Friday, June 17, 2011

Stranger in a Strange Land

I just finished rereading Robert Heinlein's masterpiece Stranger in a Strange Land. I haven't read it since high school. I hadn't even thought of it in years. I think the story has held up very well. There are some anachronisms that ring strange today. The curmudgeon, Jubal Harshaw, seems to treat his secretaries with 1950's condescension. But in the end we learn that he really loves and respects them.
Heinlein has a reputation as a libertarian. I expected more anti-government diatribes. There are some there. But compared to today's conservatives, he is respectful of government and politicians. After forcing the leader of the Federation to accept Michael, the man from Mars, he asks him to take control to manage Mike's immense fortune.
Of course, no one has really enacted the free love family relationship of the book. Yet, the message of tolerance and respect for people and the differences between people is so strong. This book has had a really important influence in my life, especially in the way I understand religion. It's an important aspect of human life and understanding, even though not factually correct and prone to exaggeration. We can only try to grok the universe and wait patiently. 
I was surprised to learn that there is a full-length original version that was published by Heinlein's widow. I want to get that now.