Stranger in a Strange Land - A Turd with a Plastic Halo
Before I had any money to buy books, the library was my sanctuary. I especially loved to investigate the science fiction and fantasy shelves, marveling at the titles and covers. It was there I picked up Ray Bradbury's 100 Greatest Short Stories and many others.
Around this time, I checked out Robert Heinlein's To Sail Beyond the Sunset. I tried and tried to read it, but it was so awfully boring, I returned it. Twenty years later, with no Heinlein in between, I opened a copy of Stranger in a Strange Land a friend had given me. This novel won the Hugo; it's considered one of his best.
Nothing had changed. I had thought that maybe his fiction was at that time beyond my grasp, but having just finished the peripheral story of Valentine Michael Smith, I see that Heinlein failed twice by me to write a story that consistently compelled me to want to know what happens next.
Flaccid characterization and lack of immediate conflict are the novel's major flaws. 375 pages into the book, I realized that nothing of major import had really HAPPENED. Conflict does arise early, with Michael twisting people and objects into discorporation. I liked this. But Mike quickly becomes a dull character, with much of his actions told through Blah Blah Blah dialogue, interspersed with an over-preachy narrative style.
Granted Jubal Harshaw is an initially interesting character, but his sauciness becomes stock and repetitive, and he offers no surprises.
There are no surprises here.
The grokking and "Thou Art God" are definitely weighty ideas, but Heinlein fails to weave these ideas into gripping characters and a gripping story.
And the women. As Mike first views Jill and other women, they are difficult for him to distinguish from one another. Whereas Jubal has the most beautiful face he's ever seen. Well, all the women are good for GROKKING.
Michael's destruction at the end of the novel could have been lead heavy in a better writer's hands, but I had absolutely no invested care in what happened to Mike and what he did next.
Just altogther unremarkable. And even worse for the fact that the story offers promises that are never kept.
I grok schlock. No more Heinlein.