The writings of Robert Heinlein's later years are a good bit different from the science fiction classics he produced in his prime. Job: A Comedy of Justice, published in 1984, is basically religious satire clothed in the guise of fantasy. And, while it's not as odd as, say, Number of the Beast, it ultimately goes in a weird direction that pushes the envelope and then some. Job is probably one of Heinlein's most readable novels, though. While it's ostensibly about religion, it plays as more of a divine comedy than a moralistic, intellectual assault on Christian beliefs.
Job is a modern retelling of the story of Job. The Biblical Job, of course, was the subject of a wager between God and Satan. Satan would throw everything he had at Job, and God bet that his servant's faithfulness would remain intact - as it did, despite Job losing all of his family and wealth while suffering terrible physical torments. Our modern Job is Alex Hergensheimer, a fundamentalist preacher turned fund-raiser from a most devout, sexually repressed version of America. On vacation in the Polynesians, he stupidly wagers that he can walk across a bed of hot coals. Now, fire-walking is generally a pretty dangerous business, but in Alex's case, walking on the hot coals is the easy part. The hard part comes when he emerges from the ordeal - and finds himself in a world that is not his own. It looks like his world, but he finds himself boarding a different ship and living the life of another man - someone named Alec Graham. He decides to play things by ear and try to solve the mystery when he returns to the States. The only good thing about his extraordinary situation is the companionship he finds with a stewardess named Margrethe. This delightful young lady had fallen in love with Graham, and she believes Alex to be him - and Alex soon returns those feelings most strongly. Then the ship hits an iceberg, and the two lovers are stranded in the ocean. This is when Alex knows he is either going crazy or somebody is really and truly out to get him - you just don't find giant icebergs floating in the South Pacific.
Change becomes a constant in the lives of Alex and Margrethe, as they randomly travel from one world to another. The change can come at the drop of a hat, but the two always remain together. It's hard to make a living when you're suddenly thrown into another world in which the hard-earned money you've saved is suddenly worthless, though. The pair are forced to rely on the kindness of strangers as they make their way to Alex's home destination of Kansas, traveling through worlds that feature exotic aircraft, no aircraft, modern automobiles, horses and buggies, etc. With all of these inexplicable things happening to him, Alex becomes convinced that the end of the world is nigh - and he is constantly worried over the future of his beloved Margrethe, who has rejected Christianity in favor of her native Danish beliefs (Odin, Valhalla, etc.). It turns out to be a valid concern on his part, as the final chapters take Alex well beyond Earth itself.
The whole world-phasing thing initially puts the book on a science fiction foundation, but the later chapters change the whole scope of the novel. Religion becomes the central theme, and Alex finally finds out what has been going on all this time. It's deus ex machine writ very large indeed. I can't say it's a completely fulfilling conclusion to this weird drama, but it does tie everything together. It's rather campy, however, and that fact dilutes the force of whatever religious statements Heinlein was trying to make. What emerges most strongly is the power of true love, which trumps both heaven and hell in Alex's heart.
In the end, what you have in Job is a work of imaginative religious satire. In this story, God does indeed play with dice - loaded dice, in fact, and the Adversary is rather an all-right kind of guy. Even though he paints the God of heaven as a rather impotent child of sorts, Heinlein never manages to offend those of us with Christian beliefs, though, largely because the whole story is just too fantastic to be taken all that seriously. Some may find this a thought-provoking novel, but I can't say I take all that much away from it. It's entertaining, but it lacks the bite that infused much of Heinlein's fiction.