A Quick Word

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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Stranger in a Strange Land (1961)

I finally grokked.

This novel by Robert A. Heinlein had temporarily altered my perspective in so many ways -- it even changed my definition of water. No joke. For the lack of better word, it was written well, creatively well. I found myself hating and loving some of his characters. Like they really existed in this world and not just written by a god-like mind. It also had a hint of satire, the way they look at religion, society, politics and money.

Though it was written decades ago, you'd find it amazing that the concepts he touched are still the very same concepts that are happening now. It goes without saying that though everything changes, basic wants and needs are still the same, perhaps on a different scale, but they still evoke the same emotions, feelings and desires. 

Definitely a good read guys, all book lovers should read this! But be prepared for a culture shock. By the way, this is the first and only book that had me laughing out loud. In public. Alone. Guess that goes to show you how brilliant Heinlein really was.

For a more in-depth review, here's what Choc has to say:

"Stranger in a Strange Land" was 1st published in 1961. It had been elevated as the "The Most Famous Science Fiction Novel Ever Written" by many fans and critics alike. Quite a feat, but very ironic for the fact that this novel had been suppressed, kept underground for a time, on account of its iconoclastic themes and infuriating innuendos. The book left no sacred cows untouched, it had views on God, Religion, Government, Church, True Love, Sexual Love, Jealousy, Technology and even Tattoos!

The Novel is about a Human Being, born and raised on Mars. After 20 years, he is "rescued" and sent back to Earth. Have you ever wondered how the Earth's Culture and Mores would look and feel like to an alien? That is, more or less, the premise of the book.

The Martian is Michael Valentine Smith, he'd been on Mars and reared by martians for 20 years and this martian upbringing is so dynamically complex and different from earthlings that his honest beliefs and interpretation of our society will surely elicit OUTRAGE, ASTONISHMENT, AWE and AMAZEMENT in EQUAL servings from any Earth-raised creature...-- yours truly included, for I have never experienced all these varied emotions brimming while reading one and the same novel.

Take for example in one portion of the book, Mike (the man from Mars) tells the reader about how he views romantic and sexual love in humans. In Mars, martians, are asexual, there is no male-female distinction between the Martian race, therefore there is no sexual act (or rather no sexual act "as we know it" in Mars) Mike therefore is also ignorant of sex, but during the course of the story, he inevitably "grokked" or found out about this amazing union brought about by the male-female distinction, Mike even went to as far as proclaiming that the greatest asset Earthlings have is this BEAUTY in DIFFERENCE..

Right about at this point -"BEAUTY in DIFFERENCE"- I was nodding in agreement, after all, if you really think about it.. the difference between men and women has been so long embedded in our psyche that now it's more of a nuisance than a beauty, men are from Mars and women are from Venus right? but whenever you hear those words, they're always spoken in bad context.. men whine about why WOMEN won't understand, women for their part have these support-groups for their friends who suffer the ever-lasting incorrigibility of Men.

Clearly, no one stops to think that this very "difference" is what makes love AND life NOT DULL. Just Imagine if all men were great, all infallible, all Romeos. Just imagine if all women were great, all infallible and all Juliets. Then finding the right one "wouldn't" feel as blissful since practically ANYONE is the right one! The greatest moment in Love is finding out that your investments of emotion and love, have gathered more than proportional dividends.

And this great moment is brought about by this: "BEAUTY in DIFFERENCE"

OH WELL... for all I care the author could have simply meant PHYSICAL DIFFERENCE to permit sex, but I'm too romantic for such a bland interpretation. =)

But when Mike offers his views about monogamy, saying that since SEX is a means of true happiness, and true happiness is to be shared, therefore sex is to be shared... WHAT THE F*CK (no pun intended), heck! even my Philo professor will admit that the logic is impeccable! But the alien is talking about "Plural marriage" and "communal lovemaking"! One character in the novel thus explains to Mike that it could not happen here on Earth because, -HOW INCREDIBLY IRONIC- because... of LOVE.

The alien asks why?

Because a human being doesn't like his wife to enjoy the "beauty in difference" with another, that's just unthinkable. Because a husband loves his wife.. that's why.

Mike answered:

But it is not love that hinders the sharing of this "happiness" but JEALOUSY... which is not present in real TRUE love, a love that has jealousy isn't love...

At this point I was beginning to hate MIKE! HECK I was furious at him! I prefer the love with jealousy THANK YOU... at this point on it was very hard for me to keep on reading but I did...

The author intended for this book to push our sensitive buttons... and the fact that it did find mine, just tells me all the more why this book is brilliant. It is intelligently written and very provocative, and really a unique reading experience for me.

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