STrANgER IN A StRANgE LAnd by Robert Heinlein
'Do You Grok 'Grok'?'
This is the story a man of two worlds, the world he was born to and the world be was born on. On first inspection the most remarkable thing about Valentine Michael Smith was his circumstance of birth and subsequent upbringing in a strange land, however it is not until Valentine Michael Smith is brought 'home' that we have to wonder if his is the strange land, or it is ours?
However you looked at it, biologically Valentine Michael Smith was human, even if his beliefs and ways were not. But is genetics alone enough to define man? As he begins to learn about his new 'home' and its people, many social, philosophical and religious question are raised. What is it to be a man, to be human? What is truth? What is God?
As it turns out Valentine Michael Smith may be no more a man than he is a Martian. He is a race of one having to learn to change his ways to conform to human society, or failing that change human society to conform to his ways. A feat that may be more plausible then it sounds, at least for one as unique as the 'Man From Mars'.
STrANgER IN A StRANgE LAnD is a deeply thoughtful and undeniably compelling read; this is not a book to be skimmed through and passed off as mere fantasy alone but a story to be taken in and grokked as best as possible. It is easy to see why they had wanted to ban this book with its themes of sexuality, religion, society and morals. Themes that are as relevant today as they were when this book was first written.
(1961, in case you were wondering.)
Having never read the original, previously released shortened edition, I can not say for sure how much this story has changed being the uncut version, but I can say that if you have never read this book, either version I'm sure, then you are greatly missing out on one of the most cultural, philosophical and religious discussions ever committed to literature.
Price (AU): $24.95
Recommended age: 18+
In a word: Grok
Re-read it: yes
Star rating: five out of five