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The Number of the Beast Mass Market Paperback – September 12, 1986

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Editorial Reviews


''[A story] about two men and two women in a time-machine safari through this and other universes. But describing The Number of the Beast thus is like saying Moby-Dick is about a one-legged guy trying to catch a fish.'' --National Review

Praise for Robert A. Heinlein:

''One of the grand masters of science fiction.'' --Wall Street Journal

''The most influential science fiction writer of all time!'' --Locus --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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

Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Fawcett (September 12, 1986)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0449130703
  • ISBN-13: 978-0449130704
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.1 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (173 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #108,484 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

105 of 121 people found the following review helpful By John S. Ryan on 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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96 of 118 people found the following review helpful By Elderbear VINE VOICE on March 27, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I've read most everything Heinlein ever wrote. I have read many of the books he refers to in this novel. I have tried this novel on for size three times. Each time I bog down between 60% & 80% of the way through. Each time I finish it anyways. I find this his most disappointing novel.
He begins to develop a great story line, valiant intellectual warriors running from an unknown menace. They demonstrate their ingenuity and adaptivity to rapidly changing situations. As the pages turn, the story departs further and further from it's beginnings and mutates into a reality hopping, story jumping house-that-Jack-built of a book. The characters become less interesting as we realize that little new about them will unfold as Heinlein indulges his fascination with hopping through the space-time axes into alternate fictons. I also find him a bit preachier than he is in most of his novels, especially about gender roles. Sigh.
This book is only for the die-hard Heinlein fan. There are plenty of other great reality tweaking books out there. Robert Anton Wilson's Schroedinger's Cat comes immediately to mind. Jack Chalker has written a number of them.
(If you enjoyed this review, please leave positive feedback. If you feel it besmirches the Master of SF, then email me. Click the "about me" link above for more of my reviews & my email address. Thanks!)
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Karen Joan VINE VOICE on March 8, 2008
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is hands down my favorite Heinlein book. A machine that will let you visit any universe, any story ever written? How wild and wonderful. I can't even imagine the fun and adventure of being able to do just that. This is truly one of the most imaginative plots that I have read. Where do I sign up?

Heinlein expected his readers to be well read and well educated. He wrote books that make the reader THINK and wonder. He posed what ifs. That makes a good author as well as a good read.

Because of this book, I went back and reread all of the Oz books, I read all 11 John Carter books for the first time, I tried the Dorsai novels, and more. I also found and read Heinlein books that were previously missing from my collection. This book references all the above mentioned and more. And the more you read, the more references you understand, and the better and better the book gets.

The science and math in this book do not bother me; Heinlein has said in many different novels that he expected a person to be well educated and well rounded enough to birth a baby, shoot a gun, milk a cow, build a needed tool or part, and figure an orbit vector. He was a generalist, and felt the human race had become too specialized. How many specialists would survive in frontier situation in this day and age? He felt we had lost our explorers edge.

As to this book, the plot is marvelous and inventive, the pacing just right, the characters are people I want to know and be friends with, the settings are truly unique and wonderful.

I know that this book is not for everyone, and not even all stallwart Heinleins fans agree with me. But, IMHO, this is as good as it gets.
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21 of 27 people found the following review helpful By M. Bielenberg on February 16, 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback
While I agree with most reviewers that this is not his best work, it is my personal favourite. The characters are likeable, and I love that Heinlein uses this to pay homage to some of his favourite writers, from Lewis Carroll to his contemporaries. This book introduced me to Edgar Rice Burroughs, convinced me to read the Oz books by L. Frank Baum, and sent me on a mission to discover the identities of the other authors into whose worlds Heinlein's characters jump.

True, this book is not for everyone, but I found it delightfully funny with wonderful dialogue between the four main characters. I also thoroughly enjoyed the interplay with characters from other eras and novels. If you are leary of spending the money to buy a copy, run down to your local library and check it out. It's worth the time, and you may find you really like it.
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