinlein [These notes were made in 1991:]. I read Stranger in a Strange Land as a teenager, altho' not, as many other Alberta teenagers did, as part of the high school curriculum. I remember it, along with Heinlein's other work Time Enough For Love (which I preferred) as being sexually informative and therefore somewhat liberating for me. I was therefore curious to see what, if anything, would appear differently to me in this new expanded version (I have not done a textual comparison). Inevitably, it was a disappointment. This book was written in 1961, and Heinlein was a fairly conservative white straight male of the 1960s. The Utopia he creates is that of straight male fantasy - free love, female (but not male) exhibitionism and required pulchritude, lack of jealousy, and the line firmly drawn against male homosexuality though at least the hint of lesbianism is permitted (see pp. 375-379). I therefore do not like his women, who seem to me coy and rather disgustingly content with exercising what power they have in a subsidiary or behind-the-scenes context. The meditations on political and religious structures seem to me to have survived the years a little better, and there's something quite funny about the way he depicts a rotten-to-the-core fundamentalist movement being taken over and used by the Man from Mars to propagate his own ideals. The Man from Mars himself is an appealing enough character, most so when he is still a blank slate and making funny mistakes (there is quite a bit of situational humour in this book), less so once he "grows up." The satirical thread got lost, I think, towards the end of the novel when Heinlein let the fantasy world take over and showed his various dead characters in their future or spiritual existence, and when he indulged in a St. Stephen martyrdom for Mike. I think I preferred the stance he appeared to be taking through most of the novel through his gruff alter ego, Jubal Harshaw, agnostic, cynic, writer of popular fiction(!) and man of knowledge and letters. It was something of a betrayal to force such a man through a religious conversion, even if it was necessary to the completion of the book. It's interesting to revisit an old friend and find it so much changed - or find that one has changed so much that one can no longer whole-heartedly "grok" the message. And really, the extra 70,000 words have almost nothing to do with it.