Robert Heinlein’s 1961 novel was ground breaking, pioneering in science fiction, and filled with social and psychological concepts about religion, politics and all levels of human interaction.
And I honestly don’t care if anyone reads it or not.
I read the novel recently when I brought my father’s pile of books from my mother’s house. There were nonfiction science tomes, some Lovecraft which I’d read in the distant past and a couple tributes to the Brooklyn Dodgers. The majority of the books were a mix of old Science Fiction, including a large pile of Heinlein.
I knew Dad had read them, and he would bring them up once in a while when we watched some Sci Fi movie or show that had similarities to them, probably because Heinlein inspired their creators.
The only one I had read previously was Starship Troopers. When I was telling Dad about the movie, he mentioned having the book and asking if I wanted to borrow it. It is a rare example of a film based on a novel where the central themes and many of the important elements are completely different, yet I found great enjoyment in both.
I had always meant to read more of them but never got around to it. It’s not like Dad and I didn’t talk about books or read the same ones, we did often. Many of the gift books we’d give each other for presents ended up being unwrapped to the tune of, “… and can I borrow that when you finish?”
As I said, he mentioned them but it wasn’t like Mom’s Italian from the Bronx patented methods of subtlety: “Here, read this, you’ll like it.”
As I finally read Stranger in a Strange Land I realized that it was definitely worthy of its reputation as a Science Fiction (and for that matter, any kind of fiction) classic.
I also realized there were many opinions and theories introduced that matched the way my Dad viewed the world.
No I will not be a total geek here and say it helped me “Grok” my father...
Although I did keep thinking it would be cool to say as I read it.
(For varying definitions of cool, of course.)
What was far more interesting was the large number of social and psychological opinions and theories that appeared to be the complete opposite of the way Dad viewed the world.
I would have loved to find out what he really thought about the details of this novel, but I read it too late.
Therefore, I urge everyone who wants to read a book that will truly and greatly open your mind:
Read your parent’s books while you can still discuss the contents with them.
Happy Birthday Dad, we all miss you.