Stranger in a Strange Land
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"Stranger in a Strange Land" Summary

By Robert A. Heinlein

science fiction | 300 pages | Published in 2014

ISBN_13: 9781444710236
ISBN_10: 1444710230

Estimated read time: 4 min read

One Sentence Summary

A human raised by Martians returns to Earth and challenges societal norms.


"Stranger in a Strange Land" is a science fiction novel written by Robert A. Heinlein. Published in 1961, the book explores various themes such as religion, human nature, and societal norms. It tells the story of Valentine Michael Smith, a human who was born and raised on Mars, and his experiences upon returning to Earth.

Brief Synopsis

Plot Overview and Setting

The story is set in a future where a manned expedition to Mars discovers a human child, Valentine Michael Smith, who was born and raised by Martians. The protagonist is brought back to Earth as the only survivor of the mission. As an adult, Valentine possesses extraordinary abilities due to his Martian upbringing, including telekinesis and the ability to heal others. The novel follows his journey of self-discovery and his interactions with the people and society of Earth.

Main Characters

Valentine Michael SmithA human raised by Martians on Mars, possessing extraordinary abilities.
Jubal HarshawA prominent lawyer and author who becomes Valentine's mentor and advocate.
Gillian BoardmanA nurse who becomes romantically involved with Valentine.
Ben CaxtonA journalist who is initially skeptical of Valentine's origins.

Summary of Story Points Over Chapters

Part One: His Maculate Conception

In this part, Valentine is brought to Earth and encounters human society for the first time. He is taken in by Jubal Harshaw, who becomes his mentor. Valentine's unique abilities and his lack of understanding of human culture lead to many thought-provoking and often humorous situations.

Part Two: His Preposterous Heritage

Valentine's growing popularity and his teachings, which emphasize love and empathy, attract a following. He starts his own church, leading to conflicts with established religious and political institutions. Meanwhile, Valentine forms a romantic relationship with nurse Gillian Boardman.

Part Three: His Happy Destiny

As Valentine's influence continues to grow, the authorities become increasingly concerned about the impact of his teachings. The novel reaches a climax with a legal battle over Valentine's guardianship and the fate of his church, as well as personal danger for Valentine and his followers.

Main Events

  1. Valentine's return to Earth and his initial experiences with human society.
  2. Valentine's teachings gaining popularity and the formation of his church.
  3. Conflicts with established religious and political institutions.
  4. Legal battles over Valentine's guardianship and the fate of his church.
  5. Personal danger for Valentine and his followers.

Themes and Insights


  1. Religion and Spirituality: The novel delves into the nature of belief, the power of faith, and the establishment of new religious movements.
  2. Social Norms and Individualism: It explores the clash between societal expectations and individual freedom, as well as the potential for societal change through unconventional means.
  3. Human Nature and Empathy: The story emphasizes the importance of love, empathy, and understanding in human relationships and society.


Heinlein challenges readers to reconsider their perspectives on religion, societal norms, and human nature. The novel also raises questions about the potential of individuals to bring about meaningful change and the consequences of challenging established institutions.

Reader's Takeaway

"Stranger in a Strange Land" offers a thought-provoking exploration of human nature, spirituality, and societal norms. Readers will be drawn into the world of Valentine Michael Smith, a character who challenges the status quo and inspires reflection on the essence of humanity.


In conclusion, "Stranger in a Strange Land" by Robert A. Heinlein is a captivating science fiction novel that continues to resonate with readers for its exploration of profound themes and its engaging portrayal of a unique protagonist. The book's enduring relevance lies in its ability to spark contemplation and discussion about the fundamental aspects of human existence.

Stranger in a Strange Land FAQ

  1. What is 'Stranger in a Strange Land' about?

    The book follows the story of Valentine Michael Smith, a human who was raised by Martians and later returns to Earth. It delves into themes of religion, societal norms, and human nature.

  2. Who is the author of 'Stranger in a Strange Land'?

    The author of 'Stranger in a Strange Land' is Robert A. Heinlein, a renowned science fiction writer.

  3. What genre does 'Stranger in a Strange Land' belong to?

    The book is classified as a science fiction novel with elements of social commentary and philosophical exploration.

  4. Is 'Stranger in a Strange Land' part of a series?

    No, 'Stranger in a Strange Land' is a standalone novel and is not part of a series.

  5. When was 'Stranger in a Strange Land' first published?

    The book was first published in 1961.