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Job: A Comedy of Justice

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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Robert Heinlein at his superlative best. A fascinating and thought-provoking novel—one to make you smile, to make you wonder, and to make you care!

After that firewalking gig in Polynesia, the whole world was suddenly changed around him. Instead of fundamentalist minister Alexander Hergensheimer, he was now supposed to be Alec Graham, an underworld figure in the middle of an affair with his stewardess Margrethe—who was the only good thing in the whole mess.

Then there was an impossible iceberg that wrecked the ship in the tropics. Rescued by a Royal  Mexican plane, they were hit by a double earthquake. From then on, as changed world followed changed world, things went from bad to worse.

To Alex, all the signs increasingly pointed to Armageddon and the Day of Judgement. And Margrethe was a determined heathen. Somehow he had to bring her to a state of grace, for Heaven would be no paradise without her. But time was growing short. 

Somewhere, there had to be a solution to it all. And, of course, there was. But it was truly a Hell of a solution.

440 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published September 1, 1984

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About the author

Robert A. Heinlein

787 books9,288 followers
Works of American science-fiction writer Robert Anson Heinlein include Stranger in a Strange Land (1961) and The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (1966).

People often call this novelist "the dean of science fiction writers", one of the most popular, influential, and controversial authors of "hard science fiction."

He set a high standard for science and engineering plausibility and helped to raise the standards of literary quality of the genre. He was the first science-fiction writer to break into mainstream, general magazines such as The Saturday Evening Post, in the late 1940s. He was also among the first authors of bestselling, novel-length science fiction in the modern, mass-market era.

Also wrote under Pen names: Anson McDonald, Lyle Monroe, Caleb Saunders, John Riverside and Simon York.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 569 reviews
Profile Image for BlackOxford.
1,085 reviews68.4k followers
July 24, 2020
Gone Where the Woodbine Twineth

Quantum theory has some strange implications, one of which is the existence of parallel universes.* If physical reality does bifurcate at every quantum event, creating an infinite number of alternative realities, what happens to consciousness? Does it split as well, implying that twin minds exist in parallel but isolated states? Or does consciousness continue on a single trajectory, thus maintaining the presumed uniqueness of the individual personality? Could consciousness migrate from one trajectory to another, inhabiting perhaps several alternative worlds, or bodies, in the course of its existence? And what are the moral responsibilities of a conscious mind which finds itself in radically different social environments? These questions are important, especially if you are Heinlein’s protagonist Alex, a priggish, religious fundamentalist and racist but who still possesses enough nineteenth century pluck and grit to confront cosmic uncertainty head on.

Or rather these would be important issues if Alex, the fundamentalist, had the leisure to ponder them. As it is, mostly he has enough trouble surviving from day to day. The experience of being thrust from one version of reality to another is a fact that a fundamentalist interpretation of scripture just doesn’t cover. Not unless the Christian God is as playfully sadistic as he is reportedly bloodthirsty. Perhaps the old Norse Loki, the pesky divine practical joker, is actually behind such apparent irrationality. This is the god of changing rules; just when you think you know the way the world works from a moral perspective, Loki pulls the rug out.

But wait, scripture does cover even this. The story of Job in the Old Testament does, after all, describe a Loki-like Yahweh who thinks it a fine thing to move the moral goal posts as well as physical laws of his creation on a whim... or a wager. “Yahweh rolls loaded dice with His universe... to deceive His creatures,” according to Heinlein’s most reliable celestial authority, Rahab the biblical whore of Canaan. Even the material uncertainty of bifurcating quantum universes is then multiplied by the moral uncertainty that a Loki/Jehova suspends or even directs quantum effects willy nilly depending on his mood and latest conversation - a bit like an omnipotent Donald Trump, for example. This theological explanation accounts for much more than the contradictory results of quantum science. Who could expect an omnipotent deity to be constrained to maintaining the consistency of physical or moral laws? If God did not demonstrate his arbitrariness from time to time how would we, or he, know he was God?

The ultimate divine lark is the long awaited Apocalypse, the Last Trump (the pun unintended by Heinlein of course), the End of Days. Turns out it’s a bureaucratic fiasco that should have been organised by Disney World rather than the archangels Gabriel and Michael. Archangels don’t know nothin’ ‘bout human needs like plumbing and sanitary facilities. As Alex realises, “A saved soul in Heaven occupies much the position of a blackamoor in Arkansas. And it's the angels who really rub your nose in it. I never met an angel I liked.” The last thing the resident angels want is a horde of wet back migrant human beings creating disorder in the heavenly precincts. So the Saved only get to ride in the back of the bus in the Divine Transportation System. Bit of a let down really, suggesting less than a strong ethic of biblical Truth In Advertising.

Quite apart from the smug hostility of the natives, Heaven is a bust: no industry, so nothing creative or interesting to do; no horticulture, so no natural beauty or development; and no public libraries at all, so no intellectual stimulation. And to top it off, the others who have been saved - like for instance former wives - are not people you like to spend dinner with much less eternity. The Christian idea of the Holy Trinity, it turns out, is absolutely true. But its real function is simply to provide an audience for the Divine Jokester, a sort of in-house mutual appreciation society or Magic Circle which lives to laugh, mostly at the consternation they can cause among human beings.

It’s all a scam of course, Heaven, that is. The Other Place is where you want to be: A rather nice planet with “No snakes. No cockroaches. No chiggers. No poison ivy. No tax collectors. No rats. No cancer. No preachers. Only two lawyers.” And the people you’d much rather be with. They even take American Express. The whole divine justice thing is the ultimate switcheroo, therefore. What japes! The basic motive force of the universe revealed: divine high spirits. No wonder we’re all confused, as Alex says, “On reflection. I realized that I was in exactly the same predicament as every other human being alive: We don't know who we are, or where we came from, or why we are here. My dilemma was merely fresher, not different.” And no wonder that many of us feel put upon because of, “The delusion that the whole world is a conspiracy. Only it's not a delusion.” As Alex concludes, “Paranoia is the only rational approach to a conspiracy world.”

So next time you get irritated with the obstinate stupidity of a believer, just remember that they’re suffering too. Theology may provide a more coherent theory than quantum mechanics. But belief in infinite and arbitrary divine power comes at a price: profound fear of its arbitrary exercise (“Thy will be done...”). As Alex finally realizes, “A man who is happy at home doesn't lie awake nights worrying about the hereafter.”

* See: https://www.space.com/32728-parallel-...
Profile Image for Peter Tillman.
3,685 reviews347 followers
October 14, 2022
This was my last favorite Heinlein novel, for many rereads. I've pretty much stopped rereading RAH -- but I might give this one another reread sometime. Enough years have passed, and it's a clever & unusual setup. Heinlein's homage to James Branch Cabell, one of his influences and favorite writers. (My one try at a Cabell, JURGEN, his best-known book, ended in a DNF.)

If you've never read it, you should. The opening pages are a classic of sinking the hook early and keeping you reading. Heinlein was amazingly good at that.
Profile Image for SheriC.
682 reviews34 followers
November 10, 2016
I tried, I really did. But I just can’t anymore. This story was not wholly without merit, but for the most part it is boring, boring, boring. At least the main female character has agency, but it still reads like a 14 year old boy’s fantasy of the ideal “independent” woman, with the antagonist being a shrill, angry, disrespectful harpy. I thought the story would pick up when he finally got to heaven and hell, but nope. DNF at 89%.

Audiobook, borrowed via Overdrive from my public library. Stilted reading by Paul Michael Garcia.
Profile Image for Jam.
18 reviews32 followers
November 9, 2011
To start, it is the year 1994, and in Alexander Hergensheimer's world, there are no airplanes, television, computers or traffic lights. Their only form of aeronautic transportation comes in the form of dirigibles. The world is incredibly moralistic, with abortion now termed a capital offense. A "federal law making the manufacture, sale, possession, importation, transportation, and/or use of any contraceptive drug or device a felony carrying a mandatory prison sentence of not less than a year and a day". Swearing is a crime liable with punishment in the stocks in the form of public nudity and ends with wrongdoer voluntarily leaving the community. Dresses cover all the skin and Women Do Not Have The Vote.

However, on a cruise ship trip, he finds it all gone awry as one unfortuznate tourist tour to the Polynesian islands finds him walking through fire...and into another universe. He is no longer Alexander Hergensheimer. He is now Alec L. Graham, a man with questionable associates, who has an affair with his stewardess, Margrethre, and one million dollars in his safety deposit box on the ship. Amazingly enough, he learns to cope pretty well with everything. That is, until, for some ridiculous reason, the ship hits an iceberg, in the middle of the Southern seas at that, and he ends up in another universe...again, but this time, with Margrethe at his side.

And from there, Alex and Margrethe experience one world change after another, until they grow faster and faster in frequency. In the midst of all this, Alex is convinced the End of Days has come, and that God is showing the beginning signs of His Apocalypse. As Alex struggles to try to save Margrethe from her heathen ways, their time runs out, and the problem is taken out of his hands.
In Heaven, Alex finds that it's not all it's cracked up to be. And that, horribly, Margrethe is nowhere to be found. From Heaven to Hell, he struggles to find her. And as he begins to realize that maybe all is lost, Satan comes to his rescue, with insights that his mind yearns to disbelieve. As they go to a Higher Power, higher even than God, Alex struggle to make sense of it all, and to put into context what is really important to him, his faith...or Margrethe.
The title of this book is apt, and ironic. It parallels the tale of Job in the Bible, wherein he suffers many trials, before finally finding happiness. I always found it, extremely offensive in the end, that it was nothing but a game between God and Satan. God trying to prove the loyalty of Job, and Satan saying otherwise. In short, Job was a tale of how God plays with our lives. And in this book, God plays with Everything. He plays with a man's reality, his beliefs, and even his faith. And Satan becomes the sympathetic one, a trickster who possesses something God does not have, the ability to understand human emotion. Because at some point, the trickster knows when to stop, but the deity does not. This book encourages questions. Such as, how can people worship a God who is so far apart from the human experience, that he does not understand their pain, pleasure, or love? God is the Alien. And Satan, though he may be evil, but through his countless centuries of human interaction, has in some small part of him, the knowing of a Human.

It was amusing to read through all the different versions of Earth, and see how many ways people span the spectrum from extreme fanaticism, to extreme liberalism, and how machines range from antique technology, to the advanced. It was also interesting to see how a man, Alex, from a very religious background, would react to such changes. Would he waver in his faith, or be true to it? And would Margrethe, the woman in this tale, be able to cope with the changes brought on by her relationship with this man?

They are both very different people. Alex was at times, a bigot, a chauvinist, and no doubt if he had had the opportunity, he would have denounced homosexuals and feminists as well. However, even he could not escape the changes these constant peeks into a different dimension, have wrought on his character.

The title of this book is truly apt, as it really is a fun ride through the different versions of Earth, and eventually, Heaven and Hell. In the midst of it all, Alex is a believable character truly epitomizing the behavior of his original worlds. Alex, with his supremely moralistic upbringing, sometimes borders on bigotry and chauvinism in his thinking. The only fact which saves him from being a revolting character, is his minds ability to adapt and keep his mouth closed. I guess what saves him from behaving abominably, was that no parts were written were he was ablt to meet homosexuals and feminists. If he did, I'd be interested to see what behavior he'd show. Both he and Margrethe were blessed with hardworking and pleasing characters which enabled them to survive in the many different worlds they dwelt in for a time. Alex would preach, but it was inoffensive. His, somewhat bumbling behavior endeared him to people. Margrethe was beautiful, as well as a good soul. As Lazarus Long would say, "she was innocent in her lechery."

The most delightful surprise in this book, was the Rapture. I admit, I was expecting something more along the lines of wormhole opening in space. I guess, I really should have clued in on all the hints dropped (especially the title). I was irritated at first, the way a little kid expects a basketball for X-mas, but he gets a football instead. Well, I guess I'll just have to admit to myself that I can't always predict the twists in a story. Sometimes, we just get things wrong.

In the aftermath of the Rapture, I was treated to a picture of Heaven and Hell, that I never expected to see. Heaven, is as place of strict rules, and a permanent hierarchy. It's revolt to any liberal thinker and burgeoning activist, because I'm sure, in this type of place, you can't instigate a revolt and change the status-quo. I, myself, believe that democracy is a myth, however, I do enjoy the illusion of it. However, the Heaven being shown, strips you of all your illusions. The rule in Heaven is RHIP, "Rank Hath It's Privileges." There is no Golden Rule. Instead, there's a three-level ranking system. Angels on top, Saints in the middle, and Humans at the bottom. Again, I doubt God would stand for a reenactment of the French Revolution in his stratospheric territory.

Hell, is as bureaucratic as any Earthian government. You increase or decrease in rank according to your wits, cunning, and manipulative talent. People compete for their place. Of course, you've got those who suffer, and those who enjoy. It's no different from Earth, except you in this place, you can actually see the demons when they talk to you.

This book reminds me a lot of Heinlein's Time Enough for Love, in the way that he incorporates several settings and plots into one story. I also like the irreverence he has for religion, although my own Catholic upbringing hardwired into my head, has made me uneasy at some parts in the story. It's social conditioning though, so I can't quite help it. In the end, again, the story of Job is paralleled. After the many trials and tribulations, Alex and Margrethe are given new beginnings, not to mention new memories. The lives they lost as they journeyed, were replace with new ones. Just as Job's daughters and sons were replaced with new children. However, of these two parallel stories, I prefer Heinlein's. Alex came out of the experience, dispelling his naivety and blind faith, and was reborn, a more discerning and open-minded man. Job, on the other hand, came out of his experience, minus twelve children.

(It doesn't matter to me that they were replaced. They're not goldfish you can flush down the toilet, then go to the pet store to buy new ones.)
Profile Image for Jim.
1,170 reviews70 followers
December 16, 2021
I've been a Heinlein fan since I was an elementary schoolkid, when I read some of Heinlein's earlier books (which could be considered Young Adult books now), such as "Citizen of the Galaxy." Somehow, in the past thirtysome years, I missed "Job..." (published in 1984, four years before the author's death). I finally picked up an old battered paperback copy of it and got into it. And it was better than I expected--a lot of fun and, even, as it said in a blurb, "thought-provoking."
It's the story of the Reverend Alex Hergensheimer from Kansas, who takes a trip to the Polynesian isles. Something odd happens to him after he does some firewalking--he finds himself in a completely different universe. He is now Alec Graham, a shady character having an affair with a cruise liner stewardess from Denmark named Margrethe. That's just the beginning of his adventures, as he travels through the universes, fortunately (for him) accompanied by the gorgeous "Margie." The big problem for Alex is that he is a fundamentalist Christian and Margie is a believer in the Nordic Old Religion, a follower of the god Odin. Alex has to hope that he can convert her to the worship of his three-in-one god before Judgement Day comes. Heaven would be no paradise for him without his Scandinavian blonde.
I give this one 3.5 stars, rounding it up to 4. While I enjoyed this one by Heinlein, I would recommend other books to someone who's never read any Heinleins--books such as "The Moon is A Harsh Mistress" or, a particular favorite of mine, "Tunnel in the Sky" or, of course, "Stranger in a Strange Land."
Profile Image for David (דוד) .
300 reviews142 followers
July 29, 2020
3.5 stars

Well, I have mixed feelings about this book. This is a religious parody. Some aspects of it I enjoyed very well, like the world-changing and its relevant questions that the protagonists ask. The next-to-end eighty pages were most interesting, imagining the Heaven and Hell. So hilarious this part!! However otherwise, it was quite a bit boring many times. It was hard for me every time to pick up the book to continue where I had paused. But after a few pages, things used to become interesting if one gets engrossed. Couldn't go on for too long though. I am glad the book was the size as it was. And thank goodness for that Heaven/Hell section. That part kept me going, or else I was almost on the verge of abandoning the book at 60%.
Profile Image for Irena Pasvinter.
300 reviews59 followers
December 22, 2021
I've never heard about this particular book by Robert A. Heinlein before. I know about Robert A. Heinlein, of course, and I have some of his other books, although I can't remember actually reading any of them.

So why "Job"? That's a bit of a story, actually.

It so happens that I wrote a novel in the genre of contemporary fiction with elements of speculative fiction/magic realism where the main character is a middle-aged woman who accidentally finds herself in a chain of parallel worlds. I'm still toying with an idea to find a traditional publisher for it, even though this seems less and less likely for this particular novel. (A note to self: no more parallel worlds -- make it a mystery next time, then you might at least have a chance;) ).

Anyway, a dozen of my friends, aquaintances, fellow writers and goodreads friends read it so far, (as an ebook), and some were good enough to share with me their sincere opinion. I asked some of them if the book reminded them of other books they read (literary agents expect to see the so called comparative titles in query letters, and I myself could think only about two back then: Robert Sheckley's 'Dimensions of Miracles' and 'The Time Traveler's Wife' by Audrey Niffenegger), and an American friend said, "Well, the obvious one that comes to mind is of course 'Job' by Heinlein."

As this exchange was in writing, I thought "job" was synonymous to "work". When I finally got to reading the book, I discovered it's actually Job aka the guy from The Book of Job.

At first I couldn't help noticing some uncanny similarities with my book, which made me quite uneasy: after all, I had never even heard about Heinlein's "Job" as I was writing my novel. But I calmed down after a while, to some extent -- after all, if both books are written in the first person narration and both characters are faced with the same predicament of losing their native world and turning up in an alternative one, they are sometimes bound to have similar shocked reactions to their surroundings, even though these characters have very different personalities and backgrounds and their surroundings have nothing in common.

By the way, if by any chance you are curious about my novel, I will be glad to share an ebook version with you in exchange for your sincere feedback about your reading experience, whether you hated it, loved it, or couldn't finish it because life is too short to be wasted on books you don't enjoy.

Back to "Job". Why only three stars? Three stars is "I liked it". I can't say I loved it. My problem is I couldn't relate to the main character, and as I didn't really care for him, I wasn't really excited about his adventures.

Profile Image for Zachary.
539 reviews10 followers
July 24, 2008
Heinlein's take on the biblical story of Job is a little less biblically based and a lot more fantastically oriented. That said, it is quite an interesting story, with a double share of twists and turns, and throughout it all you're rather unsure exactly where Heinlein is going.

The more religious minded might be rather offended at Heinlein's theological inversion of good and bad. I think this would be a tragedy, because the wide range of religions interwoven here it seems quite obvious this is not his version of the way things might be, but just a very creative exploration of "what if...?" What if you were just an unlucky pawn in a game between two really powerful players? What if they turned out to not be the most powerful? What if they were themselves not to high on the cosmic food chain? Where would that put you?

Heinlein has never been lacking the creativity department, and in places I think he pretty much let it run wild in this book. All said, the theology is blatantly non-scriptural, and in places, anti-christian. It is quite an interesting read, just don't pick it up with the wrong expectations of what you're getting into.
Profile Image for Timothy.
162 reviews12 followers
April 2, 2012
The key to understanding this book lies in the subtitle, "A Comedy of Justice." It exactly mirrors the subtitle of James Branch Cabell's breakthrough best seller, "Jurgen." And the plot is similar. Dig deeper, and you will discover that Cabell was Heinlein's favorite author, and that all of Heinlein's later works, from "Stranger in a Strange Land" onward, were attempts to mimic Cabell"s 18-volume "Biography of the Life of Manuel," of which "Jurgen: A Comedy of Justice" was not the best, merely the best-known.

So how did Heinlein do? Well, Cabell repeatedly insisted that he wrote only for his own pleasure. Heinlein, in these later books, seemed to be indulging in a similar private obsession. If that is the case, he wouldn't have cared much what we think.

That being said, "Jurgen" is a far, far better book than "Job: A Comedy of Justice." Cabellian irony fit his mythic cosmos-building and droll story constructs. Heinlein may have aimed for irony, but his personal philosophy rubbed against the grain of that emprise. He was, in the end, a pretty straight-forward guy, if a nudist and all-around crank. This book is one of those very odd failures that may haunt unwary readers for reasons hard to grasp. The haunting, I think, is due entirely to the strange and unlikely presence of the shade of James Branch Cabell.
Profile Image for Patty.
165 reviews18 followers
June 27, 2007
I really tried to like this book, but I just didn't get it. The characters were flat and the scenarios they found themselves in seemed so episodic and inconsequential that, by about halfway through the book, I grew bored and apathetic. It was recommended to me by someone whose taste I admire, but the book wasn't for me.
Profile Image for Helio.
453 reviews67 followers
October 28, 2022
it was an interesting premise with Alex, the protaganist, being shifted to different realities. It started with two; neither of which was ours; so there were at least three. Then the changes became rapid and the novelty wore off. There were some side bars like Alex being on the wrong side of feminism and some of the interactions/dialogues went on too long. I was vacillating between rating it a three or four and decided if an explanation was given for the shifting realty i'd bestow four stars; if not then three. Not sure it was a satisfactory explanation but it was part and parcel of the spoof on religion.
Profile Image for Olethros.
2,631 reviews434 followers
October 10, 2014
-Con la excusa de las realidades paralelas, crítica de muchas cosas.-

Género. Ciencia-Ficción (con mucho de Narrativa Fantástica).

Lo que nos cuenta. Durante una excursión en crucero por la Polinesia, Alexander Hergensheimer, predicador protestante ordenado en los Hermanos del Apocalipsis de la Iglesia Cristiana de la Única Verdad, se desmaya mientras atraviesa con los pies descalzos una zona de fuego tal y como hacen los indígenas locales. Cuando se recupera, descubrirá que ahora se llama Alec Graham y que el mundo en el que está no es exactamente igual que el que conocía ni por su historia ni por sus adelantos tecnológicos. Pero una serie de acontecimientos catastróficos hacen que, acompañado de una mujer llamada Margrethe, vaya conociendo otras realidades con diferentes peculiaridades mientras empieza a sentir que fuerzas más allá de su control, divinas para ser exactos, están detrás de todo y que es posible que el Fin de los Días esté cerca.

¿Quiere saber más de este libro, sin spoilers? Visite:

Profile Image for Melody.
2,644 reviews270 followers
April 1, 2011
I'd forgotten how thoroughly unlikeable the protagonist of this book is. Ick. I also had a hard time understanding what caused him to fall in love with Marga, and even more, WTF did Marga see in him?

It's an interesting meditation on religious fundamentalism, but ultimately it strikes me as a little too facile. It was written near the end of Heinlein's career and it feels a little as if it were done by rote. There are several recycled bits from earlier works, including the obligatory reference to consensual parent/child sex. The dialogue is a bit stiff- RAH was very stingy with his contractions, and I think that makes for awkward sounding conversations.

The Farnsworth family were far and away my favorite characters. I liked the steampunky elements of the first several chapters. In the end, though, I couldn't get past my distaste for Alex. This one's not going back on the shelf. 2.5 stars.
Profile Image for Sarah Evergreen.
14 reviews2 followers
December 30, 2011
This book is like distilled Heinlein. Women who are generally intelligent sex objects and the men who love them, slightly awkward but nonetheless charming dialogue, and a healthy smattering of really thought provoking lines.

Not a spoiler: "On reflection I realized that I was in exactly the same predicament as every other human being alive. We don't know who we are, or where we came from, or why we are here. My dilemma was merely fresher, not different.
"One thing (possibly the only thing) I learned in seminary was to face calmly the ancient mystery of life, untroubled by my inability to solve it. Honest priests and preachers are denied the comforts of religion; instead they must live with the austere rewards of philosophy."

This is why I love Heinlein. I have to admit, though, this book feels kind of dated.
Profile Image for Monica.
774 reviews
March 20, 2021
Para los seguidores y lectores acérrimos del decano, es sabido que su última etapa fue la más floja, con algunas redundancias del ABC Heinleniano, unos pastiches de conceptos interesantes, pero algo vagos en su desarrollo, o más bien desequilibrados, y excesos en ciertos aspectos. Job, no es una excepción a lo mencionado. Aunque, por otro lado, resulta una lectura divertida, ágil, con encanto y un argumento con gancho; como todo lo del maestro.
Aquí nuestro particular héroe, mundano e imperfecto, es Graham, que se encuentra de viaje en la Polinesia para conocer los rituales del lugar. Al regresar a su camarote, se alude a él como Alex Hergensheir, por lo cual se verá en la obligación de averiguar qué está sucediendo a su alrededor…ya que el mundo que él conocía, no es el mismo que ahora se le presenta ante sus ojos. Su ‘camarera’ personal: Margrethe (la partener de la obra), se afanará a ayudarle, tras rendirse a sus pies, y ambos vivirán entre varios mundos, intentando sacar en claro la situación; ya no del porqué del cambio de identidad del protagonista; sino del frecuente desplome de realidades y conexión con otras...mucho más serio de lo que acontece.

El transfondo de la obra toca el paralelismo y solapación dimensional (ciencia ficción), con la importancia de la teología en ello (de ahí su nombre: Job. De hecho, en cada capítulo, hay previo un pasaje de la biblia que casa con este presente), temática recurrente en sus últimas obras. A raíz de su premisa argumental y planteamiento- nudo, Heinlein introduce al lector en un sin parar de situaciones y aventuras de carretera de ambos protagonistas, en búsqueda de la verdad y la fuente de la solución. Con ello, el escritor hace gala de su crítica exhaustiva en varios campos, como: el esclavismo moderno (cuando crean una deuda con su país rescatador, que los envía a trabajar para terceros), el racismo a la inversa (en el primer trabajo de los personajes principales en Méjico), el opaco y doble lenguaje social ( con una acusada tendencia a las reflexiones sexuales y sus protocolos, si bien, con acierto respecto a la fina línea de los protocolos, pero cierta desmesura a la calentura mental), la privaciones Americanas respecto al nudismo y su naturaleza ( uno de su tema favoritos, incluso en su época dorada : “Amo de títeres” o “ Puerta al verano” , por ejemplo), la falta de libertad y censura publica, hacia la burocracia y los derechos constitucionales para refugiados, entre otros, así como reflexiona acerca de un nuevo Armagedón y la razón de éste, cuadrándola con la realidad y las escrituras sagradas.

Pese a que su desarrollo es equilibrado, al seguir una línea marcada que no decrece en ritmo ni tensión, la novela se torna en ocasiones repetitiva y por ello, redundante. Además, hay temas que se antojan “metidos con calzador”, como en un breve pasaje en el cual conocen a una familia, y de ahí salen tríos y rituales lujuriosos, eso sí, sin mucho detalle al respecto.
Por otra parte, contiene mensajes muy válidos y citas geniales…destellos, los seguía conservando:
“no sabemos quiénes somos, ni de dónde venimos, ni porqué estamos aquí. Mi dilema, simplemente, era más reciente, no distinto”
” Ed sostenía que ningún hombre puede practicar la moderación hasta que no ha dado pleno curso a la inmoderación…de otro modo, cuando la tentación se abra camino, no sabrá cómo manejarla!

Asi pues, “Job” es un sin parar de idas y venidas por trabajos de hosteleria medio esclavistas, contiendas sexuales, divagaciones filosóficas a medios gas y comidas a tuti plen. Un poco como una road movie, con su trasfondo científico-teológico apocalíptico, algo disparatada, excesiva en más de una ocasión, pero distraída y efectiva como lectura; cosa que perduraba en el maestro hasta en su época más débil literariamente hablando. Siendo no recomendable para principiantes del decano, pero si para sus estudiosos, conserva la esencia Heinleiniana, la de las ciencias sociales y la solución de su entramado con el desarrollo:
"Nada termina nunca, nada es perfecto nunca, pero la raza de los hombres recibe una y otra vez una nueva oportunidad de hacerlo mejor que en la anterior ocasión. Una y otra vez, sin final”
Profile Image for Michele Brenton.
Author 16 books65 followers
November 18, 2011
Yet another of my perennial favourites. I regularly pick this one up and re-read it.
Each time I find something new to enjoy.
One of the things I'm enjoying this time is the character of Margarethe as I have got to know some people of her nationality and now the dialogue involving her has suddenly become more amusing.

This is a work that leads to a great deal of pondering on the part of the reader as Heinlein's main character Alex Hergensheimer is a philosopher extraordinaire and a Christian minister who finds himself head over heels in love with a person who worships the Norse gods and together they are plunged into what seem to be parallel universes with no warning time and time again.

Hardline Christians may take umbrage with this book - but people with open minds and a sense of humour will enjoy the twists and turns. For folk like me who have had an interesting path through a life that sometimes feels as though somebody up there is having a joke at our expense - this book can be a crumb of comfort if viewed from the right angle.

Profile Image for Kevin Catarino.
26 reviews
December 19, 2008
This book is awful. I never liked Heinlein, but I found this on Junk Day and decided to give it a try. My god, does it suck. The prose is around a third-grade level and the plot couldn't be any less interesting. The thing that totally ruined it for me was that, if he's supposed to be Job, why is he given the girl of his dreams to accompany him on his interdimensional jaunts? And if washing dishes in Mexico is your idea of Hell, you are an extremely sheltered human being. I didn't even finish this shitheap, and I blame it for my lapse in reading over the past few weeks. It was my nightstand book, and instead of read it, I opted for insomnia. That's how bad this is.
Profile Image for Mohammed Algarawi.
495 reviews201 followers
May 16, 2017
A satirical examination of religion in general, and Christianity in specific, through the eyes of a Christian political activist who gets pulled out and thrown into different realities and parallel universes.

Absolutely witty and hilarious.

Makes you ponder and laugh out loud at the same time.

Note: this book was recommended by the video games spiritual father and legend Nolan Bushnell. I met him in a conference and we hit it off. Meeting him again in a month or so and can't wait to discuss the book with him.
Profile Image for Patrick Peterson.
473 reviews202 followers
September 4, 2020
2020-09-03 I read this about 25-30 years ago and remember really liking it.
Just as the book of Job in the Bible can really make one think about what is just and is it worth it to believe in god, this book posed similar questions.

I don't remember too many details, but perhaps some time I will read it again, since I have such a favorable opinion about it after all these years.
Profile Image for Curtis Seven.
98 reviews2 followers
June 13, 2010
I really don't read a lot of fiction but I first read this book as a young man when I was reading all of Heinlein's work. As I recall this was around the time the man died so that probably will date me a bit for some of you.

In his later books he seemed to be sticking with more of a formula than in the early books and this book seemed to kick off his alternate universe and history section. I think it was also probably one of his best works overall but I'll get into that.

It follows the adventures of a man (a preacher as I recall) who suddenly finds the world is changing and he is shifting through variations on the reality he had grown up in. He finds himself in a world where Zeppelins are the primary air transport not jetliners, and in another he finds himself in Hell and it's whole lot like Arizona with the Devil a retired businessman. I think it's the irreverent side of the book that always liked and why i actually read it twice which is rare for me.

For instance without giving too much away there is a scene where two demons who are tasked with catching sinners as they are cast out of Heaven with what amounts to large butterfly nets are in an argument of sorts. One of them says basically "well if that's true then I'll be a flying pink ape" or words that effect and as they are between Heaven and Hell God hears this and having a bit of a sense of humor (as the whole book suggests) there is a sudden flash of lightening from on high accompanied with the smell of burnt pink monkey fur. God has struck the demon with a lightening bolt and turned him from a fearsome demon bat like wings into a little pink monkey with feathery wings. As I recall this occurs just as Job plummets pass on his way to Arizona but the pink monkey is pissed at his buddy who is laughing at him and they forget to catch him in the net.

Generally speaking I always liked Mr. Heinlein's earlier works but like any literary study you should read them all to get a picture of the guy over the course of his life. He lived to be around 90 as I recall and some of the later works were a bit formulaic but I always thought this one stood out along with many of his best early titles. In no small part because it was in fact pretty funny with the hero apt to show up in unfortunate spots completely nude as he shifts through universes but also because in some sense it also speaks to a deeper meaning.

He takes the title from the biblical book of Job which is about a contest between God and the Devil to see if the later can tempt a righteous man to renounce the former. That's essentially the premise here as well but in Heinlein's work he throws in a decidedly modern cast to the story. As bad as things get there is usually a silver lining or at least a punchline to be had.

Along with Stranger In A Strange Land I recommend this title for the casual reader looking for a new author who has not read any of his works. I would suspect that Stranger In A Strange Land is easier to find among the used paperbacks than this one but if you find you like Heinlein I'd recommend you keep an eye out and give it a read if you can.
Profile Image for Jude Malta.
8 reviews
July 13, 2010
The first 200 pages were tedious to read as Heinlen's throws the main character and his mistress into an adventure through parallel universes. Throughout these adventures, religion is continually addressed which later surprisingly serves a purpose to the story. It's somewhat refreshing, yet tiresome, to see Heinlen's female roles reappear in Margrathe and Katie Farnsworth. Heinlen obviously has a clear view of women; he favors women and desires his women to have strong sex appeal, be intelligent, be caring, be independent and strong, have patience, and not have a jealous bone in their bodies and still bow down to the male dominant figure of his books. He clearly shows his disapproval of "nagging" women by Alex/Alec's close-minded legally wedded wife of Abigail. Surprisingly, I inferred a possible racially prejudiced viewpoint in this book by his references to the "crooked" Mexicans and "blackamoors" serving as subservient roles in the kitchen. I will admit these references were slight and not pronounced.

After the "Rapture", the story is finally captivating. Alexander/Alec travels to Heaven, Hell, and back literally for the woman he loves, Margrathe.

Heinlen creatively portrays heaven as a bureaucratic caste system of angels, saints and "creatures" which I found refreshing/unique/hilarious. He clearly shows this R.H.I.P. (Rank Hath Its Privileges) by setting a scene on a bus with the Angels up front, saints in the middle, and "creatures" in the rear; similar to the pre-Civil Rights era. Heinlen adds humor to Saint Peter by having him comfort our protagonist by saying "I could talk with any One of the Trinity [Father, Son and Holy Ghost:].. but reminded me that, in consulting the Holy Ghost we had consulted all of Them." Obviously Alexander wasn't getting any answers from this bureaucratic system.

After a literal fall from Grace, Alex finds himself in Hell in search for Margrathe. Might I add that Heinlen's view of Hell has BEER and alcohol!! Awesome! And hilariously enough, it is run by a City Manager. "Hell isn't very organized. It's an anarchy except for a touch of absolute monarchy on some points." (Readers: I would like to add that I worked in a municipal government for 5 years, and I compared it to Hell most of the time. Apparently, I wasn't too far off the marker.) Satan is a Texan, that has Wagner-like compositions as his own background music (which I have always disliked, so it's quite appropriate).

I found the book witty towards the end. If only the first half of the book was as interesting and different as the latter part.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Gridcube.
133 reviews4 followers
February 2, 2016
So. This book.

It was probably one of the greatest adventures i've read on a long long while. Following Alexander "Graham" "alec" Gergermester through all the tribulations, dimentional jumping and pure anarchy of reality he was placed, how he learns to become more than a simple follower of the "word of god" how he tries to save everyone he meets to His grace, even lucifer himself, though he didnt knew at the moment, how he is faced with reality, how he learns to respect his "wife", the women who chooses to be with him, but also chooses to be herself, much to his raising conflict, how she respects him but still has her own beliefs and none of his prude attitudes toward sex or "modesty", well... Alexander is sent to a travel around realities where he becomes more and more human, but still has love for others first in his heart, and tries to save them all when he can.

It felt like i went with him for the hundreds and hundreds of years that it took for him to grow, you feel the weight of the time and still is an easy read, you are shown a picture of heaven and a picture of hell, and of what lies beyond, and its extremelly interesting.

its funny in many places how Alexander and Marga find themselfs having worked their backs off to just end in a different reality, where all the money they carry means nothing, its funny to pretend for a moment and see what the world would be if no one invented electricity, or aviation, or oil motors, or if this all was invented a few decades before we know it. Its a really fun set of universes, and its a really fun book
Profile Image for Martin Doychinov.
463 reviews28 followers
April 16, 2019
Доста не-Хайнлайновски сюжет...
В началната част има повечко от нужното размишления на главния герой, а той дори не е симпатичен (поне в първата половина на книгата)...
Все пак, хардкор-религиозността му води и до подобни забавни описания на възгледите му:
"Аз съм привърженик на научния метод. Какъвто и проблем да се разисква, верният отговор винаги е един: погледнете в Библията."
Средната част на романа става повторяема и скучновата, но последната третина оправя положението, заедно с еволюирането на главният герой! 😆
Корицата е атрактивна, но за сметка на това - тотално несвързана с произведението.
Развръзката вдигна тройката до четворка.
Би скандаризирала ревностния християнин!
П.П. Свети Петър обича Кока Кола, а Луцифер е пичага! 😄
Profile Image for Neil.
1,155 reviews10 followers
April 10, 2015
This book is apparently an attempt by Heinlein to write a satire. He apparently modeled the gist of it after the Book of Job in the Bible [where God and Satan make a ‘wager’ of sorts about whether or not Job would curse God if everything was taken away from him]. It strongly reminded me of ‘the mark of the beast,’ except that this book was much ‘cleaner’ than ‘the mark.’ I can see how this would fit into his ‘world as myth’ motif that he enjoyed so much later in life. This was one of the last books that Heinlein wrote before he passed away; it is definitely written in the later stages of his life.

I guess it had a decent flow to it. It is kind of funny, but for as much stuff that ‘happened’ in the book it sure seemed like not a lot happened. Reality was constantly changing around Alex and Margrethe; every couple of chapters they would find that the world around them had changed. Perhaps it was because of the constant reality changes, but the book seemed to be long and boring just before it reached the last 1/4th [or so] of the book. For instance, at one point, the reality changes were described in two-to-three paragraphs like a bizarre stream-lined cliff notes version. I did not really care about Alex or Margrethe as characters in this story; in fact, I did not really care about any of the characters.

This was my third reading of the book. I am on a ‘Heinlein kick’ right now; unfortunately, most of what I have read has been his drivel-filled garbage from the ‘unbound’ period of his life. This, in my opinion, was one of the better books written during that period [and that truly is not saying much]. The first time I read this book was on the recommendation of a friend. We attended a small private school, and I saw the world in terms of ‘black and white’; there was very little gray area in my opinions. So I hated this book; I saw very little, if any, humor in it. I was easily offended by it [especially the blasphemous last third of the book]. I was shocked a bolt from the blue did not strike me dead by the time I had finished it. Hahahah Yeah, it had me quaking in my boots with indignant anger! The second time I read it was in early college [a few years later]. I read it on a whim, to see if it was as bad as I remembered. It was. So now it has been over twenty years since I last read it. This third time around, I actually ‘enjoyed’ it more than the previous two times. Regardless of the extent to which I ‘enjoyed’ it this time, the blasphemous ending was still a bit much for me. I realize it is an attempted satire, but it was still blasphemous.

The good: did it have anything good in it? Hmmmmmmmm……some, yes. I did enjoy the changing-reality. Regardless of my views of Heinlein’s later books, the man was a genius in building new worlds as well as parallel worlds for his characters to travel through. He did a nice job with his building of multiple worlds in this novel. Perhaps it is because I am married now, but I actually got a large chunk of the humor that went over my head in high school and early college.

Two favorite lines: the first was when Alex was demanding Saint Peter the Apostle to tell him [Alex] how to go to Hell. Just the way it was phrased in the book had me in stitches; I am not sure why. The other was the ‘old joke’ about the secretary staying late ‘in case something came up in the night.’ Yeah, I never caught that one before now. It was pretty funny.

I also appreciated how it did not have the excessive amount of bitter diatribes and voluminous garbage-laden writings spewing forth about how horrible certain values are and how far man has fallen [in Heinlein’s arrogant opinion] while he brags about his own created Utopia where he can indulge in any decadent, sinful, wicked, horrific, aberrant, abominable, unsatisfying sexual experience with which he can devise. There are a couple of times when he begins to head into familiar territory of didactic crap, but he manages to reel it in so that it is not so overwhelmingly horrific. I also appreciated how ‘clean’ this novel was in how Alex’s and Margrethe’s relationship was presented; Heinlein did not seem to feel the need to pour in his usual filth-ladened fantasies about pederasty, rape, adultery, promiscuity, incest, bigamy, polygamy, fornication, or whatever other act of perverted sex he could devise.

The bad? Well, he did have to make his allusions to pederasty, pedophilia, and incest, all of which was completely unnecessary. He does have Alex rationalizing his adultery with Margrethe. The characters all seemed flat and lacking any kind of substance. It was almost like he was just going through the numbers to crank out a book due to contractual obligations. The blasphemy at the end was a bit much; I am not jaded enough to be able to enjoy any of that. I did not care for the twisting of Scripture to fit whatever mold in which Heinlein was trying to cast the story. Alex waking up with a female demon in his bed was a bit much [especially as he continually tried to remind himself how much he loved Margrethe while being unfaithful to her during his time in Hell]. It seemed slow, and long, and nothing really seemed to matter in terms of the story. Oh, I am sure what they did did matter in the end [as the book indicates], but it was so doggone BORING!

I realize it was a satire, so some of the blasphemy and Scripture-twisting probably goes with the territory. I just felt like Heinlein crossed some lines he did not need to cross in the book. He does make some interesting arguments, I guess, in the book. Interesting might be too generous; he was proposing answers to arguments that really did not mean a hill of beans to anybody.

The number of demons’ names who lived in Alex’s community at the end of the book was a bit much, too. I did not care for it. I felt he could have used other names; however, he did have some creative spellings to semantically identify the names of the demons he was using.

I did find it interesting that Alex was able to acknowledge that while God always promises to answer our prayers, He does not promise to always give us the answer that we want. So true, and so easily forgotten by so many people.

I swear, but I am positive I read his description on how teenagers should be kept [fed through bung holes until the parents decided to either free them or kill them] in one or two other stories previously written. It was very familiar to me!

I thought Alex’s stating that Margrethe was ‘good’ was pretty funny [so perhaps it was meant as satire?] considering she was knowingly engaged in illicit sexual liaisons with Alec Graham and she continued in this behavior after Alexander took Alec’s place. She knew he was married yet she continued to have sex with him. So perhaps that was meant to be a part of the satire – how he knew he was committing adultery, so he rationalized it away by deciding to accept bigamy/polygamy as many of the Patriarchs were also bigamists/polygamists.

I could not help but wonder if Rick Riordan modeled his Pluto after Heinlein’s Lucifer. Both characters initially appear as scary demonic beings; this is only one part of their appearance. They also appear as normal, everyday-humans if they so desire. Reading Heinlein’s description of Lucifer when he was in his ‘demonic’ mode really made me think of that scene in ‘the lightning thief’ where Pluto invades Camp Half-Blood and issues his challenge to Percy.

He does a horrifically great job of describing a Heaven in which nobody would want to live. It is almost funny how lousy Heaven would be if it were as described by Heinlein. Angels are the top dog, followed by saints as the ‘middle class’, and everybody else being the lowest of the three castes. I think Heinlein was going for some humor while describing Alex’s time in Heaven, but it fell short of what I think he may have intended. I did chuckle over the ‘unofficial’ motto of Heaven: Rank Hath Its Privileges. So he has introduced racism in Heaven! That is going to stink for some people!

So, yeah, the end was a bit of a shock the first time I read it and was the primary reason I was expecting a bolt from the blue. I could not figure out if Heinlein was trying to make some kind of bizarre statement in this, or if he was just thumbing his nose at Christians in general.

Kinda funny how much I ‘wrote’ for a book I did not care much for. I have to admit, I think I enjoyed it the most this time around, in spite of the blasphemy and what not.

Profile Image for Richard Kelly.
Author 13 books19 followers
December 23, 2015
I don't know why it took me so long to give Robert Heinlein a try, but he was an amazing writer. This book is almost as much a masterpiece as was Stranger in a Strange Land, but it is not nearly as appealing to as many people.

As a pure work of literary merit this book is put together as well as anything else in the English language. I did not find myself feeling that he repeated painful sentence structures. I did not notice words being used that were far above the level of others around them. I did not see any issue with the dialogue or description. It is VERY WELL written.

The plot is outrageous and incredibly interesting. It seemed as though I was guessing as to what was really happening the entire time. I had theory after theory to match the main character's theories at the same time. Even though I did not know where the story was going, I found myself fully enthralled the entire time.

I personally loved this book, but I feel many will not. The biggest issue is this is a very religious book. The last quarter or so of the book is so drenched in theology that if you have not read the Bible or at least spent years attending Bible study, I doubt you will get the full effect of many of the conversations. But, you need to be aware that on top of the very strong theology feel there is a lot of what many Christians would feel is outright blasphemy. For anyone who is willing to take the Bible and challenge the popular view of the stories and characters within will do fine with this book. But, if you are someone who is easily offended when people challenge your religious beliefs, then this book is not for you!
Profile Image for Amanda.
1,497 reviews65 followers
March 2, 2012
In someways I think my journey to this book will always outlast the book itself.

When I was seventeen I told my boss I would read this book, that had been so influential to his young catholic school life. It was one of only two gallon sized bags worth of objects prized from my worst car wreck in my early twenties. It has been the lasting joke of a decade. Whether I had finally read it.

And this late winter, in the year I will turn 29, he sent me a second copy. It is pristine, and not as tender warming as the one that slowly is trying to die, but its very much still in this house with me. (And both copies likely find it queer, I read it on my Kindle instead of through either of them.)

I am not sure I liked this novel. It is slow and plodding, and it does not do details and relationships the way my favorite books do. But it was quite compelling, and I was involved with the point of the novel by about the one-third mark.

I can see very much why it changed his life when it did, though at 29, I can see why it seems for granted to me, with all my life has had in it. I'm not sure I'd rec it to others, but I'm certain I would still love to talk about it with people. And thus I will leave you the quote that will stay with me forever, too:

"Is this Texas, then, or Hell?"

"Well. That's all really a matter of opinion."
143 reviews
December 15, 2011
Usually classified as sci-fi due to the frequent moves from one alternate world to another. But is a terribly sharp satire on the fundamentalist religionists. Main character Alec is a preacher/fundraiser for a fundamentalist church called the Churches United for Decency (C.U.D.). Along the way his moral standards are tried mightily by earths where scanty clothing is the norm, not to mention the fact that his alter ego is carrying on an affair with his lovely female steward. Any money he accumulates toward traveling home to Kansas is rendered unusable by the frequent changes to another reality. Oh, poor Job/Alec. Will he ever get home?
The answer is not before he is Raptured, yes Raptured to a Heaven where angels lord it over the common peons/humans. Sure, you're issued a robe and a halo (harp optional) but you are NOT on the same level as Angels, nosirree, back of the bus, buddy.
Oh well, I could go on, but I just want to say that I thought the best part came from the time he is Raptured thru his tour of heaven -- and you have to read about 3/4 of the book to get there. But hang in there. Four stars.
Profile Image for Emily.
804 reviews118 followers
June 14, 2011
A modern-day (well, set in 1994, written in 1984) retelling of the story of Job from the Biblical Old Testament, with quite the sci-fi twist. Alexander Hergensheimer is a pious church fundraiser who is experiencing something very weird. He participated in a native fire walking during a cruise ship vacation and regains consciousness in a world not his own. It looks very much like Earth, but everything is different: culture, values, technology, even his name! He falls for his stewardess and thereafter together they are flipped into world after world. Why is this happening to him? Who is doing it? The answers to those questions are highly entertaining and thought-provoking.
Although I didn't care for Alec's constant preaching and proselytizing, I understand the necessity of it as regards to the plot and was able to deal with it better after I finished than while I was reading it. I very much enjoy Heinlein's take on religion, and wonder if this is the budding of his World as Myth theories.
Profile Image for Jenn Brink.
Author 4 books76 followers
September 26, 2014
This is not the first time I've read this book, not even the second. Each time I read it, I get something else out of it. I hadn't read it in years, so I picked it up for another round.

This time, I found myself looking it as both author and reader. Once again, I was reminded at how slow the beginning was. As an author, I can see areas that could have been cut to make a smoother introduction. The book continues on with a few more extraneous areas, familiar concepts, and surprise twists, until the end where it seems almost as if Heinlein himself had become fatigued with the plot. Then, BAM, switch hit!

Here I was reminded of Heinlein's literary genius. He never disappoints. By the last page, I started thinking of a few more of his treasures that I need to reintroduce myself to. Nobody spins a yarn like Heinlein.

Jenn Brink
Author of the Jessica Hart series
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