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The Number of the Beast Paperback – Oct 1 1987

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--This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton Ltd; New edition edition (Oct. 1 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0450046753
  • ISBN-13: 978-0450046759
  • Product Dimensions: 17.4 x 11.2 x 4.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 340 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (92 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,120,274 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From the Publisher

Like many people, I go way, way back with Heinlein. My very favorite book (and one that stands out in my mind--and with much affection--to this day) is Tunnel in the Sky. I really, really wanted to go off to explore new worlds with a covered wagon and horses, like the hero does at the very end of the book. But one of the nice things about Robert Heinlein is that he's got something for everyone. One of my best friends has a different favorite: Podkayne of Mars. Go figure.
                        --Shelly Shapiro, Executive Editor --This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
Do not, under any circumstances, make this your first Robert Heinlein book. Don't make it your second or third, either. (And don't make it your _last_.)
Heinlein wrote this book right after recovering from a carotid bypass. Those of us who had been reading his stuff for a while were thrilled to see it (I remember lapping it up when it was serialized in _Omni_ magazine), largely because it meant he hadn't been permanently rendered unable to write.
And there's certainly stuff here for Heinlein readers to appreciate. Some readers don't like Heinlein's dialogue, but I like it just fine and I enjoy the interplay among the four main characters in this one. (Nor do I have any trouble telling which of the characters is narrating at which point.)
This is also the novel in which Heinlein sets up the concept of the World-As-Myth. Apparently tired of listening to his characters invite one another to 'have a go at solipsism', he finally has a go at it himself -- and comes up with a 'multiperson' version of it, in which various 'real' universes are 'fictional' relative to one another, yet accessible via six-dimensional rotation using a nifty device invented by protagonist Jake Burroughs. (At the very least, this clever trick allows Heinlein to bring together lots of his characters from his various fictional worlds and let them all have free-love open relationships with each other.)
The downside is that it's somewhat self-indulgent. First we visit some of the fictional worlds created by several of Heinlein's own favorite writers. On top of that, the name of every one of the 'bad guys' is an anagram of some variant of Heinlein's own name, or Virginia's, or one of his several early noms de plume.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
This was a very enjoyable book and one which should be read by any Heinlein Fan. However, there are a few books you should read first. Stranger in a Strange Land, Time Enough for Love, Methusla's Children, and The Wizzard of Oz.
The four protaganists of this book undertake to explore the many universes after they are nearly killed because of an invention of one of the protaganists who is a scientist. The first part of the book consists of the four members of the team meeting, almost being killed, getting married, building a time ship and undertaking to find out the various universes out there.
The second part gets a bit tedious as these four adventurers argue and bicker and take turns voting each other Captain. Heinlein decided, for some reason, to make these four charachters variations on the witty, sarcastic, opinionated, genious sort which tend to be annoying in his stories, but can add a lot to the stories in moderation. Four charachters bantering about and arguing just got old, fourtunatly this section of the book isn't too long.
The third part is in which they discover Lazurus Long, who to them is a fictional charachter and they undertake to form the beginings of an orgainisation which will be more fully explored in "The Cat Who Walks Through Walls"(you should read this book before reading that one).
All in all a good story which enriches the fullenss of the Heinlein universe.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I am an admirer of Heinlein's work, but that didn't stop me from grinding my teeth throughout this nearly unbearable self-indulgent work. Perhaps the publishers counted themselves lucky to get anything from the then 73 year old legend. Whatever the reason,it seems this book was written without the benefit of outside moderating influences such as editors.
The worst thing about the novel is the dialog. The second worst thing is the characters. Here is a little taste from the second page:
"'WHAT subject? I made a polite inquiry; you parried it with amphigory.' ''Amphigory' my tired feet! I answered precisely.' ''Amphigory,''I repeated. 'The operative symbols were 'mad,''scientist,''beautiful,'and 'daughter.' The first has several meetings--the others denote opinions. Sematinc content:zero.'"
It goes on like that for the rest of the novel. The characters spend most of their time talking: talking a lot. The talk revolves mostly around congratulating each other for how ingenious they are, or how sensibly open-minded, or how gifted with surprising talents. There is also much talk about the talking, and introspection as to whether they are doing too much of it, or if each is adequately appreciating the other, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
There is a plot line, and it actually gets interesting half way through. Near the end though, the story is merged with previous Heinlein works, notably the Lazarus Long stories. This is when the novel sinks into incomprehensibility, primarily through the sudden introduction of inummerable characters, leaving the reader the vague impression that he should remember them from previous novels, only he can't because he read them twenty years ago. The final chapter is just plain bewildering, and one suspects the entire endeavor is an inside joke completely for the benefit of the author.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I am a fan of Robert Heinlein. Like many people, I started out with the juvie novels when I was young. Then I moved onto novels like Stranger in a Strange Land, etc.
Number of the Beast was a complete letdown. It is almost sad to think that someone kept their job after this novel was published. Heinlein, like so many other writers, had already reached his zenith creatively (and judging by the prose in Number Of the Beast--mechanically as well) by the time he sat down to write this book.
The characters are straight out of workshop fiction hell. Sure, some of it was meant to be tongue in cheek. But it came off as self-indulgent. Dr. N.O. Brain? Come on. Granted, Heinlein had it in for academia and folks with advanced degrees. Oddly enough, he pursued, for a time, advanced degrees in mathematics and physics, but never received any of the degrees he loathed so much...hmm?
Heinlein's downfall may have been Stranger In A Strange Land. When that book became the bestselling sf novel of all time, editors saw no reason to cut any material away from the novels he turned in as he grew older. Sadly, those editors kept their jobs.
As for Heinlein, his contribution to speculative fiction will not be forgotten. With any luck, Number Of the Beast won't be remembered at all.
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