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When two male and two female supremely sensual, unspeakably cerebral humans find themselves under attack from aliens who want their awesome quantum breakthrough, they take to the skies -- and zoom into the cosmos on a rocket roller coaster ride of adventure and danger, ecstasy and peril.


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When two male and two female supremely sensual, unspeakably cerebral humans find themselves under attack from aliens who want their awesome quantum breakthrough, they take to the skies -- and zoom into the cosmos on a rocket roller coaster ride of adventure and danger, ecstasy and peril.

30 review for The Number of the Beast

  1. 5 out of 5

    Lyn

    A fan of Robert A. Heinlein’s earlier works, generally classified as his “juveniles” published from 1947 until the late 50s, may be confused and disappointed by his 1980 novel Number of the Beast. Also, those familiar with and inspired by his middle period, roughly late 1950s until 1970, spanning the publications of The Door Into Summer in 1957 until I Will Fear No Evil in 1970 (the period that I regard as his zenith) may likely be nonplussed by what is going on in this work published when the g A fan of Robert A. Heinlein’s earlier works, generally classified as his “juveniles” published from 1947 until the late 50s, may be confused and disappointed by his 1980 novel Number of the Beast. Also, those familiar with and inspired by his middle period, roughly late 1950s until 1970, spanning the publications of The Door Into Summer in 1957 until I Will Fear No Evil in 1970 (the period that I regard as his zenith) may likely be nonplussed by what is going on in this work published when the grandmaster was 73 years old. To be certain, a Heinlein story where four interesting characters experience an adventure into Barsoom and Wonderland and Oz and also meet up with some classic Heinlein characters like Lazarus Long and Jubal Harshaw sounds like a great story and much of it is … but. As much of a fan as I am, I cannot help but apply the damning tag of self-indulgent. First of all, it’s about twice as long as it needs to be. A 200 page Number of the Beast would have been much better, faster paced and pithy. Secondly, had the man moved into a nudist colony and time traveled to pick up a septuagenarian value pack of Cymbalta? I love the libertarianism and his egalitarian sexism, but Time Enough for Love was enough already. Finally, he went on and on and on some more about militaristic group dynamics until the worthwhile and relevant observations on leadership and command were lost in blurred paragraphs and diminished by over exposure. I cannot help but compare this work to Poul Anderson’s Harvest of Stars (which had some traces of homage to Heinlein), which was published in 1993 when Anderson (another SFWA Grandmaster) was 67. This was a libertarian space opera that would have had Philip K. Dick scratching his head. Like The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick, Heinlein’s The Number of the Beast may only be for true fans.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Manuel Antão

    If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review. Non-Sexist Rip-Roaring SF: "The Number of the Beast" by Robert A. Heinlein (Original Review, 1980-08-31) Robert Heinlein's agent had hoped to get $1 million for his latest novel, "The Number of the Beast." What he had to settle for was half that, and not from his accustomed publisher nor from any of the houses with heavy SF publishing programs. The U.S. book rights went to Fawcett Columbine, and the resulting trade paperback is $6.95 per If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review. Non-Sexist Rip-Roaring SF: "The Number of the Beast" by Robert A. Heinlein (Original Review, 1980-08-31) Robert Heinlein's agent had hoped to get $1 million for his latest novel, "The Number of the Beast." What he had to settle for was half that, and not from his accustomed publisher nor from any of the houses with heavy SF publishing programs. The U.S. book rights went to Fawcett Columbine, and the resulting trade paperback is $6.95 per copy. Is it worth it? Very likely not. It's full of science fiction community in-jokes. Its payoff depends heavily on your being able to recognize not only the bylines, but also the principal characters and personalities of a fair number of other science fiction writers.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kat Hooper

    Originally posted at Fantasy Literature. When I was a kid I loved some of Robert A. Heinlein’s “Juveniles” — science fiction stories for children and teens. Red Planet was one of my favorites and I must have read it at least five times. These novels are part of the reason I kept reading science fiction — they left such an impression on my young mind. Despite this nostalgia, I haven’t read Heinlein in years. When Blackstone Audio recently started releasing some of his later novels on audio, I thoug Originally posted at Fantasy Literature. When I was a kid I loved some of Robert A. Heinlein’s “Juveniles” — science fiction stories for children and teens. Red Planet was one of my favorites and I must have read it at least five times. These novels are part of the reason I kept reading science fiction — they left such an impression on my young mind. Despite this nostalgia, I haven’t read Heinlein in years. When Blackstone Audio recently started releasing some of his later novels on audio, I thought it was time to check out some I’d never read. The first one I tried was The Number of the Beast, written in 1980 after a seven-year hiatus brought on by ill health when Heinlein was in his seventies. This story starts when professor Zebadiah John Carter meets Deety (short for Dejah Thoris) Burroughs and her father, mathematician Jacob Burroughs, at a party hosted by a socialite named Hilda Corners. Within minutes, Zebadiah and Deety are engaged and Jacob’s car is bombed by unknown attackers. Zebadiah, Deety, Jacob, and Hilda flee in Zeb’s flying car, Jacob and Hilda decide to get married, and they all hide out in a cabin where Jacob has been working on a device that can access parallel universes. Soon the couples are visiting places such as Oz, Lilliput, and Barsoom (fans of Edgar Rice Burroughs will already have noticed that Zeb and Deety’s names come from the BARSOOM novels). There are lots of SFF in-jokes and Heinlein self-referentially brings in some of his characters from his previous books (he’s assuming you’ve read them) and even he and his wife are mentioned. The audio production of The Number of the Beast was excellent. It was read by a cast of top-tier narrators: Bernadette Dunne, Emily Durante, Malcom Hillgartner, Sean Runnette, Paul Michael Garcia, and Tom Weiner. They were exceptional. Unfortunately, the story was wretchedly awful and I was not able to finish it. It started off bad from the very first scene and persevered in its badness until I started skimming and finally gave up. (“Life’s too short.”) Most of the problem was the characters and their non-stop obnoxious dialogue and interactions. We hear from all four points of view and every one of them is odious. The first one we hear from is Zebadiah as he’s dancing with Deety who he’s just met at Hilda’s party. He’s looking down her dress and wishing she’d shut up. Then he asks her about her cleavage: “Is that cantilevering natural, or is there an invisible bra, you being in fact the sole support of two dependents?” Fortunately for Zeb, Deety is just as infatuated with her “teats” as he is and is happy to discuss all of their perfections (often), and all of her other perfections (often), with us every time it’s her turn to talk. To be fair, I must admit that she’s quick to alert us of her imperfections in great detail, too, such as the body odor which requires her to soak in a hot soapy tub twice daily. (Thank you, Deety.) Despite his annoyance with Deety’s chatter, once they are much better acquainted (i.e., three minutes later), the two are engaged and off they go to get married, with Jacob and Hilda in tow. When they arrive at the cabin, after Jacob’s car is bombed, things get even worse. Now Jacob and Hilda are hitched, too, and the four of them are running around scantily clad. Each in turn regales us with his or her sleazy interior monologues (Deety’s teats are frequently the subject) and the four of them together engage in constant banter that’s supposed to be clever, witty, and provocative but is usually just vulgar, sexist, and boring. When Deety takes off her bikini top in front of her father, and then says that she wouldn’t have refused him if he’d made advances toward her when she was younger, I knew I’d suffered long enough. I stuck it out a bit longer just because I was in the car and had nothing else to listen to and I hoped The Number of the Beast might redeem itself but, looking back, I would have profited more from listening to my squeaky fanbelt. How sad it is to hate a novel written by an author you loved in your youth. I used to think of Robert A. Heinlein as one of my heroes, but now I find out he was a self-indulgent perverted narcissist with a breast fetish and an obsession with incest. To protect my memories, and to give Heinlein the benefit of the doubt, I’d like to assume that the dismal quality of Number of the Beast was caused by Heinlein’s poor health. I don’t know. I just feel really disappointed.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Wanda

    A complete stinker of a novel. It meanders, it wanders, it stutters, it changes direction, it digresses. Heinlein rides all of his hobby horses. The original premise is okay, though not up to Heinlein at his best: a machine which can translate our explorers into other times and alternate universes. They discover that all the fictional worlds that they have explored in literature can be accessed through this device (and have a visit in Oz with Glinda as a result). Time traveling aliens seem to fe A complete stinker of a novel. It meanders, it wanders, it stutters, it changes direction, it digresses. Heinlein rides all of his hobby horses. The original premise is okay, though not up to Heinlein at his best: a machine which can translate our explorers into other times and alternate universes. They discover that all the fictional worlds that they have explored in literature can be accessed through this device (and have a visit in Oz with Glinda as a result). Time traveling aliens seem to feel threatened by their ability to travel in this way and seek to eliminate them (the reasons that the aliens feel this way is never explored or explained). Unfortunately, although the book starts out strong with bombs and the protagonists being chased by murderous aliens, it wanders off track early and never gets back on point. Heinlein waves a tatter of this plot every now and then during the ensuing 511 pages which kept me plodding on in hopes of some kind of resolution. I wonder if he was trying to pad the manuscript to 666 pages, in keeping with the title? There is so much pointless conversation: Blah, blah, blah, look how smart I am, blah, blah, blah, look how sexually sophisticated I am, blah, blah, blah. In the end, one learns more about Heinlein’s quirks and prejudices that about the aliens. We can surmise several things: he deeply resented any kind of authority and the paying of taxes; he felt that society’s rules were arbitrary (they are) and should be optional (some of them, sure); and he seems to have been a boob man, preferring the T in T&A. I assume that he was a naturist in his private life and I would guess that he and his wife had an “open relationship,” which likely meant that he got to do what he wanted sexually and she didn’t get to complain about it. In the end, the book becomes very meta before meta was a thing. Heinlein takes the opportunity to feature characters from other writers’ work (e.g. the Gray Lensman of E.E. Smith, Glinda & Oz) and to weave in characters from his other works (Lazarus Long, Jubal Harshaw, et al.), even inserting himself and other writers like Isaac Asimov and Arthur Clarke. At this point, the book becomes just a masturbatory exercise and loses any pretense of moving the plot forward. Heinlein seems to have been in love with his character Lazarus Long—I think he poured an awful lot of himself (and I mean awful as in icky) into that particular character, who of course appears again in Number. What can you say about a character who creates female clones of himself so he can basically fuck himself? I’m sure that Heinlein thought he was being very feminist, portraying female characters with intelligence and sexual agency. Sure they are smart and horny, but they are still very much appendages to the men in the story. They are Heinlein’s fantasy women, what he would have liked to be surrounded by—women who want to do housework and cooking while plotting how to get their men into bed and get pregnant. (He certainly has a fixation on fertility—all these very fictional women ardently desire fertility when they get rejuvenated. I personally would choose sexual function with no chance of pregnancy—much sexier in my world!) I assume that Heinlein at this point had become so popular that publishers knew that they would make profit even from this dreck. He must also have reached the stage where he could resist necessary editing. He did his reputation no favours with this book or Time Enough for Love, another pointless, masturbatory and loooooong tome. Read his earlier work—skip these two pieces of merde.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Bob R Bogle

    This morning I was perusing book reviews at Goodreads that, for the most part, lambaste Robert A Heinlein's 1980 novel The Number of the Beast, which I haven't read in years and years. This poor treatment of this particular novel surprised me somewhat, as I remembered TNotB to have been a rather extraordinary read. As I looked over the harsh reviews posted that bash Heinlein's other books, I realized that the old man is not holding up too well with the times. I can't really disagree with many ob This morning I was perusing book reviews at Goodreads that, for the most part, lambaste Robert A Heinlein's 1980 novel The Number of the Beast, which I haven't read in years and years. This poor treatment of this particular novel surprised me somewhat, as I remembered TNotB to have been a rather extraordinary read. As I looked over the harsh reviews posted that bash Heinlein's other books, I realized that the old man is not holding up too well with the times. I can't really disagree with many objections being voiced to the old misogynist, homophobic, militaristic, terminally-libertarian, long-winded sci-fi hack. Although over the years I've enjoyed certain Heinlein works well enough, I admit he never really was one of my favorites. And yet. . . . What these reviews suggested to me, and what a quick re-read of the first two chapters of TNotB confirmed -- yet again, I must add -- is that the readers of 2012 remain as conditioned by their preconceived notions of what a novel is supposed to be as ever, and when an author dares to transcend that delimiting borderline and attempt a genuinely original (i.e., novel) piece of craftwork -- call it art, which is after all what every novel aspires, or really ought to aspire, to be -- then that author-artist is apt to be completely misunderstood and rejected by the public, including by his erstwhile, faithless, and insufficiently imaginative fans, who are simply and unwittingly trapped by a tangled network of expectations that prevents their recognition of the infinite artistic possibilities that the meme of the novel offers up. The problem, I would say, is not with TNotB but with the readers, who are naturally frustrated when they encounter a novel that doesn't perform as the action-adventure-wrap-it-all-up-in-a-nutshell that the publishing industry has inculcated in their experience as the only way to tell a story. TNotB is brilliant not for being a reader's book but for being an author's book. In this sense it bears a certain distant kinship to works like, let's say, Moby-Dick, or Ulysses, or Gravity's Rainbow. To enjoy such novels, a reader must exert a certain amount of personal energy, digging deep enough into his own dark and forbidding, monster-inhabited labyrinthine corporate-mangled mind to re-discover and then desperately grab onto and tenaciously against all odds and at all costs cling to the long-interred imaginative capacity of childhood; to discard all filters of expectation about what a novel should be and simply go with what this one is. Here's your choice. People who hate this novel do so because it is not like other novels. People who love this novel do so because it is not like other novels. Eventually any novelist worth consideration as at least a potential creative force struggling to introduce something new (i.e., novel) into the literary world must conclude that he will no longer pander to the artistic straightjacket imposed by the marketing forces which have striven for centuries to carve deep channels of expectation into the hyper-eroded landscapes of the Pavlovian minds of the reading masses: he must refuse to comply any more with the creatively-exhausted, banal expectations of Once Upon a Time leads to B leads to C leads to D leads to Happily Ever After (preferably with quite a few explosions and chases and an ever-expanding body count sprinkled on top for good measure). This is the challenge that Heinlein has flung before you, gentle reader, between the covers of The Number of the Beast. The question in my mind is not whether Heinlein had simply gone insane when he wrote this (he had not), but whether readers are capable of grokking for a moment that the limits of what a novel can be are far, far broader than they've previously imagined. If, gentle reader, you are able to accept TNotB for what it is rather than for what you think it is supposed to be, then I think you can be truly impressed with Heinlein's achievement.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Manny

    There's this terrible thing that happens to some science-fiction writers near the end of their careers: they want their oeuvre to make sense, with all the books related to each other in some complex structural way. I mean, who do they think they are, Balzac or Powell or someone? Get a grip, guys. You were just SF hacks. If you were lucky, you were good SF hacks, and be proud of that. Don't try and aim higher, because you'll regret it. Well, it happened to Asimov, who disastrously attempted to lin There's this terrible thing that happens to some science-fiction writers near the end of their careers: they want their oeuvre to make sense, with all the books related to each other in some complex structural way. I mean, who do they think they are, Balzac or Powell or someone? Get a grip, guys. You were just SF hacks. If you were lucky, you were good SF hacks, and be proud of that. Don't try and aim higher, because you'll regret it. Well, it happened to Asimov, who disastrously attempted to link together the Foundation series, the robot series, and The End of Eternity. I quite liked those books, and didn't want to ruin my memories of them, so I just observed the train-wreck from a distance. I was unfortunately foolish enough to read this embarrassing piece of nonsense from Heinlein, where he creates some kind of transdimensional gizmo that means all his characters can meet up with each other and characters from other books, and, as often as not, end up having sex. Oh dear. Though, if he was going to do it at all, I think he should have gone a bit further. I'd quite have enjoyed seeing Lummox from The Star Beast get it on with Glinda the Good. Possibly in a threesome with the dwarf from Glory Road. Now that would have been something.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Owen

    This book is to science fiction literature as Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back is to cinema: a big, fat, sloppy, self-indulgent love letter to everything its creator holds dear. The first time I read it I hated it, but a few years later I got into an argument about it with someone at a party and decided to give it another try just so I could feel good about being right. Um, it's... yeah, it's kind of great. The more of the references you get, the better it is, so just re-read it every few years un This book is to science fiction literature as Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back is to cinema: a big, fat, sloppy, self-indulgent love letter to everything its creator holds dear. The first time I read it I hated it, but a few years later I got into an argument about it with someone at a party and decided to give it another try just so I could feel good about being right. Um, it's... yeah, it's kind of great. The more of the references you get, the better it is, so just re-read it every few years until you like it.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jorn

    I've been a big fan of Heinlein for years. But with each successive Heinlein book I read these days, my enthusiasm for his writing wanes just a bit more. This book was so dismal that it actually negatively affected my feelings about other Heinlein books (specifically Time Enough For Love). In a nutshell, this is Heinlein at his most masturbatory. Towards the end of his career, he set out to tie together not only his own quite broad body of work but also the entire scope of human fiction, sending I've been a big fan of Heinlein for years. But with each successive Heinlein book I read these days, my enthusiasm for his writing wanes just a bit more. This book was so dismal that it actually negatively affected my feelings about other Heinlein books (specifically Time Enough For Love). In a nutshell, this is Heinlein at his most masturbatory. Towards the end of his career, he set out to tie together not only his own quite broad body of work but also the entire scope of human fiction, sending his characters to Oz, Lilliput, etc., ad nauseum. He has his characters discuss his own books during a conversation about sci-fi, and later he even inserts himself and his wife (though they aren't actually present in the scene; they're only mentioned as being nearby). The "big" idea here that Heinlein is trying to put forward is that writing fiction creates a real universe, as real as our own. The main characters have a device that lets them travel to other universes, and they find themselves interacting with characters from Stranger In A Strange Land, Time Enough For Love, and several other Heinlein stories. In the hands of someone with any modesty at all, this could be humorous and clever, but in the hands of a creepy old pervert like Heinlein, it's just an excuse to get some new characters to have orgies with characters he'd written years earlier. Heinlein really scrapes the bottom of the barrel here in terms of sexual politics, too; he's famous for endorsing polyamory and multiple marriages, but in this book he seems to be trying to make the world safe for father/daughter incest. I would have loved to hear his half-baked rationale for that one... Finally, I can't state this strongly enough: if you liked Time Enough For Love and want the memories of that book to stay untainted, stay away from this book. This book takes the edgy ideas of the other and acts as if they're commonplace, which only makes them seem reprehensible in the strong light of day. I'd give this zero stars if I could. Run while you still can.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Alan

    Fair warning: this is going to be a contrarian review. The Number of the Beast is roundly recognized to be one of legendary sf author Robert A. Heinlein's very worst novels, right down there with I Will Fear No Evil and his final living works, The Cat Who Walks Through Walls and To Sail Beyond the Sunset. This particular book was written, in fact, while Heinlein was suffering from a debilitating arterial condition that starved his brain of oxygen and caused him to sleep about 16 hours a day... n Fair warning: this is going to be a contrarian review. The Number of the Beast is roundly recognized to be one of legendary sf author Robert A. Heinlein's very worst novels, right down there with I Will Fear No Evil and his final living works, The Cat Who Walks Through Walls and To Sail Beyond the Sunset. This particular book was written, in fact, while Heinlein was suffering from a debilitating arterial condition that starved his brain of oxygen and caused him to sleep about 16 hours a day... not the sort of conditions under which one would expect an author's best work to emerge. And this isn't Heinlein's best work. But I liked it. I liked it at the time, and it turns out that I still like it a lot even today, though for reasons which are almost entirely unrelated to its inherent worth as fiction and more concerned with sentiment, and with Heinlein's neat central conceit. Upon this rereading, more than a decade since Heinlein's passing and after more than two decades since the last time I picked it up, I have to admit that its flaws are more apparent. Even oxygen-starved and weary, though, Heinlein remained a storyteller of the first water. Some of these characters and situations have stayed with me ever since my first reading of it, back when it was originally released in 1980, and that says something... although I suppose it is also telling that the character I remembered most vividly from this book is the flying car, Gay Deceiver (about whom more anon). I'm not going to try to sell this one to you. What I'm going after here is to make some sense of my personal reactions to (as it is often abbreviated) TNotB. I will recommend this, though: TNotB should be no one's first Robert A. Heinlein book—no, and possibly not even one's twenty-first. This is both because of its potentially off-putting effect as an introduction to Heinlein's work, and because it's not an introduction. Quite the opposite, in fact. TNotB is in many ways an endpoint, a tying-together of everything Heinlein had written earlier—and a close familiarity with that prior art is often assumed. This review also seethes with received opinion—incorporating observations made by many, over decades of pre- and posthumous Heinlein criticism. I won't pretend to have come up with every one of these notions ab initio, but where they are not original, they are still beliefs that I've internalized long ago, and come to agree with as both the book and I have aged. The Number of the Beast starts with Zeb Carter and Deety Burroughs meeting cute at one of Hilda "Sharpie" Corners' parties. The tall, brawny polymath and the busty but brilliant professor's daughter exchange high-speed banter on the dance floor, conversation fast-paced enough to make Aaron Sorkin dialogue seem languid, and which includes both tit jokes and words like "genetohematologist." Deety's a woman with a mission: she intends to persuade Zeb Carter to an interview with her father, the inventor Jacob Burroughs, and is willing to go to any length—preferably horizontally—to accomplish her assignment. Both Carter and Burroughs immediately establish their shared obsession with precision and nuance in thought and speech—what might uncharitably be called nitpicking if it weren't immediately apparent that these two are destined to be together. This is typical of Heinlein's protagonists—they make snap judgments about others' characters and never subsequently have occasion to question them. They may be worried about many things, up to and including the destruction of their personal universes, but they're rarely if ever concerned with second-guessing themselves. Jacob Burroughs—Jake—has invented a time machine, though he calls it a "continua craft," more for precision than obfuscation. If Jake's time-twister can be made to work, it will offer travel in six dimensions—three of space, and three of time. The number of universes this brings into play is thus very, very large; it is, in fact, the number of the Beast. It is with this device that Burroughs père needs Zeb's help. Zeb and Deety's dance ends with a marriage proposal, and an explosion. There are impossible coincidences and unbelievable assertions—what would it really be like to live in a society where "homicide kills more people than does cancer" (p.24), for example? Unless that means they've entirely cured cancer, in Zeb and Deety's time... which is a possibility, though not one supported by the rest of the text. The beginning precisely sets the tone for the rest of the book—if you are already put off by the arch nature and headlong pace of the conversation between Zeb and Deety, the way the events of the story seem relegated to a mere backdrop for the serve and volley of often outrageous opinions delivered in the tones of Revealed Truth, then you will find no relief in the chapters ahead. Heinlein's four protagonists—Zeb, Deety, Hilda and Jake—swap aphorisms, insults, roles and partners, incessantly and almost interchangeably, no matter where (or when) they are and no matter what else might be going on. One valid criticism that has been leveled at TNotB (and at Heinlein's later work in general) is that all of the major characters, and for that matter many of the minor ones, sound alike. Their voices are not distinct—they all speak in the same forceful, even bombastic way (like Heinlein himself), and all give the impression of being omnicompetent even while generating an aw-shucks aura about themselves. Towards the end, even the players can't tell the players apart without one of the many sentient computers around to keep track. This must have been recognized early in the publishing process for TNotB—each page of the edition I own is headed by the name of its point-of-view character, as an often necessary reminder. Heinlein's character's attitudes towards male-female relationships are also retrograde, lopsided and often annoying... despite the great conviction with which everyone in his books utters them. Human beings could (and have) come up with societal plans just about as outré as the ones Heinlein puts forth, but that doesn't make them right! This is both a great strength of Heinlein's work and one of his great weaknesses: whatever balderdash he puts into his characters' mouths, it's always put forth with complete sincerity. The best thing to do is treat Heinlein's (characters') views as purely descriptive, not normative, however great the temptation to do otherwise. The science in this science fiction book is enthusiastically described in often-convincing bafflegab, but it's still sometimes spotty, too, even in areas which were known at the time Heinlein was writing. Heinlein seems ignorant of what "regression toward the mean" means, for example, when it comes to breeding mathematical geniuses—or he has more faith in genetic tinkering than I do, perhaps. And as with most science fiction featuring computers but written before the PC took over the world, TNotB's notions about what those computers might do seem quaint now. Gay Deceiver (remember her? The most memorable character in the book) has a whopping 60Mb (that's "sixty million bytes") of storage for buffering broadcast news alerts—quite a bit if you're talking about text-only, perhaps, but not so much for video or audio files, or even black-and-white pictures. And even with those memory limitations, Gay Deceiver immediately comes across as a person, or at least a personality, who can manage natural speech recognition (albeit with a limited input vocabulary), even at the start of the novel when her abilities are more limited. Her responses are pre-programmed, though varied randomly, more like the ancient natural-language program "Eliza" than like a person—and so that, at least, is not so implausible an extrapolation. Gay does communicate almost entirely by voice, though (more talking!), which is at odds with the direction our own computers went in terms of visual display technology and hand-operated input devices. I often wonder what this book would look like in an alternate universe where Heinlein had not been attacked by the "Brain Eater" (the term coined by Usenet stalwart James Nicoll to describe a different author's less literal issues—but TNotB is also a canonical example, in this universe anyway). The original trade paperback edition I own contains numerous interstitial sketches credited to one Richard M. Powers, images which both add to the text, increasing the impression of its breakneck pace, and pad the book's length. The images are lovely and often explicit—Heinlein's prose frequently features female nudity, and Powers' pictures follow the (lack of) suit. (Male nudity figures into Heinlein's work as well, though to a lesser extent and in much less detail.) An alternity's edition which retained the images but featured text written by a fully-aware Heinlein might have turned out to be one of his best books, rather than one of his worst. The neatest thing about the book we have is that, if the Number of the Beast really meant what Heinlein contended at such great length that it might... maybe someday we could go find out—and that, perhaps, more than anything else, is why I still have a soft spot for The Number of the Beast.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Bryan Alkire

    Not particularly good. I was disappointed with this reread. I had been waiting a long time to reread and, while not a complete waste, the time probably could have been spent more profitably reading something new. This book is just not that interesting. The hard science of the flyer and planets and math just went over my head. The dialogue was speeches and yakity yak which could have easily been condensed. The book is slow until the last third, where it picks up. In short, much of the novel is bo Not particularly good. I was disappointed with this reread. I had been waiting a long time to reread and, while not a complete waste, the time probably could have been spent more profitably reading something new. This book is just not that interesting. The hard science of the flyer and planets and math just went over my head. The dialogue was speeches and yakity yak which could have easily been condensed. The book is slow until the last third, where it picks up. In short, much of the novel is boring. The characters are dated and stereotypes of the 50’s and 70’s. The author’s strength of adventure novel writing gets lost along the way of this one. Instead, it’s the lifestyle novel which was never his strongest suit. In short, worth reading if you’re a fan of the author, otherwise, probably not worth your valuable reading time.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Denis

    Arguably one of Heinlein's finest and controversial. Before forming an opinion on this novel, one must first be familiar with 'golden age' scifi pulps; particularly Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom Mars stories, E.E. doc Smith's Lensmen stories, the fiction of Asimov, Clarke, Poul Anderson, and the likes of Larry Niven, Pournell and Bova as well. Even the worlds of "OZ" is also featured. And naturally, most of Heinlein's earlier work. Only then will you appreciate the scope and wit of this novel. Alr Arguably one of Heinlein's finest and controversial. Before forming an opinion on this novel, one must first be familiar with 'golden age' scifi pulps; particularly Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom Mars stories, E.E. doc Smith's Lensmen stories, the fiction of Asimov, Clarke, Poul Anderson, and the likes of Larry Niven, Pournell and Bova as well. Even the worlds of "OZ" is also featured. And naturally, most of Heinlein's earlier work. Only then will you appreciate the scope and wit of this novel. Alright, careful while carrying that tall stack of hardcovers, paperbacks, and please, be ultra careful with those Astounding, Fantasy and Science Fiction and Galaxy magazines, they are rather frail these days. Once having got through those, you will discover that Number of the Beast, in spite of the utterly sexually liberated characters, typical of later Heinlein works - and in my opinion, handled with a little more taste and flair than when Silverberg treads into this territory, this is a fun and inspired work from a man who is ready to return to the craft in full force after a seven year hiatus. Much a homage to the pulps of the 'golden age'. From the first line, "He's a mad scientist and I'm his beautiful daughter", I found this brilliantly thought out and surprisingly imaginative and intelligent novel exceptionally funny - a brilliant self parody packed with Heinlein's witty zingers. Upon this reading (my fourth) I decided that this could possibly be paired down and made for the stage. Any ambitious play-writes out there?

  12. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    WARNING: Do not read this book until you have read Heinlein’s Time Enough For Love, Revolt in 2100, Methuselah’s Children, Stranger in a Strange Land, Glory Road, Podkayne of Mars,and The Rolling Stones. You should also have at least a familiarity with The Land of Oz, Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Mars series, and Wonderland. Fans of Science Fiction from the 1940’s to 1980’s will be most capapble of enjoying the work in its entirety. During the last years of his life, it seems Heinlein had a desire to ga WARNING: Do not read this book until you have read Heinlein’s Time Enough For Love, Revolt in 2100, Methuselah’s Children, Stranger in a Strange Land, Glory Road, Podkayne of Mars,and The Rolling Stones. You should also have at least a familiarity with The Land of Oz, Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Mars series, and Wonderland. Fans of Science Fiction from the 1940’s to 1980’s will be most capapble of enjoying the work in its entirety. During the last years of his life, it seems Heinlein had a desire to gather the characters he and others had written over the years to attend a conference. So, he set about devising a way to make that happen. This book is the result. Four scientists have invented a “continua device” that allows for travel through time, space, and “fictional” worlds. These are very Heinlein-esque characters, so if you hold strong sexual taboos, or disagree with his philosophy as a whole, you will probably not enjoy reading this very much. If you are a Heinlein fan, this book (and its sequels) is/are the ultimate payoff.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Oleksandr Zholud

    This is a SF novel by Robert A. Heinlein, one of his latest, originally published in 1980. It is considered by many (e.g. The Pleasant Profession of Robert A. Heinlein by Farah Mendlesohn) one of his weakest works. I’ve read is as a preparation to reading The Pursuit of the Pankera: A Parallel Novel About Parallel Universes, an earlier version of the same novel, published in 2020 at SFF Hot from Printers: New Releases group. The book starts with a bang, both actually and metaphorically: a man, Z This is a SF novel by Robert A. Heinlein, one of his latest, originally published in 1980. It is considered by many (e.g. The Pleasant Profession of Robert A. Heinlein by Farah Mendlesohn) one of his weakest works. I’ve read is as a preparation to reading The Pursuit of the Pankera: A Parallel Novel About Parallel Universes, an earlier version of the same novel, published in 2020 at SFF Hot from Printers: New Releases group. The book starts with a bang, both actually and metaphorically: a man, Zebadiah J. Carter, meets a woman (‘a Beautiful Daughter of a Mad Scientist’ as she announces herself) Deety Burroughs at a party and they almost instantly decide to get married. When they go out, her father’s car explodes. So, there are four people on the run: the abovementioned two plus a woman, whose party it was, Hilda Corners and father of Deety, Jake Burroughs (who almost instantly form another pair). Jake created a dimension-travel machine (assuming that time has three dimensions like our space) and after installing it in Carter’s car they go on an adventure, for they are stalked by Black Hats – other dimension inhabitants trying to destroy the machine. The car, or its machine brains needs a special introduction. She (for Carter loves too much to say ‘it’) is ‘Gay Deceiver’, a unique in SF (so far as I’m aware) pseudo-AI, which is programmed to recognize speech and answer in a many pre-programmed way, so it can fool the Turing test. There are a lot of sentient AI in SF, but pseudo-sentient mimicry is rare (Blindsight is another example). After such a good start, the story suddenly bogs down in author rumblings. He lists most of his usual grievances, like dislike of government (“This Universe never did make sense; I suspect that it was built on government contract.”) a current shift in education to softer topics (“Flycasting? Or was it basketweaving? It was one of those transdisciplinary things in which the committee simply weighs the dissertation.”), his hate of hypocrisy in sex and naked bodies (“What have you got against incest, you bawdy old nanny goat? Don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it.”) In the second half of the book RAH decides to go meta and shifts the team to different well-known fictional universes, Barsoom, Oz, Camelot and others. I don’t recommend this book as an into to Heinlein, but for his fans (like me) it is mostly a good book albeit not his strongest.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Mike Moore

    I read this book a long time ago, but it stayed with me... oh how it stayed with me. Go ahead and read some of the other one star reviews of this book that are here on goodreads. I'll wait. ... So, having read them, you might want to ask me "Come on Mike, is this book really that bad?" I'm glad you asked, because it is. It really and truly is. This book is bad in the way that only a master like Heinlein could achieve. Other bad books can only dream of being as bad as this. The hypothetical collect I read this book a long time ago, but it stayed with me... oh how it stayed with me. Go ahead and read some of the other one star reviews of this book that are here on goodreads. I'll wait. ... So, having read them, you might want to ask me "Come on Mike, is this book really that bad?" I'm glad you asked, because it is. It really and truly is. This book is bad in the way that only a master like Heinlein could achieve. Other bad books can only dream of being as bad as this. The hypothetical collected works of Kilgore Trout are the only thing that I can think of that could even come close. Now, if you find yourself stirred by a strange perverse desire to read something so fantastically horrible as this zeppelin wrecked on the mountain of Heinlein's body of work, I can't say I completely blame you. It is a staggering monument to everything that can go wrong in a sci-fi novel. But before you run off to get a copy and see for yourself, let me warn you one more time. It will stay with you. Oh how it will stay with you.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Ivana Books Are Magic

    I did enjoy it, but not as much as I hoped for. I think I would have enjoyed it a great deal more if it had been shorter. This novel felt overwritten, self-indulgent and repetitive at times. Sure, there was much to like, such as an interesting cast of characters and fantastically written dialogues, but even the things I liked were dulled with repetition. The story itself is pretty good. A mad scientist Jacob (mad as in temperamental not clinically insane) invests a time machine. With the help of I did enjoy it, but not as much as I hoped for. I think I would have enjoyed it a great deal more if it had been shorter. This novel felt overwritten, self-indulgent and repetitive at times. Sure, there was much to like, such as an interesting cast of characters and fantastically written dialogues, but even the things I liked were dulled with repetition. The story itself is pretty good. A mad scientist Jacob (mad as in temperamental not clinically insane) invests a time machine. With the help of his beautiful daughter D.T (named after the fictional princess heroine of Mars), Jacob gets away with his bad character. Soon Jacob gets a brilliant man for a son in law and ends up marrying a family friend, aunt Hilda. Together they must run for their lives because some dangerous aliens know about Jacob's invention and so the adventure begins. As much as I initially reading about this close nit family, soon I got a bit tired of them, for no other reason then they felt overwritten and the the story started to drag. Turns out you can have too much of the good things. I caught myself loosing interest in the dialogues, as clever as they were at times. Honestly, why did that whole episode with the Russian Tsar and British Empire world take so long, if not to allow Heinlein time to bully us with his Russophobia. It is not like it had any significance for the story- not that I can tell. When Heinlein finally started introducing new elements into that episode, he just dropped it and headed to Oz. The novel did get better with time but towards the end I started to loose interest in it. Maybe I wasn't able to follow it all the way to the end? Were there some deep ideas that I missed? I'm not sure, but Heinlein seemed quite repetitive about some of his ideas in this one and what is worse he goes on and on about them. I don't mind his preaching when it is somehow relevant or at least fascinating but he just recycled some of his old favs here (you know free love and all that). Yes, I'm sure that nudism is quite therapeutic (in warm climates) but must you talk about it non stop? Is that the only thing that defines a society, the lack or the presence of clothing taboos? Speaking of which, be prepared for incest talk...and you might want to know that certain Lazarus makes an appearance and you know what that means- more incest and sex talk but nothing concrete. The story itself is a bit all over the place. If it is primarily a time machine why do they use it almost exclusively to explore other words? Who are the dark hatters? On the other hand, I have to admit that the novel often does makes sense, especially for such a mixed story. Moreover, I can appreciate Heinlein's efforts to show how bad-ass and intelligent female protagonists can be. Aunt Hilda is quite a character. I liked how out of the four of them, Hilda proved herself the best captain. I also enjoyed all that talk about responsibility and the load that comes with being a CO, that was some good food thought. Nevertheless, The Number of The Beast is definitely not one of my favourite works by Heinlein, possibly because he expressed a lot of his ideas I was already familiar with. So, I suppose that I didn't find them that interesting this time around. Not that I wouldn't recommend it. It is definitely a good science fiction work. I can see how a fan of Heinlein might enjoy it a lot. I can also see how it might go the other way around and cause boredom (as it did in my case). Similarly, I can see how someone not familiar with Heinlein's writing might like it and find his ideas as fresh as I once did. I can also see how someone might hate just about everything about this novel. It could go either way and that's the nature of the Universe. Anything that can happen will happen and quite possibly it is happening as we speak- in multiple dimensions.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jon

    Teats: A Hate Story Exploring the super-multi-omniverse sounds like a simultaneously exhilarating and horrifying experience. I would imagine that, were I in the airborne equivalent of a Ford Focus with three of the people closest to me in this world (my brother having been murdered roundabout the same night I was nearly murdered, myself), I would be less concerned with things like maintaining command structure decorum. I also sincerely hope that I would not find vast expanses of breasts (sorry, t Teats: A Hate Story Exploring the super-multi-omniverse sounds like a simultaneously exhilarating and horrifying experience. I would imagine that, were I in the airborne equivalent of a Ford Focus with three of the people closest to me in this world (my brother having been murdered roundabout the same night I was nearly murdered, myself), I would be less concerned with things like maintaining command structure decorum. I also sincerely hope that I would not find vast expanses of breasts (sorry, teats) as compelling as the draw of billions of universes populated by god-only-knows-what. In Number of the Beast, however, our four-man exploratory team is scarcely more interested in their improbable scientific exploits than I was when I took a Greyhound from Manhattan to Ohio. At night. In the rain. Various reviewers have observed that each of the main characters resembles Heinlein himself. If that observation is accurate, then I am delighted that I never had the opportunity to meet the man, because I would have had to restrain a powerful urge to bring him physical harm. The dialogue in this book chiefly consists of dry, pedantic arguments about computer programming, tactical decision making, and the chain of command among civilians piloting a flying sedan. Most jarring, however, are the incessant asides -- some of them apparently meant to be instructive -- about the size, shape, pertness, and measurement capabilities of breasts. Indeed, the quasi-incestuous evening near the close of the book fails to generate even a basic reaction in the reader, as he has spent hundreds of pages having Deety’s “teats” (and eventually their interuniversal twins) described to him in myriad ways, the most regrettable simile likening her nipples to emotional “barometers.” Perhaps in some other setting, this dialogue would be appropriate; watching four highly intelligent individuals who have just discovered perhaps the most important scientific breakthrough in all of human existence behave this way is as asinine as the fact that a completely serviceable plot is wholly discarded to make room for more banal banter. Speaking of the plot, the book opens with a rapid-fire introduction to the characters’ plight. Interdimensional “black hat” assassins are trying to crush our mammary-minded protagonists and their incredible new invention. Hailing from one of the myriad alternate universes, they apparently wish to keep this technology restricted to as few hands as possible. Despite nearly being killed three times, our “heroes” spend ample time consuming champagne, having picnic lunches, taking “teat-deep” bubble baths, and thinking disproportionately about trivial nonsense. Perhaps their disinterest in the plot is what ultimately saves them, a surfeit of stale exchanges about nothing armoring them against black hat assault. By the end of the book, nothing is cemented except the reader’s hatred of this story. Characters from other fictional works make impotent cameos; someone throws a party; Captain Zebediah J. Carter assembles the “that’s the last we’ll see of him” plot elimination machine; as the curtain closes, Heinlein pats himself on the back and goes for another in a series of long bubble baths. To say that my experience with this book was dissatisfying would be to describe chemotherapy as mildly unpleasant. A collection of irredeemable absurdity wrapped in disingenuous jacket copy, this book merely masquerades as literature. Whatever magic Heinlein worked with his previous writing, it is evident that the reader he charmed the most was himself. In summary: Number of the Beast is a dismal novel that aspires to being forgettable.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Anita

    When I was in elementary school, I went through some boxes my uncle stored in our garage (I was a nosy kid), mostly stuff from his grad school years. Other than a ton of textbooks, I found his diary, some porn, and a bunch of science fiction books. To this day I credit my uncle for my love of sci fi. And porn. Just kidding. Sort of. This book was in those boxes. I still have it, and it's totally falling apart. I've taped the cover back on a few times. In elementary school, I could not get beyond t When I was in elementary school, I went through some boxes my uncle stored in our garage (I was a nosy kid), mostly stuff from his grad school years. Other than a ton of textbooks, I found his diary, some porn, and a bunch of science fiction books. To this day I credit my uncle for my love of sci fi. And porn. Just kidding. Sort of. This book was in those boxes. I still have it, and it's totally falling apart. I've taped the cover back on a few times. In elementary school, I could not get beyond the first 3 pages. I just didn't get it. I could read each word, and individually understand them, but together they made no sense to my young mind. Over the next few years, I would try every once in while to read this book and again could not get beyond the first few pages. I think I was finally able to read it all the way through during high school. It was the first Robert Heinlein book I ever read. I've since read almost all his books (and still consider him to one of my favorite authors). I still remember how shocking it was to be exposed to him for the first time. And I remember when I got to the Oz part, I kept stopping to look all around the book to see if somehow it was accidentally combined with a different book. I just reread this yesterday, and I still think the second half sounds so different from the first half, but I'm used to it now. I don't think it is his best work but I will always have a soft spot for this book.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Peter

    I feel very conflicted about this book. It's one of the ones that I've re-read every year or two; it's large, and once you start it it's very hard to put down. Heinlein, whatever his faults, was a storyteller - and a gripping one. But his faults are largely on display in this book. When I was a young teen, my brother and I used to torture each other by reading particularly ripe and painful passages out loud to each other. This book, and the "Notebooks of Lazarus Long" excerpts from Time Enough For I feel very conflicted about this book. It's one of the ones that I've re-read every year or two; it's large, and once you start it it's very hard to put down. Heinlein, whatever his faults, was a storyteller - and a gripping one. But his faults are largely on display in this book. When I was a young teen, my brother and I used to torture each other by reading particularly ripe and painful passages out loud to each other. This book, and the "Notebooks of Lazarus Long" excerpts from Time Enough For Love, comprised our list of pain. They were truly retch-inducing. But that damned Heinlein really WAS talented. Witness the fact that I've read the book more than ten times in the past couple of decades. The flaws are many? He gets really creepy on the sex. The "old man Heinlein" voice is particularly noticable - it's a bit jarring and weird for everyone to banter and quip like someone from Kansas City in the 1930s. The incest angle gets really sickening, to be honest - why does he glory in it in so many books? I have to wonder. And towards the end the whole thing basically falls apart. I'll avoid spoiling it, but basically reality sort of falls apart and things just get weird. There are lots and lots (and lots and lots) of obvious in-jokes, some of which I get, and some of which I don't. That gets old and tired after a while. I'll also say that there's something of a loss in the book; it starts out first-person in the voice of one protagonist, but then starts rotating between viewpoints in each chapter. Towards the end, when the original lead is "speaking", it feels as if he's somehow lost. They're all just merging into a single Heinleinian superman/woman. Which reminds me of a parody of Heinlein that my teen-aged self wanted to write, come to think of it. His later characters are all sex maniacs, and all act, think, and talk the same - like an idealized Heinlein, I presume. If he hadn't had a gift for storytelling on a par with that of Rudyard Kipling, he would never have gotten away with it. I've gone back and forth on this book. I hated it the first time I read it (shortly after it was first published), warmed up to it again...and now, decades later, I find myself more repulsed by the sex and incest angles than I used to be. Maybe I'm just getting old. Nonetheless, I'll likely end up reading the book again in another year or three.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Kateblue

    I reread this in preparation for reading The Pursuit of the Pankera: A Parallel Novel About Parallel Universes, just published, which has the same beginning and a different end. It wasn't as good as I remembered. I'm trying to decide if I should reduce my stars. But it is Heinlein, and I have loved Heinlein! His were the first SF/F I ever read because I thought the books that the girls in 7th grade were reading were stupid, so I read what the boys read. Heinlein! Others of his books are better e I reread this in preparation for reading The Pursuit of the Pankera: A Parallel Novel About Parallel Universes, just published, which has the same beginning and a different end. It wasn't as good as I remembered. I'm trying to decide if I should reduce my stars. But it is Heinlein, and I have loved Heinlein! His were the first SF/F I ever read because I thought the books that the girls in 7th grade were reading were stupid, so I read what the boys read. Heinlein! Others of his books are better examples of his work for sure. Try The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, one of my favorites.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Yoak

    The later "world as myth" novels of Heinlein are generally my least favorite. This book suffers from this syndrome to a greater extent than any other with Heinlein finally surrendering to the urge to collect the characters of all of his stories, the characters from Heinlein's personal favorite stories that he didn't write and even "two Heinleins" from parallel universes and get them together for a party. I didn't like the book much when I read it the first time, but I have to say that it has two The later "world as myth" novels of Heinlein are generally my least favorite. This book suffers from this syndrome to a greater extent than any other with Heinlein finally surrendering to the urge to collect the characters of all of his stories, the characters from Heinlein's personal favorite stories that he didn't write and even "two Heinleins" from parallel universes and get them together for a party. I didn't like the book much when I read it the first time, but I have to say that it has two things going for it. Typically, even among his weaker novels, the first half is a pretty gripping story with extremely compelling characters. Two pairs of geniuses on the run from the baddies with a smart car cum spaceship. That part is fun, even if not really wrapped up. The other part is, well, I love all those characters he gets together for the final part of the novel. A party at the Long home is one I want to attend in any century or universe. If you can manage to divorce yourself from the idea that the first half of the novel should have anything to do with the second and the idea that the second half should make sense, it's a lot of fun too. I can't imagine that anyone could possibly enjoy this novel unless they're already familiar with most of Heinlein's other work and have really enjoyed it, but if you can get past the above, and are such a fan, it might just work for you.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    I must say that I didn't like at all. This is the first book I read by Heinlein and this is already a disadvantage. It should be a science fiction story: there is a brilliant scientist, a great invention, a group of adventurers, a threat to their life and the beginning of an inter-dimensional travel. Halfway though, I began to wonder if it was worthwhile to finish it and it went from there getting worse. The player follow the adventures of the characters in their wanderings, in some cases absurd I must say that I didn't like at all. This is the first book I read by Heinlein and this is already a disadvantage. It should be a science fiction story: there is a brilliant scientist, a great invention, a group of adventurers, a threat to their life and the beginning of an inter-dimensional travel. Halfway though, I began to wonder if it was worthwhile to finish it and it went from there getting worse. The player follow the adventures of the characters in their wanderings, in some cases absurd, grotesque in others, without knowing where it will go next, with heavy dialogues and sometimes meaningless. It went from science fiction to philosophical discussions, to raids in other novels (view spoiler)[yes, because even the worlds of the novels are parallel dimensions, and so we get to Oz, on Barsoom, and so on and then create a bridge with the cycle of the Future History (hide spoiler)] , in considerations of nudism, incest and polygamy, to move to what I would call the main adventure, in the third part, but at that point I had almost raised the white flag and just wanted to get to the end. I found it interesting, however, the first-person narrative of the chapters at the hands of the individual characters. Maybe I could take it back, once you read other novels by Heinlein, but I doubt it.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jean-marcel

    Heinlein gets such a bad rap these days, and I feel like I want to defend him and say that a lot of his stories are really not that bad and sometimes even really cool. I seem to remember enjoying some of the early stuff. "By his Bootstraps" is a terrific short story. Friday and Job were good books. This though? The characters are intolerable! Everythin'gs so smug and pontificating and self-congratulatory. The dialogues go on and on with their self-important posturing and weird internal gender po Heinlein gets such a bad rap these days, and I feel like I want to defend him and say that a lot of his stories are really not that bad and sometimes even really cool. I seem to remember enjoying some of the early stuff. "By his Bootstraps" is a terrific short story. Friday and Job were good books. This though? The characters are intolerable! Everythin'gs so smug and pontificating and self-congratulatory. The dialogues go on and on with their self-important posturing and weird internal gender politics and bad puns and "inside jokes" that you might get if you were Rob's drinking buddy, or maybe had read all his books. I can't imagine anybody who wasn't Heinlein-obsessed really enjoying this. Do such people exist today? I've never met any.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Chad Bearden

    What a weird book. And by 'weird', I don't mean that tangible sci-fi brilliance that gets under your skin and opens your mind to all the incredible possibilities of human endeavors. I mean, it's weird that Heinlein would think it a coherent idea to write this book at all, and even weirder still that a publisher would fund its release. Its content is a convoluted mishmash of Heinlein's worst excesses, including endless chummy banter that probably makes up 60-70% of the page count, characters from What a weird book. And by 'weird', I don't mean that tangible sci-fi brilliance that gets under your skin and opens your mind to all the incredible possibilities of human endeavors. I mean, it's weird that Heinlein would think it a coherent idea to write this book at all, and even weirder still that a publisher would fund its release. Its content is a convoluted mishmash of Heinlein's worst excesses, including endless chummy banter that probably makes up 60-70% of the page count, characters from other Heinlein novels showing up in droves with little to no explanation, and a pervy obsession with free love and women wanting to have as many babies as humanly possible. The plot is completely nonexistent, making little use of its inciting incident in which our quartet of heroes are attacked by mysterious aliens and must flee to alternate universes using the 'continua machine' invented by the senior, mad scientist, member of the gang. Lest you think anything will come of the universe-jumping, nothing ever does, aside from thinly related side-adventures that serve to educate the reader (and the characters) on how the continua device works. Perhaps such a story-telling tactic is necessary, but when it takes up 250 pages of a 500 page novel, it starts to feel a bit excessive. After their adventures carry them to realms as diverse as a communist controlled Mars, an Earth without the letter 'J', and Oz, it feels like the novel might begin to move into an actual plot. The heroes' rocket meets, in deep space, a ship commanded by Heinlein's ubiquitous Methuselah, Lazarus Long, who offers up a mission that seems to finally give the novel some direction. But the mission is dispensed with in a few paragraphs, and it becomes evident that Lazararus and his gang have only shown up so the creepy sex-obsessions can be kicked up a few notches, and Long's sprawling, multi-novel arc can plod forward. Because what "The Number of the Beast" is, essentially, is a 300 page introduction to four new characters in the Heinlein-verse, and a 200 page prologue explaining how in the hell Lazarus Long can show up in "The Cat Who Walks Through Walls" which Heinlein would write five years later. So why would I give such a mess of a book four stars? Well, as chaotic and sloppy as the whole affair is, it also happens to be fun. And its the kind of fun I can have since I've read the previous entries in the Lazarus Long series. The first Heinlein novel I ever read, actually, was "The Cat Who Walks Through Walls", which is similar in that its cast also gets crashed by Lazarus and all his family with no explanation. I remember, at the time, being utterly confused and wondering if some key chapters had been left out of the book. In time, I learned that I had been reading what was one thread in a much larger tapestry. Reading "The Number of the Beast" does not in any way work as an isolated experience. But I'm not reading it in isolation. For me, its filling in the blanks of a story I started reading almost 15 years ago (and started on the wrong chapter, by the way). Plus, the characters themselves are likeable, even if they are cartoonish in their clever, sensual, geniusness. If you're into Heinlein and haven't done so yet, I recommend you go read "Methuselah's Children", and follow the breadcrumbs through the various Lazarus Long stories, until you come upon this novel. With the proper background, its very likely you could enjoy "The Number of the Beast" should you make it that far. Otherwise, it might be wiser to look elsewhere for a good sci-fi read.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Larry

    I was looking forward to reading this and it started off quite pleasantly, I was enjoying the story, such as it was, but then it got dull, quickly, that is about a third of the way in, and its a 500+ page book. Basically a scientist invents a dimension jumping machine cum time machine, based around an old Ford car, and he comes up with a theory of the number of universes based on the number 6 raised to the power of 6, 6 times - 6 6 6. A group is assembled, a kind of family group, off on their jol I was looking forward to reading this and it started off quite pleasantly, I was enjoying the story, such as it was, but then it got dull, quickly, that is about a third of the way in, and its a 500+ page book. Basically a scientist invents a dimension jumping machine cum time machine, based around an old Ford car, and he comes up with a theory of the number of universes based on the number 6 raised to the power of 6, 6 times - 6 6 6. A group is assembled, a kind of family group, off on their jollies, but I began to find the characters incredibly annoying and twee. I hate that word twee, its such a, well, twee word, but it is quite apt with this book, apart from its size! (drop this on your toe and you'll be hopping round the room!) "Oh John I SO love you, youre such a remarkable man, my hero, Daddy will be happy to have you as a son" If thats not bad enough the young lady is known as DT, which I discover is short for Deja Thoris. Anyone who has read Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom books will know that name! But also her erstwhile husband just happens to be called John Carter. And guess what planet they land on-its red and ends in 'ars'! For Christ's sake, could it get any more twee? Its like eating a really sweet candy bar, so sweet it makes your teeth itch! Enough was enough, life is too short etc Moving on.....

  25. 5 out of 5

    Allyson

    My best friend (at the time) gave me this book in tenth grade and said, "Here, read this." It was the first Heinlein novel I read; I had never heard of the author before. It was a great story and I was hooked from the first words, although I remember being a bit confused toward the end when some of Heinlein's characters from other books appeared. Since two of the main characters were named for characters in the Edgar Rice Burroughs Mars novels, reading this book led me to investigate those as we My best friend (at the time) gave me this book in tenth grade and said, "Here, read this." It was the first Heinlein novel I read; I had never heard of the author before. It was a great story and I was hooked from the first words, although I remember being a bit confused toward the end when some of Heinlein's characters from other books appeared. Since two of the main characters were named for characters in the Edgar Rice Burroughs Mars novels, reading this book led me to investigate those as well. This led to me writing a comparative study of science fiction through the twentieth century in eleventh grade English! Ahhh....good times. I recently unpacked the very book my friend gave me over twenty years ago and I'm looking forward to reading it again.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

    This is the worst book I have ever read. On the surface, it's just trashy disposable science fiction. But it possesses a solipsistic, asphyxiating quality that I found disturbing. In fact, the text is so solipsistic that I wonder why it was ever written. I don't think it was intended to be read by other sentient beings besides the author; it is more a "memo to myself" filled with fantasies both vapid and lurid, that somehow got printed in a sad publishing accident. It reminds me of Mark Twain's "T This is the worst book I have ever read. On the surface, it's just trashy disposable science fiction. But it possesses a solipsistic, asphyxiating quality that I found disturbing. In fact, the text is so solipsistic that I wonder why it was ever written. I don't think it was intended to be read by other sentient beings besides the author; it is more a "memo to myself" filled with fantasies both vapid and lurid, that somehow got printed in a sad publishing accident. It reminds me of Mark Twain's "The Mysterious Stranger". But in Twain's case, the conveyed sense of utter hopelesness is the intended effect. I wish I forgot about this book, but then I would run the risk of reading it again. Spare yourself.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Melody

    You can't go home again. I read this book a million times when it was new. When I was newish. And, oh, how I loved it. I thought the dialogue scintillating, the ideas deliciously outré, the sex delightfully transgressive, the politics brilliant. I tried to wrap my head around who I was then to think those things about this tired, clichéd, and worst of all- boring- story of some breasts and the brilliant women attached to them. I'm sorry I tried, I'd much rather have had the warm fuzzy memories. You can't go home again. I read this book a million times when it was new. When I was newish. And, oh, how I loved it. I thought the dialogue scintillating, the ideas deliciously outré, the sex delightfully transgressive, the politics brilliant. I tried to wrap my head around who I was then to think those things about this tired, clichéd, and worst of all- boring- story of some breasts and the brilliant women attached to them. I'm sorry I tried, I'd much rather have had the warm fuzzy memories.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    After exhaustive research, I have determined that all Heinlein books are mostly about: time and/or space travel, utopian familial structures, casual nudity, physics, incest, human nature, and what is intended to be witty banter. That sounds interesting, and it was the first 2 or 3 times. At this point though, I feel like I'm reading the same book over and over. Which is why I made it maybe 50 pages into this and called it quits. After exhaustive research, I have determined that all Heinlein books are mostly about: time and/or space travel, utopian familial structures, casual nudity, physics, incest, human nature, and what is intended to be witty banter. That sounds interesting, and it was the first 2 or 3 times. At this point though, I feel like I'm reading the same book over and over. Which is why I made it maybe 50 pages into this and called it quits.

  29. 4 out of 5

    brandon

    One of the few books I have actually given up on. This book is one tedious argument about who the fuck is gonna drive the spaceship. Ugh. FAIL.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    By the time I finished this book I had a major headache. The POV changed *constantly* with no indication it was switching or who it was switching to. The sex was supposed to be sensual, but it was just juvenile sex, not even soft-core porn, which I find silly. The annoying parts I stated above actually masked any true plot from being good. One of the few books I've read that weren't for an assignment for school that I hated so much. Shortly after I moved to Woden H.S. Tori recommended and even loa By the time I finished this book I had a major headache. The POV changed *constantly* with no indication it was switching or who it was switching to. The sex was supposed to be sensual, but it was just juvenile sex, not even soft-core porn, which I find silly. The annoying parts I stated above actually masked any true plot from being good. One of the few books I've read that weren't for an assignment for school that I hated so much. Shortly after I moved to Woden H.S. Tori recommended and even loaned me this book, probably fall/early winter 1988.

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