Manny's Reviews > The Number of the Beast

The Number of the Beast by Robert A. Heinlein
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Feb 16, 2009

it was ok
bookshelves: science-fiction
Read in January, 1983

There's this terrible thing that happens to some science-fiction writers near the end of their careers: they want their oeuvre to make sense, with all the books related to each other in some complex structural way. I mean, who do they think they are, Balzac or Powell or someone? Get a grip, guys. You were just SF hacks. If you were lucky, you were good SF hacks, and be proud of that. Don't try and aim higher, because you'll regret it.

Well, it happened to Asimov, who disastrously attempted to link together the Foundation series, the robot series, and The End of Eternity. I quite liked those books, and didn't want to ruin my memories of them, so I just observed the train-wreck from a distance. I was unfortunately foolish enough to read this embarrassing piece of nonsense from Heinlein, where he creates some kind of transdimensional gizmo that means all his characters can meet up with each other and characters from other books, and, as often as not, end up having sex. Oh dear.

Though, if he was going to do it at all, I think he should have gone a bit further. I'd quite have enjoyed seeing Lummox from The Star Beast get it on with Glinda the Good. Possibly in a threesome with the dwarf from Glory Road. Now that would have been something.

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Comments (showing 1-20 of 20) (20 new)

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message 1: by Beth (new)

Beth Thanks for the warning.


Larry Well, I'm enjoying it! I like Heinlein's later. more humorous works.


Manny But have you read the earlier ones? This is just such a pale shadow of the Heinlein who wrote Starship Troopers or Stranger in a Strange Land...


Larry Well Ive read and enjoyed Stranger..., and a few others. ( hated Moon is a Harsh Mistress) but it makes no difference if you have read them or not! Ive not come across any characters from those earlier books yet, no Lazarus Long in this one!


Manny Ive not come across any characters from those earlier books yet, no Lazarus Long in this one!

Just you wait :)


Larry Look forward to it!


message 7: by Traveller (last edited May 10, 2012 02:34PM) (new)

Traveller Whyz u flootin' dis? Ah, no sorry, I see my friend Jean Marcel liked it. Well, let me go like it too. :)


message 8: by Traveller (new)

Traveller Psst: I never liked any Asimov! Well, not his robot-y stuff anyway... - don't tell anyone, ok?


Manny Traveller wrote: "Psst: I never liked any Asimov! Well, not his robot-y stuff anyway... - don't tell anyone, ok?"

WHAT?!! Let me try to convince you of the error of your ways...


Jean-marcel This is one of the three or so Heinlein books I tried to read and never finished. I did finish a couple back in teh day; I particfularly liked Job, in fact, and I understand that's one of his later works, too. Hell, even Friday was pretty cool. But this? Yuck...those characters...the dialogue...ah, the pain of it!

I think Asimov did much better in trying to tie all his stuff together. Well, ok, there's a fair bit that I haven't read, but I thought Prelude to Foundation was a pretty great return to that universe and bringing R. Daneel in wasn't such a groaner.


message 11: by Traveller (last edited May 11, 2012 08:33AM) (new)

Traveller Asimov has a rather strange style though, I thought. I can't remember in exact detail what about it it was that I didn't like very much, except that it was, for want of a better word: 'un-literary' and unpolished, inelegant.

But what I specifically didn't like about his robots was that he anthropomorphized them so much. I should actually post a review sometime. (Ok, I know Asimov isn't the first person nor will he be the last person to anthropomorphize robots, but it's more the logic that he used that just seemed contradictory and silly to me. I'll elaborate on it when I get around to doing a review.


Jean-marcel Yes, Asimov was my favourite writer coming out of elementary school, but then I discovered Lovecraft and the rest, as they say, is history. Still though, I find him very admirable. The robot stories were never among my favourites btw. You're right that he doesn't write in a very literary style, but I would never say it's unpolished, myself....the man always knew what he was doing and did it well; he didn't pretend to be a great spinner of tales, but he is a great conductor of mysteries: his books often have very clever endings, his breadth of knowledge is immense, and his short stories at least are among the best in his field.

His guides to Shakespeare were also absolutely invaluable to me throughout highschool, and his science books taught me a thing or two.


message 13: by Traveller (last edited May 11, 2012 10:15AM) (new)

Traveller Yes, I think I also have one of his books on physics, a sort of "Physics for idiots" primer, which I admit that I liked.

So, which of his books would you recommend, Jean-Marcel? I'm prepared to give the man another try, may he rest in peace.


message 14: by Terry (new)

Terry Speaking of attempting to harmonize one's fictional creations: http://www.theonion.com/articles/disn...


Jean-marcel Traveller wrote: "Yes, I think I also have one of his books on physics, a sort of "Physics for idiots" primer, which I admit that I liked.

So, which of his books would you recommend, Jean-Marcel? I'm prepared to g..."


I'd definitely suggest a short story compilation. But which? THere are so many! The generically titled Best of Isaac Asimov contains a good helping of tales from across the decades, many of them really good. Nightfall and Other Stories is a fairly large and comprehensive one spanning over thirty years of work. The Earth is Room ENough contains mostly stuff from the 50s, and I think it was the first Asimov book I ever read, so it'll always have a place in my head/heart...some of the stories are really good, too.

It's been a long time since I read any of the novels. I'll think on it and come back!


message 16: by Traveller (new)

Traveller I have a lot of SF short story compilations, so if you feel that is his forte, an Asimov short story or two should not be hard to find at all. Thanks! :)


Jean-marcel It does seem that way to me. His novels, even some of the later ones, often feel like linked hsort stories/episodes in a wider narrative, too, so it seems that might be his most comfortable operating method.
Foundation and EMpire was my favourite novel as a kid. I still think it would stand up pretty well for me today. I'm pretty sure the last time I read it was sometime in my university years...


Larry I didn't like how this book progressed and actually grew sick of it! Oh well...


message 19: by Bettie☯ (new)

Bettie☯ There's this terrible thing that happens to some science-fiction writers near the end of their careers: they want their oeuvre to make sense, with all the books related to each other in some complex structural way.

I'm happy to go this way with David Mitchell; Heinlein was not my animal. Enjoyed your words though.
:O)


Manny Thank you Bettie! To be fair to Heinlein, I think he wrote this one shortly after he had a major stroke... he is certainly capable of better.


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