Verdict: (5 / 5)
The text has a classical tint to it, imparted by use of expressions quite specific for the era in which it was written. This is one of those works that use the means of genre only as the decorum in which the eternal human themes will unfold. You won’t find in it the extensive world-building characteristic to the genre, so its five-hundred plus pages may seem like a surprising lot.
In harmony with its title, the book is itself a bit odd, off-beat, it follows a rather syncopated rhythm and sometimes seems not to go anywhere. In fact, all Heinlein is doing is using the book as a vehicle for his philosophical ideas, encompassing the matter of God and religion, sex, politics and art.
These ideas include the universality of Godhead (in the form of a quite charming and unapologetic pantheism) and cannibalism, sex as divine gift and portal of maximum importance, the hypocrisy, uselessness, and the contingent nature of politics, the profoundly existential nature of art, and the fact that true art remains exclusive.
Events often unfold unexpectedly, sometimes even abruptly, and the readers find themselves suddenly transported into another universe, which in turn offers a great opportunity for reflection on what is.
The major cultural impact of this excellent book is also measured by an extraordinary feat it achieved, namely giving birth to a new English word: the verb “to grok”, now recognized by major dictionaries, albeit not really used in everyday conversation. I’ll leave you find out out it means.
I recommend this book wholeheartedly, precisely for its philosophical payload. As a bonus, because it precedes the era of extreme political correctness, it may offer you some laughs and the refreshing satisfaction that saying things bluntly tends to give – even if they’re wrong.