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Stranger in a Strange Land

Stranger in a Strange Land Summary


Here you will find a Stranger in a Strange Land summary (Robert A. Heinlein's book).
We begin with a summary of the entire book, and then you can read each individual chapter's summary by visiting the links on the "Chapters" section.

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Last Updated: Monday 1 Jan, 2024

Stranger in a Strange Land Summary Overview

The first manned mission to Mars ends in mystery as the crew vanishes without a trace. A quarter of a century later, a second mission discovers a human child, Valentine Michael Smith, who has been raised by the Martian populace. Following a series of legal events, Smith has inherited a colossal fortune and potentially holds the title to Mars itself, making him a pivotal figure in Earth's politics. He's taken into custody by Earth's government leader, Joseph Douglas, and held in a hospital where he slowly adapts to Earth's atmosphere and begins to grasp its culture and language, which are drastically different from Martian thought. Journalist Ben Caxton is suspicious of Douglas's intentions towards Smith, suspecting him of using the "Man from Mars" for his own political gains, possibly with lethal consequences. He convinces his friend and past lover, Jill Boardman, a nurse at the hospital, to aid him in surveying Smith's condition. When Caxton gets on the government's radar, he's snatched up, leading Boardman to help Smith escape the hospital, which they achieve using Smith's Martian-taught psychic powers. They seek refuge with Jubal Harshaw, a renowned individual of many talents, who assists in protecting them from the authorities. At Harshaw's residence, Smith engrosses himself in learning about Earth's culture and religions. Eventually, Harshaw manages to negotiate with Douglas to call off the police and free Caxton. He also quells Smith's political relevance by stating that Mars can't legally belong to Smith as the Martian race had inhabited it long before Smith's birth. Harshaw persuades Douglas to supervise Smith's immense personal wealth, thus gaining an ally. Smith develops a particular interest in religion and, accompanied by Harshaw and Boardman, visits the headquarters of a religious group, the Fosterites. The Fosterites wish to use Smith's newfound fame to benefit their cause. A dispute arises between Smith and the Fosterite Supreme Bishop, resulting in Smith making the Bishop vanish. This incident leads Smith to a self-realization, and he decides to traverse Earth's cultures while remaining incognito. He and Boardman join a carnival, displaying Smith's powers through a magician's act. During their journey, Smith grasps previously elusive human concepts and founds his own church, the Church of All Worlds. Despite the church's successful growth and the development of a close community of followers, Smith faces increasing persecution. Harshaw, who perceives Smith as a son, is concerned about this and visits him, offering comfort among Smith's followers. Despite questioning the effectiveness of his attempts to assist humanity, Smith remains committed to his beliefs, leading to his eventual martyrdom by an enraged mob. His followers, including Harshaw, continue to propagate his work on Earth.

chapter 1

The story kicks off by detailing the inaugural voyage to Mars. It is agreed that the optimal crew selection for this rigorous journey would comprise of four wedded pairs. An unattached man, coveting to lead the mission, asks a woman possessing matching skills to marry him. Together with three more pairs, they establish the team aboard the spacecraft Envoy. Though the Envoy reaches Mars, no further communication is received from it.

chapter 2

A quarter of a century later, after World War III has taken place, the space vessel Champion under the leadership of Captain Willem van Tromp, lands on Mars. The Champion confirms the existence of indigenous life on Mars, and a lone survivor from the Envoy mission.

chapter 3

Valentine Michael Smith, born to two Envoy crew members, is transitioned to Earth and admitted in a hospital to acclimate to the new surroundings. Van Tromp discloses to the Federation High Council, Earth's governing body, that despite Smith's human biology, his thinking aligns more with Martians, an alien notion to Earth inhabitants. In the hospital, Smith engages in profound reflection, which significantly slows his body functions. This alarms the on-duty doctor who fears Smith might be gravely ill. However, Dr. Nelson, Smith's primary doctor, reassures him that such states are common for Smith and not a cause for concern. One day, an orderly attempts to coax Smith into signing away his life story's cinematic rights for a potential movie, "I Was a Prisoner on Mars." Smith is perplexed by this, and the exchange is cut short by a doctor's arrival.

chapter 4

Gillian Boardman, a nurse who's intrigued by Smith, breaks the rule prohibiting him from female company, by sneaking into his room under the guise of performing routine nursing tasks. Misinterpreting her offer of water as an invite to the Martian ritual of "water-sharing," which fosters spiritual closeness, Smith gratefully accepts and insists she drinks too. Smith, fascinated by Gillian, questions her about her femininity. She responds half-jokingly, refusing to undress for his curiosity. This leaves Smith puzzled and hesitant to upset her since he struggles to read her emotions. Gillian is invited to dinner by newspaper writer Ben Caxton, who she's been flirting with for a while. In a bid to find out more about Smith, Ben asks her about their encounter. Amused, he jokingly proposes marriage to her. He also enlightens her about Smith's legal rights. Smith is, by law, the beneficiary to the wealth left behind by all the Envoy crew members, which is substantial. Moreover, owing to a rule known as the Larkin Decision, Smith is technically Mars's owner.

chapter 5

Ben is concerned that the authorities are hiding Smith from the media to manipulate him. The political career of Secretary General Douglas, effectively Earth's ruler, may hinge on Smith's compliance. Ben persuades Jill to secretly install a listening device in the hospital to keep tabs on Smith's room, which she complies with. The hidden device records a chat between Smith and Douglas. The Secretary General insists on a private meeting with Smith, leading Dr. Nelson to quit his job. Douglas tries to make Smith relinquish any legal rights he holds over Mars by signing a document. Smith, however, is perplexed and falls into a trance-like state when Douglas forces him to leave a thumbprint on the paper. After publicly criticizing Douglas's administration in one of his articles, Ben worries that his home might be under surveillance, so he and Jill go out for a meal. They contemplate if Douglas would benefit politically from Smith's demise. Jill is consumed by worry for Smith's well-being.

chapter 6

During a meal, Ben and Jill are watching a "stereo tank" when Douglas comes into view, making a speech before he interviews the Martian, Smith. Smith's responses are eloquent and non-controversial, causing Ben to worry that Douglas is manipulating Smith's words. Despite his initial disbelief, Jill convinces Ben that the Smith on the screen is different from the Smith they met at the hospital. The understanding that the Douglas administration may harm the genuine Smith under the cover of his falsified public image alarms Ben. He decides it is crucial to ensure Smith's safe exit from the hospital.

chapter 7

Upon arriving at the hospital, Jill learns that Smith's location has changed. His former room is now occupied by an elderly woman who is unconscious. Ben includes James Cavendish in his quest to meet Smith, a professional known as a "Fair Witness," who provides unbiased observations and maintains a neutral mindset. Along with a lawyer, they insist on seeing Smith at the hospital. Gilbert Berquist, an aide to Douglas, attempts to hinder Ben. However, when Ben reveals his suspicion about the fake Smith interview, Berquist sets up a meeting with Smith. In Smith's hospital room, Ben poses a question that confounds Smith, hinting that he might actually be an imposter. After this, Ben and his group are ejected from the room. On their way out, Cavendish advises Ben that he could have inspected the so-called "Smith" for Earth gravity-related calluses and footwear. As a Fair Witness, Cavendish couldn't have intervened while in the room. Ben feels frustrated for not having seized this chance to validate his suspicion of Smith's impersonation. As he heads home, Ben's self-driving flying cab refuses to follow his commands and instead leads him to a courtyard, where he gradually loses consciousness.

chapter 8

Jill, as a nurse, goes to get a motorized bed from Smith's old room. The present doctor, busy monitoring a sick woman on a screen, leaves Jill in charge momentarily. Jill enters the woman's room to find Smith, realizing the woman is a decoy to hide Smith's presence. Smith, thrilled to see Jill from their past "water-sharing," is warned by her not to reveal her presence. Later, she gets Smith a nurse's uniform for a disguise and they escape the hospital. During their taxi ride, Smith discusses Martian ideas that don't translate well to Earth. Aware she'll be sought after, Jill instructs the taxi to go to Ben's apartment. At Ben's place, Jill persuades Smith to feel the carpet of real grass with his toes. Smith hesitates to step on a living entity, but feels it's the grass' intended use. Jill prepares a bath for Smith who is amazed at the idea of immersing in sacred water. He enjoys it and innocently reaches for Jill's breast as she helps him bathe. Berquist and a cop barge into the apartment. Startled, Jill attacks the cop who retaliates. Seeing his "water-brother" in distress, Smith makes the cop vanish. Realizing Berquist is a threat, Smith makes him vanish too. Jill panics. Smith, worried he did wrong, enters a meditative state. Unable to wake him, Jill makes a quick decision to pack him in a large bag and flee the apartment.

chapter 9

The story unfolds across various global developments in sectors like politics, lifestyle, trade, and population movement. Douglas shares a morning meal with Agnes, his controlling spouse. Agnes senses his unease and forces him to confess that Smith has disappeared. Douglas can't dispatch the full police force in search of him without exposing that the "Smith" he's introduced to the world is a sham. Their common worry is that the authentic Smith might be captured by the Eastern Coalition, a political group. Agnes advises Douglas to maintain that his "Man from Mars" is genuine, and even suggests that the real Smith might have to be eliminated. Douglas is reluctant to harm Smith but avoids arguing with his spouse. Agnes seeks advice from her astrologer, Madame Vesant. She requests horoscopes for herself, Douglas, and Smith. Vesant struggles with Smith's horoscope as she must adjust her calculations considering his Martian origin. She discloses her findings to Agnes, who is satisfied. Vesant then contacts her stockbroker and places trades using the confidential government data she obtained from Agnes. Simultaneously, Agnes makes vital decisions and instructs Douglas to announce to the media that Smith has been relocated to an isolated hospital in the Andes.

chapter 10

Noted author, medic, and attorney, Jubal Harshaw, is observing his attractive secretaries Anne, Miriam, and Dorcas in the swimming pool. While sharing a story concept regarding an injured feline with Anne, his assistant Larry interrupts him, stating a woman, carrying a body, has arrived. The woman is Jill, who has brought inactive Smith to Jubal, given Smith might find Jubal's influence and unconventional stance useful in his defense. Jill urges Smith, her water-brother, to awaken, and he complies. During supper, Jubal informs Jill he won't defend Smith legally, but will offer him refuge as a good host. Later, as Jubal attempts to sleep, he ponders the potential problems he may face due to his involvement with Smith. Concluding he must support Smith, he begins studying the case immediately. The idea of contesting the government excites him.

chapter 11

The narrator gives a brief overview of the Martian race. Young Martians, known as "Nymphs," are depicted as "fat, furry spheres" that often perish early, while adult Martians, looking like "ice boats under sail," devote most of their time to nurturing life, such as directing the growth of plants. Martians lack sexual reproduction, setting them apart from humans, who are profoundly influenced by their sexual energy. Martians perceive time differently, requiring centuries to ponder and resolve issues. When Martians "discorporate," or die, they become "Old Ones," whose spirits control Mars. In history, these Old Ones have even decided to obliterate a planet upon encountering its inhabitants. Jubal and Jill start tutoring "Mike," the name assigned to Smith by his new companions, in reading. Fascinated by Jubal's library, Mike spends considerable time learning from it. He also spends ample time in the swimming pool, sinking to the bottom and slipping into trances, which initially unsettle his friends. Mike soon recognizes his unique abilities that distinguish him from other humans. Jubal expresses apprehension about the government pursuing Mike. When Jill contemplates searching for Ben, Jubal informs her of his engagement of top-notch private investigators. He also discloses his suspicions of Gilbert Berquist's involvement in Ben's disappearance. Upon hearing Berquist's name, Jill recounts to Jubal how Mike made Berquist and a police officer vanish. Intrigued, Jubal asks Jill to get Mike to demonstrate this ability.

chapter 12

Anne, a professional observer known as a Fair Witness, prepares to witness a display of Mike's abilities as requested by Jubal. Jill informs Jubal that Mike is getting ready and will join them soon. Jubal suggests that dressing isn't necessary, but Jill wants Mike to adapt to Earth's customs. Jubal agrees, but also stresses the importance of teaching Mike to question and be cynical of seemingly arbitrary societal norms. Jubal reveals that he's installed cameras in the room as a precautionary measure, set to broadcast to television networks if they're under threat. He switches these on to capture Mike's performance. When Mike arrives, Jubal queries Jill and his secretaries on whether they've had any intimate relations with Mike, receiving negative answers. Then, Mike discusses his recent learning from literature, and expresses confusion over the ending of the play Romeo and Juliet. Jubal clarifies that talking to Romeo isn't possible, as Romeo is a made-up character. Mike struggles to grasp the concept of fiction and wonders if the ancient Martians would understand it. Jubal brings up Mike's previous act of making Berquist and the officer vanish, and asks him to explain. As the specifics are beyond the scope of English words, Mike can't. Jubal instructs Mike to make a box disappear, to which Mike questions if the box is 'bad', since he only removes 'bad' things. To confirm this, Jubal has Jill throw the box towards him, and Mike makes it vanish in mid-air. Jubal inquires about the range of Mike's powers, to which Mike clarifies it's not about distance but identifying the 'wrongness' of something. In another test, Jubal tosses an ashtray up in the air and Mike freezes it mid-fall. Mike voices regret for his previous actions, referring to them as "wasting food." Jubal comforts him, assuring him that his actions were justified. Jubal then has Mike manipulate the hovering ashtray to test the extent of his telekinetic abilities. Jubal recommends that Jill learn Martian language to better communicate with Mike, and tells Mike to use his powers to safeguard Jill if necessary. For a final demonstration, Jubal asks Mike to make a gun in his hand disappear. He carefully explains that he doesn't want to be made to disappear himself. Mike replies that he wouldn't "waste" Jubal and anticipates the day he'll consume Jubal's remains when Jubal is dead.

chapter 13

Duke, tasked with maintaining Jubal's home technology, privately voices his unease about Mike to Jubal. Duke finds Mike's suggestion of consuming Jubal's body after his death unsettling and declares he won't share meals with Mike. Jubal, annoyed by Duke's biased views, sacks him. Duke assures Jubal he doesn't think Mike poses any threat. Nevertheless, Jubal maintains that Mike isn't as wild or harmless as Duke presumes. They watch a replay of Mike making an object vanish. The object, a box thrown at Jubal by Jill, appears to diminish and recede. From a different perspective, the box behaves the same way. It's theoretically impossible for an object in three dimensions to simultaneously recede in two directions. They infer Mike possesses a unique capability to manipulate objects in a direction orthogonal to the three dimensions. Jubal allows Duke to continue working if he dines with everyone else. He points out that cannibalism is practiced in several Earth societies and Mike's suggestion was meant as a tribute. He advises Duke to consider becoming Mike's water-brother if he remains, but warns him not to take the water-sharing ritual lightly.

chapter 14

The story reveals that Martians don't understand the human notion of "hurry." It suggests that this human rush is tied to our sexual duality. The narrative then shifts to Earthly traditions, highlighting the historical challenges of creating communication channels between the masses and their rulers. Jubal decides he must make contact with Douglas to assist Ben. On hold with one of Douglas's aides, Jubal observes Mike engrossed in a religious broadcast from the Fosterites on the stereovision. Eventually, Jubal gets through to a senior police officer and pesters him. Jubal learns from Anne that Duke has exited the compound. Mike expresses a desire to explore religion with Jubal, despite his confusion. He seeks to understand Earth's version of Martian "Old Ones," the deceased entities who impart wisdom. Jubal is uncomfortable with Mike's fascination with the Fosterites, a sect he finds particularly uninformed and unpleasant. As an agnostic, Jubal remains skeptical about the existence of any divine entity. Jubal tries to elucidate the fundamental principles of religion to Mike, while also conveying that Earth is home to multiple religions, each believing they possess the sole accurate understanding of divine truth. Mike struggles to reconcile these differing beliefs. When asked about humanity, Jubal best describes man as "the animal who laughs," which Mike notes he doesn't do. Mike makes a connection between his Martian understanding of grokking and Earth's concept of God. In an illuminating moment, he proclaims to Jubal, "Thou art God!" He believes all living beings are God, a conclusion that horrifies Jubal. The police arrive at the scene. Jubal instructs Mike to hide under the pool. As the officers step out of their car, Jubal starts reciting the law verbatim, listing all the reasons he could potentially sue them.

chapter 15

Mike lingers in the swimming pool, perplexed by Jubal's reaction to their conversation. He tunes into an instinctive alarm that his companions are in danger, enabling him to spiritually exit his physical form and observe the events unfolding above the water. The sight of an officer threatening Jill with a firearm prompts him to make the man vanish. As other officers reach for their weapons, they too are made to disappear by Mike. He then withdraws back into his physical body, lost in thought. In time, Jill dives in to bring him out and they share a kiss beneath the water's surface.

chapter 16

Jubal, at home, urgently seeks his next step when he gets a call from his TV network friend, Thomas Mackenzie. Jubal had thought the cameras he'd installed had broadcasted the recent events to Mackenzie's network, but there was a broadcast issue. He asks Larry to fix the error, although Larry doubts his capability, as the technical work was usually handled by Duke. Jubal reconnects with Mackenzie. He inquires what action Mackenzie would take if he needed to contact Douglas personally within ten minutes. Mackenzie informs Jubal about Agnes Douglas's dependence on Madame Vesant's astrological readings. Jubal contacts Vesant, who he recognises from a past interaction when she was known as Becky Vesey. He explains his urgent situation involving the Man from Mars and requests her assistance in reaching Douglas. Vesant deceives Agnes with a fabricated horoscope that suggests her husband needs to contact Jubal immediately. After fulfilling her task, Vesant contentedly turns her focus back to her stock investments.

chapter 17

Jubal initiates a manuscript titled "I Married a Martian," but quickly changes it to "I Married a Human." Meanwhile, more police officers show up and Jubal instructs for the door to be secured. He receives a call from Douglas, informing him he's Mike’s lawyer. He tactfully convinces Douglas to withdraw the police so they can negotiate without intrusion. Jubal then allows the police sergeant, who’s there to arrest him, to converse with Douglas on the phone. Douglas instructs the sergeant to stand down and depart. Jubal and Douglas agree to meet. However, Jubal insists on being accompanied by a small team, including Ben, as per Mike’s instructions. Douglas initially resists due to his disapproval of Ben's writing, but eventually gives in. Jubal also requests Douglas's assistance in locating Ben, claiming that as a private individual, he could not find him. The arrangements and successful negotiation prompt Jill to kiss Jubal out of gratitude, and Mike out of joy. Jubal admires Mike's technique and Mike compares kissing to water-sharing and "growing-closer." Mike offers to kiss Jubal, but he proposes Mike to kiss Dorcas instead. Upon doing so, Dorcas swoons. Intrigued by Mike's skill, Anne and Miriam also sample his kisses. Soon after, Mackenzie contacts Jubal, who offers him an exclusive interview as a reward. Duke, returning to the scene, assists in fixing the broken network transmission. Duke reveals his acceptance of Mike's peculiar eating practices. Brief interviews with reporters ensue. Douglas informs Jubal that they have located Ben, who had apparently vanished to Mexico on a drinking spree. When Ben arrives, he’s inebriated but doesn't remember getting drunk, suggesting he was drugged. Jubal quickly directs him to bed. Later, Jubal questions Anne about what differentiates Mike's kissing, to which she replies that Mike, unlike other Earth men, devotes his full attention to a kiss.

chapter 18

Mike and Ben partake in drinking water together. Ben, bothered by Jill's close relationship with Mike, suggests they get married. Jill turns him down, making Ben understand that her bond with Mike is profound and nourishing. Jubal puts forth a suggestion to Ben that Douglas could potentially be turned into a friend, requesting Ben to be less harsh in his column about Douglas. Ben queries Jubal regarding Mike's Martian faith. Jubal, while not a follower of the Martian religion himself, expresses his respect for Mike's freedom to hold his own beliefs.

chapter 19

Mike's group travels to Douglas's Executive Palace, where on arrival, Jubal requests an assistant to deliver a letter to Douglas, which he had been busy drafting overnight. During a media interaction, Mike is queried on his understanding of inheritance law, to which he responds by reciting elaborate definitions from Jubal's law literature. A reunion takes place between Mike and Dr. Mahmoud, a semantician who was part of the Champion mission to Mars and has studied Martian dialect extensively. Despite their mutual suspicion, Mahmoud, a British-raised Muslim, and Jubal maintain a courteous rapport. Mahmoud is surprised to discover Jill's familiarity with the Martian term for "water-brother." Upon learning about Douglas's intention to host their meeting in a sizable hall with numerous Earth representatives, Jubal ensures equal representation for their Martian delegation. He even goes as far as demanding a Martian flag to be displayed next to the Federation flag and a Martian anthem to follow the Federation anthem, despite these not existing and therefore needing to be made up on the spot. He also arranges for Champion crew members and other individuals to join their side. Mike receives an invitation from Senator Boone to attend a Fosterite service on behalf of Bishop Digby. Jubal shares with Boone Mike's interest in Fosterites, accepting the invitation with the intention of accompanying Mike for his protection. Just then, Douglas's arrival is announced.

chapter 20

Jubal cues Mike to rise for Douglas's arrival, and all comply except for Mike. The "Martian anthem" requested by Jubal is played, reinforcing that Mike symbolizes an independent nation. Douglas greets Mike, who replies with a rehearsed speech in Martian and English. Jubal receives a note from Douglas confirming an earlier communication, simply stating, "Yes." Jubal informs everyone that Mike's substantial fortune requires full-time management. Jubal, declining the responsibility, proposes that Douglas take on the role. If Douglas declines, Ben is next in line. After querying Mike's agreement, Douglas confirms this arrangement. When an assembly member brings up the Larkin Decision, implying that Mike owns Mars, Jubal denies it. Jubal dismisses the Larkin Decision as irrelevant, clarifying that Mars was already populated by Martians before Mike's birth there.

chapter 21

The "Martian delegation" retreats to a hotel where Jubal and the crew of the Champion, including Captain Van Tromp, Dr. Nelson, and Mahmoud (also known as "Stinky"), enjoy some drinks. They banter about Jubal's attractive secretaries and Mahmoud's single status. Mahmoud clarifies that he would only wed within his Muslim faith. Mahmoud, who's fluent in Martian, sheds light on the Martian term "grok," which he believes is the most pivotal word in Martian language. He anticipates dedicating years to explore its depth. In order to truly "grok," one must adopt a Martian mindset, a task which Mahmoud suggests is a considerable challenge for humans. "To grok," initially signifying "to drink," also implies "to fear," "to love," "to hate," and "to be identically equal"; it's an amalgamation of religion, philosophy, and science for Martians. When Mike commends Mahmoud's grasp of Martian by saying, "Thou art God," Mahmoud perceives it as sacrilege, although he understands that Mike intends no disrespect. Mahmoud is drawn to the secretaries but restrains his thoughts. Dr. Nelson quizzes Jubal about Mike's rapid muscular development, and Mike reveals that he used thought power to enhance his physique. Jubal confesses to Van Tromp that he persuaded Douglas to manage Mike’s finances as he didn't want to shoulder the burden and was sure Douglas could handle the power and pressure it entails. Jubal also details his approach to the Larkin Decision controversy. To avoid political complications, he didn't want Mike to claim Mars or yield his rights to the Federation. Instead, Jubal positioned Mike as a representative of the ancient Martian race, deserving of sovereign treatment. This ploy forced the Federation to acknowledge the Martians' rights to Mars, effectively diffusing the political dispute. Van Tromp suspects Mike might be a Martian spy, fueled by an incident where a lieutenant from the Champion mission vanished, presumably killed by Martians. Van Tromp questions the Martians' peaceful existence. When Douglas sends papers to finalize his agreement with Mike, Jubal, acting as Mike's attorney, gleefully signs them.

chapter 22

The elder Martians debate over a crucial Martian artwork's meaning, revealing significant cosmic changes and shifts in Earth's society. The media attention on Mike has lessened considerably, yet he continues to receive a massive amount of mail at Jubal's place. Among these, he receives a highly explicit sexual proposition that shocks Jill, prompting her to show it to Jubal. Despite her inclination to destroy it, Jubal insists on respecting Mike's privacy. Jubal reminds Jill of Mike's past as a killer, arguing that he's far from innocent and that his interest in explicit material doesn't make him any less of a gentleman. Intrigued by the explicit picture and the concept of sex, Mike continues his exploration of human culture. He delves into the idea of money after Jubal explains its significance, and he's struck by its ability to connect people worldwide. Inspired, Mike begins buying presents for his friends, with Jill guiding him in choosing the right gifts. Mike's gift for Jubal, a Rodin sculpture replica, pleases the latter, and Jill's perfume gift leads her to kiss him in thanks, prompting Dorcas to flirt playfully with Mike. Persistent invitations from Senator Boone to Mike to attend a Fosterite service eventually succeed, and Mike agrees to attend, accompanied by Jubal and Jill.

chapter 23

During their journey to the service, Jubal cautions Mike about the Fosterites' intents to exploit his wealth and popularity. He shares his skepticism about organized religions, revealing that he was previously brought up to believe that those outside his own religion were doomed, yet he managed to befriend people like Mahmoud, a Muslim. His concern is that the Fosterites' earnestness in their evangelizing might attract Mike. Upon their arrival at the Fosterite Tabernacle, they're greeted by Boone. Boone introduces them to a hall teeming with slot machines, explaining that the Fosterites co-opted secular salesmanship rather than rejecting it. He claims that even gambling can be holy if done in the right spirit. Intriguingly, Mike uses his psychic powers to hit three jackpots in a row on a slot machine, after which, under Jill's whispering advice, he stops. Jubal, feeling uneasy, donates his winnings to the church. They're then guided to the quarters of Supreme Bishop Digby, where they encounter the preserved body of the Fosterite sect's founder, the Archangel Foster. They learn that Foster passed away in the very chair he still occupies and that the Tabernacle was erected around it. Mike senses something is amiss. The trio is then taken to a service led by an ex-football player with hymns backed by a corporate sponsor. A stripper named Dawn Ardent, who works for the church and is a fan of Jubal's writing, serves them drinks. Jill briefly fears Dawn's attraction to Mike. They observe the energetic service, full of dancing and shouting, which fascinates Mike. Digby makes an appearance and promptly introduces Mike to the congregation. Post-service, Digby and Boone are entertaining their guests when Digby seizes the opportunity to whisk Mike off to a private room. Meanwhile, Boone excuses himself to arrange a cab for their departure. After a while, a concerned Jill tries to access the room Mike is in but finds it locked. When Mike finally appears, they depart hastily.

chapter 24

After departing the Tabernacle, Mike appears disoriented. Jubal expresses to Jill his apprehension about the persuasive tactics of the Fosterites, stirring concern in him. Jill finds their lack of refinement repugnant, but Jubal suggests they are equivalent to other religious groups. He brings up potentially objectionable beliefs held by various global religions, Christianity among them. They get back to their residence where Ben and Mahmoud have dropped by. Mahmoud expresses concern over the impact Digby might have on Mike. Jubal counters that Mike should have the opportunity to encounter all ideologies equally. He's aware of Mahmoud's attempt to introduce Mike to Islam and speculates that Mike could become his own kind of prophet, a notion that Mahmoud agrees with. Surrounded by the scenic view and attractive women, Mahmoud humorously ponders if he's already in Islamic Paradise. He playfully proposes converting one of the women to Islam for marriage. Miriam declines, while Dorcas indulges in light banter. Mike retreats to his room and enters a meditative state, reflecting on his encounter with Digby. The act of "wasting food," going against Jill's guidance, troubles him. However, he concludes that his tough decision was based on his personal judgment at the critical moment, overriding Jill's directive. This reliance on his own decision-making boosts his self-confidence. He strengthens his belief in a principle he's often declared: "Thou art God." Later, Mike encounters a girl in the kitchen, her identity left vague by the narrator. They relax by the pool where she inquires about his longing for Mars. He admits initial homesickness, but now he understands ("groks") that he will never feel alone. Their interaction culminates in a kiss and they make love.

chapter 25

Mars is getting ready for human habitation, a fact the Martian Old Ones ponder over. Some seemingly unimportant incidents occur on Earth, including the selection of a new Fosterite Supreme Bishop after Digby's death. Fosterites declare Digby has ascended to Heaven, becoming an Archangel like Foster. Foster, despite still feeling resentful about Digby's actions leading to his death, introduces him to the archangel rules in Heaven. Digby agrees to his new position. Jubal is unsure about the part Mike played in Digby's demise. As days pass with Mike in a trance-like state, his personality shifts—from being submissive to being rather brash. Although Mike now appears almost completely human to Jubal, he still hasn't laughed. Mike declares his intention to explore the world with Jill, seeing Jubal as a paternal figure.

chapter 26

A mobile fair is depicted, featuring unique attractions like Patty Paiwonski, a tattooed woman adorned by her deceased husband who's a passionate Fosterite as she is. Another performance comes from a magician, Dr. Apollo, and his aide, Miss Merlin. Apollo pulls off incredible feats such as levitation and disappearing objects, however, the crowd remains indifferent. The fair's proprietor decides to cut Apollo from the tour, suggesting that while his magic is compelling, he needs to understand audience psychology. The narrative discloses that Dr. Apollo and Miss Merlin are actually Mike and Jill in disguise. Patty, saddened by their departure, plans to see them at their hotel later. On the drive there, Jill reflects on the several months since leaving Jubal's home, recalling their travels and diverse jobs across the country. While sharing a bath, Mike makes his clothes disappear without needing to sense any fault in them. He shares his concern about not understanding common folk, or "chumps" as he calls them. Jill scolds him for using such a term, but Mike insists they are indeed "chumps". Their conversation is interrupted by Patty's arrival.

chapter 27

Patty offers guidance to Jill and Mike on their magic performance. She perceives them to be "seekers" and desires to introduce them to her Fosterite faith. Patty undresses partially to reveal her tattoos, which notably narrate Foster's life. Patty's bra hides some of these tattoos, and Jill, noticing Patty's eagerness to reveal them, encourages Patty to take off the bra. However, Mike magically makes Patty's underwear vanish before she can do so, and similarly, does the same to his robe and Jill's nightgown. Patty interprets these sudden vanishings as a divine sign and deems Mike a sacred figure. Mike and Jill clarify that Mike is actually the Martian Man, but Patty is still convinced that Mike is the Earthly embodiment of the Archangel Michael. Jill, having gained sufficient understanding of Martian communication, engages in a telepathic conversation with Mike. They contemplate about initiating Patty into their water-brotherhood, finally agreeing on it. Following the water-sharing ceremony, Mike gets intimate with Patty, followed by Jill. Afterward, Patty shares Foster's prophecies and philosophies with them. The narrative briefly touches upon Foster's church's history and Foster's personal liberal sexual inclinations. Patty reveals one very cherished tattoo she has, of a kiss placed over her heart by Foster himself. The following morning, Mike plants a kiss on the opposite side of Patty's body, leaving a permanent marking similar to a tattoo. Patty is overjoyed.

chapter 28

Foster and Digby, observing from Heaven, oversee Mike, Jill, and Patty's interaction via an "omniscio," a device akin to a television. Patty's claim that Mike is an archangel stirs Digby's displeasure. However, Foster implies that Patty might be right. Foster chides Digby over his persistent bitterness towards Mike. He encourages Digby to oversee another planet - an opportunity to gain proper angelic expertise and to divert his attention from Mike.

chapter 29

Mike is perplexed by the human notion of "love" and proposes marriage to Jill. She declines, not wanting to exclude their friends. They head to Las Vegas where Mike grasps the appeal of gambling as Jill performs as a showgirl. She relishes the attention from male spectators, which leads her to empathize with Duke's love for adult entertainment. Jill toys with the idea of sending Duke a risqué photo of herself, sparking a conversation about her potential intimacy with Duke. They conclude that it would be a "goodness" for her to be with another water-brother. Curious, Mike asks Jill to demonstrate provocative poses. Mike attends one of Jill's shows. Using telepathy, she indicates a man intensely appreciating her appearance. Mike explores the man's mind, experiencing his lust. He shares this perspective with Jill, who is taken aback by the intensity of the experience. After this, Mike comprehends human desire and they explore more risqué shows around the city. Their travels take them to California, where Mike delves into religion. Dissatisfied with human science and philosophy, he hopes to find answers in religion but comes up empty. Frustrated by his lack of progress, Mike fears he is making Jill more Martian than he is becoming human. At a zoo, Jill feeds a monkey who is then bullied by a larger primate, who in turn bullies a smaller one. Mike, struck by the absurdity of the scene, bursts into laughter for the first time, feeling he finally groks humans. Now understanding their nature, he yearns to aid them and inquires Jill about the process of becoming a clergyman.

chapter 30

The story turns to the welfare of human colonists on Mars and updates on Mike's life. Having been rejected from both the seminary and the military, Mike forms his own religious group called The Church of All Worlds, a concept he credits to Jubal, much to the latter's shock. Ben seeks out Jubal, who guides him through a new art collection, including a Rodin piece depicting an aged woman, a gift from Mike. Jubal enlightens Ben on the sculpture's profound meaning—youthful spirit trapped in an aging body. He compares another statue, "The Little Mermaid," to Mike, referencing the sacrifices and struggles she endured for her new life. Jubal discloses engagements and pregnancies among his staff. The paternity of the unborn children remains uncertain, with Mike as a potential father. Jubal dismisses any suggestions of his own involvement, asserting that his staff would only sleep with him out of sympathy due to his age, a prospect he rejects in favor of maintaining dignity. Disturbed by his recent experience at Mike's temple, Ben queries Jubal about any legal tactics they could use to disband the church. He starts recounting his encounter to Jubal.

chapter 31

The chapter alternates between Ben conversing with Jubal about his experiences at Mike's place, and the happenings from Ben's perspective. A naked Patty greets Ben at the "Nest", Mike's base for his core followers, making Ben feel awkward. Despite his discomfort, Ben undresses to his underwear to fit in. Patty reveals she's a High Priestess in Mike's church and teaches Martian alongside Dawn Ardent. Ben shares with Jubal his interaction with Dawn, who has a crush on Jubal due to his literary work. Ben found Mike's preaching style more like a persuasive salesman than a conventional clergyman, which Jubal finds overly simplistic. Yet, Ben was captivated by Mike's sermon. Patty further explains that Mike uses preaching to assess the audience and determine who is suited for advanced study. The church has a nine-tier membership system, with each level being more exclusive. Even though he was well-off, Mike collected offerings during the sermon to establish credibility. Ben later joined a higher-tier meeting involving Martian chants and kisses among members. Being Mike's water-brother, Ben was granted the highest membership level. Jill's arrival at the ceremony catches Ben's eye. Later in the Nest, Jill kisses Ben warmly and informs him about the church's objective: to enlighten individuals about their inherent abilities. Jill encourages Ben to stay with them at the Nest. Ben has dinner with Jill and Dawn, who now look strikingly similar due to Mike's telekinetic influence. Jill receives a psychic message from Mike asking for help and leaves, suggesting Ben to kiss Dawn.

chapter 32

Ben confides in Jubal that the warm reception from the Nest-members initially comforted him, but he soon felt discomfort. The chapter then delves into Ben's experiences. Waking up next to Dawn, Ben encounters Duke in the kitchen. Duke encourages Ben to stay, sharing his own experience of leaving Jubal's service to join the commune. He explains the church's hierarchical structure, revealing that those who become Mike's water-brothers without Martian language knowledge are termed the "First-Called." He compares living with his water-brothers to a marriage, noting it's far more fulfilling than his previous marriage. Ruth, a ninth circle member with her spouse Sam, shares with Ben the revitalizing effect the church has had on her, observing their medicine-free bathrooms as no one falls ill. Ben later meets Jill who admits she wanted to spend the night with him, but sensing his jealousy, decided to quell it by having him sleep with Dawn. She shows off her newfound telekinetic abilities. Mike joins them, expressing his joy at seeing Ben and sharing how busy his life has become. As Mike and Jill are affectionate with each other, Ben feels embarrassed. Mike highlights to Ben that the sexual duality of humans is a gift Martians don't possess. Sensing Ben's lingering jealousy, Mike postpones the water-sharing ceremony planned for Ben. Jill, however, doesn't want Ben to leave without partaking in the ceremony, insisting he stop worrying. After initiating a kiss with Ben, Jill calls for him and Mike to share water, with Ben noticing that Mike's clothes have disappeared.

chapter 33

In a conversation with Jubal, Ben admits he fled the temple fearing an invitation to group sex with Mike and Jill. Jubal criticizes Ben for disrespecting the temple's customs while being a guest. He scolds Ben for not tactfully extricating himself from the situation. Ben confesses he lost composure due to his feelings for Jill, which Jubal interprets as jealousy. Jubal comments that Mike and Jill's non-traditional relationship is possible due to their impeccable moral compass, something he and Ben do not possess. Jubal does not see himself adopting Mike's sexual norms, but admires Mike's audacity to question established social norms. He tells Ben he would have joined Mike's church in his younger days. Ben informs Jubal that Mike's teachings stem from Martian Old Ones. While Jubal doesn't fully believe in the Old Ones, he respects Mike's faith as equally plausible as others, noting that many historical religions have endorsed unconventional sexual practices. Jubal suggests Ben should go back to the Nest, assuring him of a warm welcome. He encourages Ben to focus on more significant concerns, like the possibility of Mike suffering a fate like Christ. Ben leaves and a week later, he informs Jubal he is back with Mike, learning Martian.

chapter 34

In the celestial realm, Foster notifies Digby that the extraterrestrial beings surveilling Mike have "set him free," and now it's Digby's responsibility to keep an eye on him. When Digby doesn't quite grasp this, Foster clarifies, "It's a minor martyrdom and I'll guard it myself." Meanwhile, the Martians, known as the Old Ones, scrutinize the knowledge they've gathered from probing Mike's thoughts since his time on Earth. They ponder over the decision to annihilate Earth, an aesthetic dilemma for them. Concurrently, the narrator shares recent terrestrial events, including legal grievances waged against Mike's religious group. Jubal requests Anne to bring her infant daughter, Abigail Zenobia, for him to spend time with. He deduces from her middle name, Zenobia (with "xenos" of Greek origin meaning "foreign"), that Mike is the father, a fact Anne never disclosed. Anne expresses concern that Jubal's worry for Mike might be affecting his spiritual health and urges him to visit the Nest. Jubal is left wondering if Mike is intentionally inciting the public harassment he receives, including several fresh arrests. Jubal is in the middle of narrating a tale when Larry barges in with news of Mike's place of worship being reduced to ashes. Ben reassures Jubal over a phone call that no harm has come to anyone. The place of worship was deserted except for a group of members whom Mike managed to telepathically usher to safety. Jubal instructs Larry to hail a cab for him. With teary eyes, he stands before one of his sculptures - a symbol of ethical triumph in the face of public defeat - and offers comforting words to it.

chapter 35

Jubal arrives in the city housing the temple and hails a taxi. The driver, a follower of Mike, takes Jubal to a hotel where the ninth circle members are meeting. Although Jubal had asked Anne, Dorcas, and Larry to stay at his place, they defy his orders and join him at the hotel. He finds Abigail in the care of Patty's telepathically-linked pet snake, Honey Bun, alongside Fatima Michele - Miriam and Mahmoud's daughter. Miriam informs Jubal of her and Mahmoud's project to create a Martian dictionary. Ben reveals Mike's foresight of the temple's destruction and how their valuable items were saved. He also clarifies that Mike's telekinetic abilities are not superhuman, but can be acquired by anyone over time. Jubal observes the ninth circle members' choreographed behavior and their unexpected joy despite the recent destruction of their temple. He learns from Ben that the members hold him in high regard due to Mike's description of him as the only human who can fully understand grokking without Martian learning. Despite Jubal's belief that he won't live to see 100, Mahmoud assures him of Mike's prediction of his long life. As a devout Muslim, Mahmoud explains that his faith doesn't conflict with Mike's teachings. During a surprisingly civil dinner with friends and acquaintances who are now followers of Mike, Jubal considers whether the ceremony was toned down for his sake. A conversation with Sam about the potential revolution in Earth's economy due to Mike's psychic abilities ensues, though Sam believes the institution of marriage will remain intact. Together, they draw parallels between Mike's organization and Jesus's "success story." As Jubal readies for bed, Dawn proposes to "grow closer" with him. Despite his initial refusal, Dawn's threat to cry on Jill's orders persuades Jubal to give in.

chapter 36

Jubal has a chance encounter with Jill, who is overjoyed that he spent the night with Dawn. She shares that the whole ninth circle was psychically involved in the intimate event. Mike seeks out Jubal, finding comfort in the fact that Jubal can handle his revelations. Mike admits to Jubal that he was sent to Earth as an observer for the Old Ones, ancient Martian entities. His job was to collect and record data about Earth's society. The Martians may either destroy the Earth or try to reshape it in their image. When Jubal asks about the Old Ones, Mike describes them as the spectral rulers of Mars. Their decision making is patient, taking at least a half millennium to decide Earth's fate. Mike explains to Jubal that his teachings aren't religious in nature; they've been camouflaged as such to appeal to the masses. Mike celebrates the union of minds during sex as the ultimate euphoria. He acknowledges human tendencies towards jealousy and wishes to assist people in overcoming this hurdle. Mike opens up to Jubal about how he and Jill have been disappearing aggressive individuals. Jill has grown used to this after realizing that it's impossible to annihilally kill someone because their spirit survives. Mike expresses his concern that he may have falsely led his followers to believe in a universal experience of joy and happiness. He contemplates whether humans need unhappiness and strife. He elaborates that "Thou art God" is not a casual statement, but a serious responsibility each individual must shoulder. Earthlings, he observes, seem ill-prepared to acknowledge the divinity within them. Jubal advises Mike to maintain Martian patience and persist with his mission, emphasizing that Mike needs to reveal the truth to humanity.

chapter 37

An unfriendly crowd assembles near the hotel. Dressed in his best attire, Mike leaves, joined by Anne in her Fair Witness dress and Duke with cameras. Jubal follows soon, though Mike suggests he remain with other ninth circle members observing the stereovision. Jubal is startled by an illusion that Mike cuts off a finger while cutting an apple. He retreats indoors. News coverage ensues on the situation outside. Mike steps outside the hotel. A beam of light illuminates him as his clothes disappear and he proclaims, "Look at me. I am a son of man." The footage abruptly transitions to a soap ad, but when it resumes, viewers see the crowd pelting Mike with stones. Mike extends a peace offering of water to the angry mob. Suddenly, a fired shotgun rips off Mike's right arm. Despite the violence, Mike continues spreading messages of love while being brutally killed by the crowd.

chapter 38

Everyone acknowledges Mike's impressive performance. Jubal is shocked that he's the only one disturbed. Upon questioning Patty, he discovers she was unaware of Mike's decision to sacrifice himself to the crowd. Jill urges Jubal to appreciate the situation in its entirety, saying that despite Mike's physical death, his spirit can never truly be extinguished. In his room, Jubal blames himself for Mike's unnecessary martyrdom and attempts to end his own life with pills. As he's fading, Mike appears to him in a vision, telling him it's not his time to die yet. Mike guides Jubal to the bathroom, helping him expel the overdose. Meanwhile, Mike's followers look to the future. Some intend on going back to their homes to establish temples, while others plan to stay at Jubal's spacious home. Duke prepares Mike's remains for a meal, which they all partake in. Jubal decides to purchase the location of Mike's death and turn it into a memorial. On the flight home, he gets Dorcas to take notes for a new stereoplay he's conceptualizing, titled "A Martian Named Smith."

chapter 39

The story conveys an assurance that the Old Ones will eventually fail in their endeavor to annihilate Earth. Meanwhile, in the celestial realm, Foster is provided with a new task. Subsequently, he acquaints Digby with his new superior, the Archangel Mike.

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