Robert Heinlein: Still Crap

It’s not often that a book is so bad that I feel the need to write about it as a warning to others, but this is one of those times.

That was the opening line of my review of Stranger in a Strange Land two years ago. This month, writer Ian Sales had a similar reaction to another Heinlein “classic”:

I’m starting to wonder what I’ve done that you should all hate me so much you’d make me read Robert Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress…

It’s good to know I’m not the only one. His rant is more knowledgeable than mine, but it hits a lot of the same points: Heinlein’s sexism, pedantry, clumsy writing and utterly hateful politics make it impossible to understand why he’s still considered such a titan of science fiction, or why he ever was.

…as the story progressed, and Heinlein spouted his bullshit through his various characters and manipulated situations to make points with all the subtlety of Arnold Schwarzenegger, so I grew to really dislike the book … And I will cheerfully mock anyone who claims it as a classic of the genre. It is didactic in the worst possible sense, its politics are risible, its moral landscape is hopelessly confused, and it reads like the wet dream of the dirty old uncle everyone ignores at the family barbecue.

Go read the whole thing, and then check out Sales’ excellent review site Mistressworks to find some better choices.

2 thoughts on “Robert Heinlein: Still Crap”

  1. I know I’m late to the party here, but I’m about three-fourths through Stranger In A Strange Land, and while I’ll finish it, it will only to see the train wreck through to the end. I suppose had I read it in 1961 it might have been more influential or thought-provoking, but reading it in 2016 is pure torture. Yes, I know mores and values have changed (progressed) in the past 50 years, but even Heinlein’s style of writing is painful and ham-fisted. Every sentence of dialogue begins with “Uh…” or “Um…”; it’s a very unnatural sentence structure. And for a book that’s supposed to be set in the future, Heinlein shows a remarkable lack of imagination when it comes to stereotypes and the “role” of the sexes. That in itself kept me from enjoying more of the underlying story. Bt contrast, Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhoods End—published eight years before Stranger— understandably contains some antiquated ideas, but by and large Clarke transcends his own time, and is able to envision and give credible life to a culture in the not-to-distant future. Because of this, his book holds up very well in the 21st century. Sadly, Stranger remains entrenched in the first half of the 20th century.

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