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The Number of the Beast Paperback – Oct 1 1987


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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: #1,524,819 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


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3.3 out of 5 stars
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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 the fourth and last Heinlein book I've read. I am now thoroughly sick of Heinlein's self-assured I'm-smarter-than-you-are characters. Having four of these characters banter back and forth about how great they are just got really tiring. The book starts off with a plot which is moderately interesting, and then completely abandons it, just so we can meet more people who Heinlein seems to think know all the answers to life. Given how smart all these good guys are, there's no worthy antagonist, no suspense, and no intrigue.
This was the worst of the four Heinlein books that I've read(Job - 4stars; Stranger - 4stars; I Will Fear No Evil - 1 star),
and they all suffer similar problems involving pedantic, egotistic characters and interesting stories that fall apart half way through.
Thus, I will no longer bother to read Heinlein.
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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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By A Customer on Aug. 19 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Too much of the same banter and not enough plot movement. It is simultaneously clever and silly and complex and stupid. I really enjoyed the first 50 to 100 pages, but around page 200, I thought about quitting it. I've only stopped reading 2 'adult' novels out of about 1000 read (1 of these I lost). The banter is somewhat reminicent of that of Dawson's Creek and Gilmore Girls (not watched by choice) - sometimes unrealistically witty. In Heinlein's defense, his four main characters are educated geniuses, not high-school students. For hard sci-fi fans, I definitely cannot recommend this book.
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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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