Monday, 9 December 2013

stranger in a strange land

I finished reading Stranger In A Strange Land by Robert A Heinlein at the weekend. It's one of these famous, notable SF classics, but it was mighty disappointing. Man from Mars brought back to earth, sees world in different way, brings insights accordingly, with side order of satire/attack on religion - that's what I was generally expecting. But it was patchy, poorly structured, didn't hold to its own internal logic, made odd plot leaps, behavioural inconsistencies/stupidities, illogicalities for the purpose of later plot progress, didn't actually have much in the way of interesting ideas or insights, wasn't very satirical (he presents the daring and startling idea that some charlatans operate within religion - controversial!) wasn't that well written, and just didn't make sense.

The Wikipedia entry quotes a review I'd go along with: 'Writing in The New York Times, Orville Prescott received the novel caustically, describing it as a "disastrous mishmash of science fiction, laborious humor, dreary social satire and cheap eroticism"; he characterized Stranger as "puerile and ludicrous", saying "when a non-stop orgy is combined with a lot of preposterous chatter, it becomes unendurable, an affront to the patience and intelligence of readers".' Inevitably, someone founded a religion based on the sex cult the Martian sets up.

I'll stand by my enjoyment of Starship Troopers, though, essentially a war story in space following one soldier's career. That's supposedly controversial too, as being right wing (the film in particular is perceived as a satire on fascism, the book conversely as non-satirically right wing), but I didn't think so. But I think I'm probably done with Mr Heinlein now.