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The Number of the Beast [Hardcover]

Robert A. Heinlein
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (92 customer reviews)

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Hardcover, March 1 1980 --  
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Book Description

March 1 1980
When four supremely sensual geniuses 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, danger, ecstasy, and peril.
--This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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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

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Do. Not. Start. Here. March 24 2004
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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4.0 out of 5 stars On finding new worlds of great Fiction Dec 19 2003
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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2.0 out of 5 stars Bewildering and Bad!! Aug. 7 2003
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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1.0 out of 5 stars Numb from this Beast of a Book March 10 2003
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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Most recent customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Turned me off to Heinlein for good
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. Read more
Published on Jan. 2 2004 by Derek Truesdale
3.0 out of 5 stars Too much and not enough
Too much of the same banter and not enough plot movement. It is simultaneously clever and silly and complex and stupid. Read more
Published on Aug. 19 2003
2.0 out of 5 stars Far from his best
I first read this book when it came out in 1980 (I was a *huge* Heinlein fan at the time), and I remember being vaguely disappointed with it at the time. Read more
Published on June 13 2003 by Dr. Rod S. Taylor
1.0 out of 5 stars I don't care if Heinlein was teaching us about writing...
Heinlein was not a good prose writer nor was he a good storyteller at this stage of his life. This book is awful, the story is bad, the writing is even worse. Read more
Published on Oct. 8 2002
3.0 out of 5 stars good but way too dirty
Good but way too dirty. Heinlein can be one dirty old man sometimes, in fact quite often. This is not bad in and of itself. Read more
Published on Sept. 3 2002 by yitzchok
5.0 out of 5 stars Parallel Universes
In the Number of the Beast, a scientist builds a device that transports four people to parallel worlds. Read more
Published on Aug. 14 2002 by Herbert Custer
2.0 out of 5 stars I couldn't even finish it.
I ~love~ Heinlein. I couldn't make it though this one, it was so revolting. The book was okay until it turned into a mastubatory fantasy for Heinlein... Read more
Published on July 24 2002 by Steven M Sanders
2.0 out of 5 stars Poor book by a great author
In a matter of a decade, Heinlein went from churning out masterpieces like The Moon is a Harsh Mistress to passing off this slug. Read more
Published on July 23 2002 by Gary M. Greenbaum
4.0 out of 5 stars A fun peice of RAH fluff
IF you only love his earlier, hardcore, sci-fi, you will , as so many others have absolutly HATE this book. Read more
Published on July 18 2002
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