Customer Reviews

157
3.4 out of 5 stars
The Number of the Beast
Format: Mass Market PaperbackChange
Price:$7.99 + Free shipping with Amazon Prime
Your rating(Clear)Rate this item


There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

103 of 118 people found the following review helpful
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. Then, in a very confusing ending, we're sort of given to understand, more or less, that all of them are Heinlein himself, somehow, maybe. My, what a powerful fabulist he must therefore be.
Back to the plus side. Readers of _Time Enough For Love_ -- those who liked it, anyway -- will cheer the return of Lazarus Long, as this novel not only brings him back (together with some new members of the Long family) but sets up two further novels in which he appears (_The Cat Who Walks Through Walls_ and _To Sail Beyond the Sunset_; don't start with _those_ either). Of course this is a plus only for those of us who _did_ like _TEFL_; those who didn't won't care for this book either.
Interesting late-period Heinlein, then, filled with what Heinlein fans will regard as great characters and great character interaction -- but somewhat bloated with some stuff that doesn't make very good sense and shot through with some extremely trivial intellectual puzzles. (Most of the anagrams aren't very hard; even the one or two comparatively difficult ones won't pose major problems for anyone who knows anything about Heinlein's [and Ginny's] naval service.) The casual Heinlein reader probably won't like it and won't grok it.
It's not my favorite either, but I don't think Heinlein wrote any _bad_ fiction. (His nonfiction is another story.) He _was_ a powerful fabulist, and I don't mind indulging him while he celebrates the return of his power in this novel.
33 commentsWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
95 of 116 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 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!)
22 commentsWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
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.
33 commentsWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
19 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on February 17, 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.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on February 18, 2010
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I have been a science fiction fan from the time I was given "Have Space Suit Will Travel" while I was healing from an appendectomy and missing a trip to an amusement park.
While "The Number of the Beast" is not in Heinlein's usual mode, it is regardless a masterpiece. The characters are represented in a way that only Heinlein could (reminiscent of JOB: A Comedy of Justice) and a learnedness {not sure that's a word} that his experience and era could only produce. I must say that it is a more difficult read than most of his works, but I enjoyed it more for the effort.
Thankyou, Robert Heinlein, in effigy.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on April 18, 2012
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This morning I was perusing book reviews at Goodreads that, for the most part, lambaste Robert A Heinlein's 1980 novel The Number of the Beast, which I haven't read in years and years. This poor treatment of this particular novel surprised me somewhat, as I remembered TNotB to have been a rather extraordinary read. As I looked over the harsh reviews posted that bash Heinlein's other books, I realized that the old man is not holding up too well with the times. I can't really disagree with many objections being voiced to the old misogynist, homophobic, militaristic, terminally-libertarian, long-winded sci-fi hack. Although over the years I've enjoyed certain Heinlein works well enough, I admit he never really was one of my favorites.

And yet. . . .

What these reviews suggested to me, and what a quick re-read of the first two chapters of TNotB confirmed -- yet again, I must add -- is that the readers of 2012 remain as conditioned by their preconceived notions of what a novel is supposed to be as ever, and when an author dares to transcend that delimiting borderline and attempt a genuinely original (i.e., novel) piece of craftwork -- call it art, which is after all what every novel aspires, or really ought to aspire, to be -- then that author-artist is apt to be completely misunderstood and rejected by the public, including by his erstwhile, faithless, and insufficiently imaginative fans, who are simply and unwittingly trapped by a tangled network of expectations that prevents their recognition of the infinite artistic possibilities that the meme of the novel offers up.

The problem, I would say, is not with TNotB but with the readers, who are naturally frustrated when they encounter a novel that doesn't perform as the action-adventure-wrap-it-all-up-in-a-nutshell that the publishing industry has inculcated in their experience as the only way to tell a story.

TNotB is brilliant not for being a reader's book but for being an author's book. In this sense it bears a certain distant kinship to works like, let's say, Moby-Dick, or Ulysses, or Gravity's Rainbow. To enjoy such novels, a reader must exert a certain amount of personal energy, digging deep enough into his own dark and forbidding, monster-inhabited labyrinthine corporate-mangled mind to re-discover and then desperately grab onto and tenaciously against all odds and at all costs cling to the long-interred imaginative capacity of childhood; to discard all filters of expectation about what a novel should be and simply go with what this one is. Here's your choice. People who hate this novel do so because it is not like other novels. People who love this novel do so because it is not like other novels.

Eventually any novelist worth consideration as at least a potential creative force struggling to introduce something new (i.e., novel) into the literary world must conclude that he will no longer pander to the artistic straightjacket imposed by the marketing forces which have striven for centuries to carve deep channels of expectation into the hyper-eroded landscapes of the Pavlovian minds of the reading masses: he must refuse to comply any more with the creatively-exhausted, banal expectations of Once Upon a Time leads to B leads to C leads to D leads to Happily Ever After (preferably with quite a few explosions and chases and an ever-expanding body count sprinkled on top for good measure).

This is the challenge that Heinlein has flung before you, gentle reader, between the covers of The Number of the Beast. The question in my mind is not whether Heinlein had simply gone insane when he wrote this (he had not), but whether readers are capable of grokking for a moment that the limits of what a novel can be are far, far broader than they've previously imagined. If, gentle reader, you are able to accept TNotB for what it is rather than for what you think it is supposed to be, then I think you can be truly impressed with Heinlein's achievement.

Bob R Bogle, author of Frank Herbert: The Works
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on October 1, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This is a novel that should be read by those who are familiar with the genre of pulp SF. Read E. G. Burroughs' Mars stories, read Asimov and Clarke, and read Heinlein first, then you will appreciate the scope and wit of this novel. This is a work from a man that is ready to return to the craft in full force.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is one of Heinliens greatest books and thus de facto one of the best sci fi books ever written. BUT, if you haven't read a good amount of Heinlien, don't start with this one as you'll be missing out on a lot of nuances. He brings in characters from other books, and not just his own either.
I recommend reading several early works and include at a minimum 'Stranger...', 'Time...', 'The Moon' and a couple of the shorter novellas.
Heinlien plays with time, multi universes, history, politics and religion and of course does it with "real" heros, characters that love and live, fight and play and in general have adventures that stimulate the mind of the reader.
Like almost all of his books, it's a better read the second time around because there is just so much there, but even if read just for the adventure without thinking about all the between the lines stuff this book is just plain fun.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on April 13, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Heinlein is unquestionably one of the greatest science fiction writers to pick up a pen. He influenced the genre perhaps more than any other writer, and, when he was at his best, he wrote highly entertaining, witty, and thought-provoking novels that you could read through fairly quickly and still leave an impression on you. However, he sometimes got carried away. The Number of the Beast is a case of an aging, highly successful writer getting to write exactly what they wanted to write. Okay, so where does that leave the reader? Well, due to it's constant references to previous RAH fiction, (not to mention other writer's fiction) and assorted other esatoric meanderings, Beast is essentially a 500-page inside joke. However, if you have read a good portion of Heinlein's fiction (which, you shouldn't even consider reading this book if you haven't) you will be in one the joke. A lot of people seem not to get this book. They remark that it has no plot, no theme, or anything of the sort. These people are missing the point of the book. So, just what the hell IS Beast, you ask? It is a parody of the genre (of science fiction.) It's apparent from the very first setence, and it only becomes increasingly obvious throughout the book. There is, indeed, no real plot... the four characters just plod throughout the universes seemingly at random, having encounter after encounter that are connected, but not inherently coherent. But then, of course, just when the book seems to have lost all hope of having a point, a new element is injected into the book and it becomes a continuation of the Future History series, and yet another installement in the Lazarus Long chronicles. The ending, although entirely unrelated to the rest of the story, but it is, in a way, just a further continuation of the "Number of the Beast" theme, and perhaps an excuse for Heinlein to gather a bunch of his characters together, but that just expounds the parody theme, no? So, with all of this, the book is worth reading. It's not as entertaining as Heinlein's earlier work, nor as thematical or relevant, but Heinlein fans will want to read it - for the things he expounds on, and the way it ties things together. However, the book is far from perfect. It rambles on almost to the point of no return at points, and the perpetual arguments over who should be captain (which sometimes go on for pages at a time) serve absoultely no purpose and detract from the already viratually non-existent plot. But if you've read Time Enough For Love (which is a requirement before reading this book) you will be, more or less, prepared for this, and if you are a RAH fan, you will want to read it. But if you're not a hard-core fan, or are just getting into the Master's works, definately put this off until later.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on April 5, 2011
Format: Mass Market Paperback
WARNING: Do not read this book until you have read Heinlein's Time Enough For Love, Revolt in 2100, Methuselah's Children, Stranger in a Strange Land, Glory Road, Podkayne of Mars,and The Rolling Stones. You should also have at least a familiarity with The Land of Oz, Edgar Rice Burroughs' Mars series, and Wonderland. Fans of Science Fiction from the 1940's to 1980's will be most capapble of enjoying the work in its entirety.

During the last years of his life, it seems Heinlein had a desire to gather the characters he and others had written over the years to attend a conference. So, he set about devising a way to make that happen. This book is the result. Four scientists have invented a "continua device" that allows for travel through time, space, and "fictional" worlds.
These are very Heinlein-esque characters, so if you hold strong sexual taboos, or disagree with his philosophy as a whole, you will probably not enjoy reading this very much. If you are a Heinlein fan, this book (and its sequels) is/are the ultimate payoff.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
     
 
Customers who viewed this also viewed
The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress
The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein (Paperback - June 15, 1997)
$10.53

The Cat Who Walks through Walls
The Cat Who Walks through Walls by Robert Heinlein (Mass Market Paperback - June 1, 1988)
$7.99

To Sail Beyond the Sunset
To Sail Beyond the Sunset by Robert Heinlein (Mass Market Paperback - June 1, 1988)
$6.61
 
     

Send us feedback

How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you?
Let us know here.

Your Recently Viewed Items and Featured Recommendations 
 

After viewing product detail pages, look here to find an easy way to navigate back to pages you are interested in.