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Worryingly many of the threads of the book are still relevant today; of course, not all. It is remarkable how many things writers of that time, it was published in 1961, got predictions right - video phoning, mobile phones in cars, etc. But some of his notions are really out of date; his writing of women characters is very much the thinking of the 50s; although I can see him struggle with modern concepts of their place in changing times.
The reader does a good job with a long book. Sometimes the voices lose distinction and it is momentarily hard to work out who is speaking, but that is a minor issue. More difficult is the he uses whispering to indicate some of the "speech" which makes the dialogue un-hearable; good intentions, but doesn't work with an audiobook.
Some parts can drag on ... mainly because their novelty at the time doesn't translate to our modern times, but it's worth persevering. The original draft was 220,000 words, published in 1991, but the editors got him to cut it down to 160,067 words, 1961. I'm not sure which version this is. Received the Hugo Award for Best Novel (Wikipedia).
This is one of those seminal classics which deserves every respect. I understand it was included in a Library of Congress exhibition of "Books That Shaped America" so it's not to be taken lightly by any measure.
It will still divide opinions today in terms of its value and much will depend on your stance on political correctness. Me, I loved the early expressions of some of the free-thinking and libertarian views and the joyous disrespect for a lot of society's norms. I may not agreed with it all but it was good to be free of some of today's shackles on such opinions.
However, after a while it seemed to me that the author was taking it too far to be a genuinely credible attempt at social commentary. Jubal Harshaw, the main instrument for expressing these opinions went from being something of an inspirational character to something of a bore over the course of the piece.
In fact, someone like myself would probably actually benefit from something I normally avoid like the plague . . . an abridged version! (Just don't tell anyone I said that!) This is because the concept and characters are strong and I warmed to them but in an effort to be an epic it just went on too long for me and there was too much of the narrative that didn't move the story forwards in any real way or add much new to the social commentary.
It's probably one of those books you have to read and I always think that a book that divides opinion like this probably has something going for it. Especially as it continues to do so more half a century since its publication.
So, I have genuine admiration for Heinlein and his creation, it was just too long-winded in parts and a bit over the top so overall these things detracted from my enjoyment of it. I'm glad I read it but I won't be hurrying back to go through it again!
11 of 12 people found this review helpful
This. Is a classic Heinlein , thought provoking with echoes of modern times. His characterisation of the press is amusingly accurate, even if he could not have guessed the technology at this distance in time. I first read the book some 30+ years ago and the authors cynical views on government ring true especially since Trumps election. He also takes a run at religion and the zealots. With a strong plot it is a thoroughly good story that I heartily recommend.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
I am a Sci-Fi fan, and thought I was a fan of Heinlein, until listening to this audiobook. Perhaps the abridged version (I'm starting to believe abridged = better editing), might have offered a better narrative, because this unabridged version is bloated and full of trivial dialogue (ie excuse for Author to insert his own detailed opinions on everything under the sun - sex, religion, politics, the law - just to name a few). It starts strongly, but then just meanders everywhere and ends with a sputtering weak gasp of a closure. It's internal logic is massively broken - how does the world lose interest so quickly in mars, the martians and the man from mars? The characters seem to be obsessed with teaching Mike about all the things he needs to do to integrate into humanity, rather than bombarding him with the million questions one would expect when offered an insight into a far more powerful alien species. It's almost like it was written by someone having a colonialist wet dream - look how I domesticate this savage I have brought back from the New World. Isn't he quaint with such quaint ways. Even after Mike proves he has telekinetic powers, his mentors seem more interested in making sure his social graces are improved than any deeper scientific understanding.
The only thing that saved this from getting five raspberries from me - was the top narration from Martin McDougall. I am going to keep my eye out for his narration in future.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
It's been 35 years since I've last read this story. Being a huge Heinlein fan as a teen, I was keen to rediscover the stories and science fiction of my youth.
Oh how wrong a choice that was. Such a long winded narrative that dragged on and on and missed creative opportunities to just preach over and over the whole sixties free love philosophies. It wouldn't have been so bad if not for the downright dated aspects of sexism that I had to endure throughout. I'm a guy, and I was just appalled at the narrow minded disrespect given to female characters. They were there for just two things. To look good and to have sex. And let's try to forget his outright 'rape' comment in the text saying that women deserved it. My respect of this author has been shattered.
I've just finished reading Arthur Conon Doyle and although written decades before this book, still manages to have more modern intentions than anything in this current book of 'Stranger'.
The narrator does a great job, but it feels as if even he doesn't like reading the misogyny that drips from every page.
Glad it's over.
4 of 7 people found this review helpful