Stranger in a Strange Land Book Summary and Study Guide

This is a story of an expedition to Mars that uncovers a survivor of a previous expedition ("Mike") who was raised by Martians, and thus thinks like Martians. They bring him back to Earth, where he's locked up by the authorities, until a sympathetic nurse named Gillian helps him to escape to the home of Jubal Harshaw, who appears to be some sort of writer/lawyer/journalist. Jubal, who's about as salty a character as they come, is interesting to watch as he fights off the forces of the world government that's trying to kidnap Mike and lock him up again. Mike can also vaporize people on site, which comes in handy when the government tries to grab him. Overall, the first half of this book is very interesting to watch as we hold our breath to see whether the government gets its hands on Mike.
The second half of the book is a different kettle of fish. Jubal gets the government to leave Mike alone by giving them control of his assets (!), and Mike goes off… to start his own quai-religion where he promotes the concept of polygamy (!). One of the main characters, Ben Caxton, is horrified by this, but then tries it out and finds that he likes it, and it isn't too long before Jubal comes on board as well. Basically, anyone in Mike's religion can, and does, have sex with anyone else at the drop of a hat (assuming they were wearing that much). If the book hadn't shattered enough traditional principals with all that free sex, the book ends with most of the main characters eating a recently deceased main character.
This was the beginning of the "polygameous" strain in Heinlein's books; in later books, he didn't need to establish a religion to have everyone jumping in the sack with each other: most of his later books took place in the future, where people just did that sort of thing naturally. While I could recommend the first half of this book, because of the intrigue/action-adventure elements, the second half is little more than a love-fest.

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of Stranger in a Strange Land

Michael Valentine Smith, a human raised by martians, comes to Earth for the first time and decides to spread what he's learned on Mars. Michael Smith was born to two explorers during humanities first expedition to Mars. The expedition crew is never heard from again, so when the second crew arrives they are surprised to find Mike in the presence of Martians. They have raised him as their own and taught him their ways. The crew asks if he would like to return to Earth and the martian old ones urge him to go.
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When he arrives on Earth he is immediately hospitalized as his body cannot stand the stress of Earth's environment. He is under armed guard and forbidden to leave. A newspaper reporter named Ben Caxton realizes that he is under guard because under Earth's laws, he is the sole owner of mars and heir to billions from his parents. He shares this information with a nurse named Jill and they hatch a plan to rescue the Man from Mars. Jill sneaks Mike out of the hospital, but Ben is abducted by government agents. With nowhere else to go, Jill takes him to see Jubal Hershaw, a famed doctor and lawyer.

During this trip they are attacked by government agents and it is revealed that Mike has the power to make people disappear from existence. When he arrives at Jubal's home, the group slowly realize the full extent of his powers. He can levitate, read minds, and strengthen his muscles using his thoughts alone. The people at Jubal's home all partake in a water-sharing ceremony, an important ritual on Mars that bonds people together.

Jubal manages to free Ben from the government and goes to speak with the leader of the United Federation at a conference. Here Mike agrees to give the leader full control of his funds as long as he will provide for him. The leader agrees and Mike is relieved of the burden of his fortune. Free to pursue knowledge, he and Jill go out into the world to learn.

Mike and Jill take all manner of jobs, from Carny to exotic dancer. Mike finally understands humanity when he realizes that we laugh to keep from despair. Inspired, Mike starts a school for people to learn the martian ways. The small group of followers Mike gathers grow in strength and learn to levitate things as well as control their bodies. Mike is pleased that he can teach so many the way of his birth planet, but in attempting to gain more followers is labeled a religious extremist and the group falls under attack. When the group is attacked, Mike is contacted by the Old Ones from Mars and they admit he was their spy to determine when to destroy the Earth. They then sever contact with him.

Mike can easily destroy any forces mounted against him, but he doesn't want to fight them. He confesses to Jubal that he is nothing but a spy to the martians and that they plan to destroy the Earth in five thousand years. Jubal tells him that by then, the humans will be powerful enough to defend themselves. He and Mike continue to discuss the martian way, and Mike realizes that the only way to spread his message is to go out and face the rioting public. He goes amongst a large group of protestors and lectures them on his beliefs. While he is speaking, people begin throwing stones and shooting at him. Someone douses him in gasoline and he burns alive with a smile on his face.
Best part of story, including ending: The first half of the story is an interesting breakdown of the politics of a human from an alien world returning to Earth. Seeing how Jubal works the law to get Mike what he deserves is intriguing and an enjoyable logic puzzle. However, the second half of the piece devolves into a breakdown of world religion that goes on far too long. The book would have benefited from cutting out some of these parts in favor of more action scenes to move the story along.

Best scene in story: My favorite scene is actually one of the few scenes that take place on mars. The first glimpse we get into the Old Ones' thoughts is presented through a work of art they've been pondering for thousands of years. This work of art details the destruction of the fifth planet, which was located between Mars and Jupiter. This is now an asteroid belt. I thought it was a great way to explain the structure of our solar system.

Opinion about the main character: Mike is a superhuman, but one devoid of original thought. He just regurgitates things he has been taught for the first two thirds of the novel. He should be an interesting character as he is unique from any other character in the book, but for the most part he is too flat.

The review of this Book prepared by Agustin Guerrero a Level 2 American Robin scholar

Michael Smith is he only survivor of the first manned mission to Mars - and yet, he is a native-born Martian. In fact, he is the son of two of the crew, and when all the crew died, Michael was reared by the Martian race - super-intelligent and humane, but utterly alien. No further missions to Mars were attempted for many years.

The story begins with the return of the now-adult Michael to earth - physically a human being, but culturally, emotionally and mentally an alien.

Michael's view of Earth society (this novel is the source of the verb 'to grok') makes the reader look again at all the things usually taken for granted.

The review of this Book prepared by Melody Crookes

Stranger in a strange land is a book about a boy (Mike) born and raised on Mars, but brought to Earth in his 20s. He is rescued from a hospital by Gillian Boardman, a nurse and is meant to be taught by her and all of the other people in the house where they stayed, to be human.Yet,in the end, Mike starts his own nudist, canibalistic church and instead of learning from them he teaches everyone else to be martians. Not everyone agrees with this way of thinking.
The review of this Book prepared by Tabitha

A young man had been brought up by Martians and brought back to Earth. He posses powers that no other human has and he starts to teach humans the ways of Martians.
The review of this Book prepared by irina

A young man reared by aliens from Mars, tries to understand his new world. Finding the people around him unfocused in respect to their true potential, he tries to teach what he was taught on Mars. Gaining a core of followers he starts a religious movement based on love and Martian ethics. He is rejected by the powers of the establishment, and soon is destroyed in body, but not spirit. He lives on within each member of his 'core'.
The review of this Book prepared by Don McDaniel

This is a story of a boy raised on Mars by Martians who returns to Earth.
The boy, Michael, has unusual powers and is hunted by the authorities
who want to use him for their own ends. Michael reaches an
accomodation with authorities and starts his own religion,
which dictates that everyone hops into bed with everyone else,
and that dead people should be eaten in stew.
The review of this Book prepared by Steve

Chapter Analysis of Stranger in a Strange Land

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Plot & Themes

Composition of Book planning/preparing, gather info, debate puzzles/motives 30%Feelings, relationships, character bio/development 30%Descript. of society, phenomena (tech), places 40% Tone of book    -   very upbeat FANTASY or SCIENCE FICTION?    -   science fiction story What is main char. doing?    -   rescue mission/escape from confinement Magical Beings/Mental/Magical/Powers    -   Yes Inner Struggle    -   Yes Plotlet:    -   search for identity/new understanding    -   coping with mental/magical powers Is this an adult or child's book?    -   Adult or Young Adult Book Cultural problems, alien culture    -   Yes Culture clash-    -   one person from different culture of other persons

Main Character

Identity:    -   Male Age:    -   20's-30's If magical mental powers:    -   telekinesis


Earth setting:    -   near future (later in 21st century) Takes place on Earth?    -   Yes

Writing Style

Accounts of torture and death?    -   generic/vague references to death/punishment scientific jargon? (SF only)    -   none/very little science jargon needed Sex in book?    -   Yes

Books with storylines, themes & endings like Stranger in a Strange Land

Robert A. Heinlein Books Note: the views expressed here are only those of the reviewer(s).
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