***Dave Hill's Reviews > The Number of the Beast

The Number of the Beast by Robert A. Heinlein
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Mar 20, 2011

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Read in March, 2011

This was a re-read (I'm on my second paperback copy).

Despite spirited defenses of this book, I enjoy it solely because I enjoy RAH's writing style. Narratively, it moves along briskly in Part 1 (the setup) and half of Part 2 (Mars) ... but rapidly runs off the rails after that, turning into something I can only, charitably call self-indulgent. Given that he wrote much better in subsequent years (my favorite RAH novel is, in fact, the very next one he wrote), I have to consider it a lapse, an experiment that didn't work (the themes and background of the World As Myth were revisited, much better, though still not without significant flaws, in "The Cat Who Walks Through Walls" and "To Sail Beyond the Sunset").

Whether an examination of uber-competent pulp heroes time-and-tale-tripping through an odd mythic cosmography of Heinlein's favorite tales (both his own and others), pursued by Black Hats (all of whose names are anagrams for those of the author and his wife), was simply a way to make money (and demonstrate how easy it was do to so), a failure, a sign of waning literary powers, or a tour de force of intentionally demonstrating good and bad writing ... can and has filled many a discussion board. Because it is RAH, I'll continue to revisit the book in the future, but I'll always feel like I'm either drinking the Kool-Aid or else having my leg pulled.

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