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The Number of the Beast (The World As Myth #2)

3.61  ·  Rating Details ·  10,237 Ratings  ·  326 Reviews
When two male and two female supremely sensual, unspeakably cerebral humans find themselves under attack from aliens who want their awesome quantum breakthrough, they take to the skies -- and zoom into the cosmos on a rocket roller coaster ride of adventure and danger, ecstasy and peril.

From the Paperback edition.
Paperback, 511 pages
Published September 12th 1986 by Ballantine Books (first published July 12th 1980)
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Dec 07, 2013 Lyn rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A fan of Robert A. Heinlein’s earlier works, generally classified as his “juveniles” published from 1947 until the late 50s, may be confused and disappointed by his 1980 novel Number of the Beast.

Also, those familiar with and inspired by his middle period, roughly late 1950s until 1970, spanning the publications of The Door Into Summer in 1957 until I Will Fear No Evil in 1970 (the period that I regard as his zenith) may likely be nonplussed by what is going on in this work published when the g
Kat  Hooper
Jun 19, 2012 Kat Hooper rated it did not like it
Shelves: audiobook
Originally posted at Fantasy Literature.

When I was a kid I loved some of Robert A. Heinlein’s “Juveniles” — science fiction stories for children and teens. Red Planet was one of my favorites and I must have read it at least five times. These novels are part of the reason I kept reading science fiction — they left such an impression on my young mind.

Despite this nostalgia, I haven’t read Heinlein in years. When Blackstone Audio recently started releasing some of his later novels on audio, I thoug
Jun 05, 2012 Wanda rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: Heinlein completists and/or insomniacs
Recommended to Wanda by: NPR list of classic science fiction & fantasy
A complete stinker of a novel. It meanders, it wanders, it stutters, it changes direction, it digresses. Heinlein rides all of his hobby horses. The original premise is okay, though not up to Heinlein at his best: a machine which can translate our explorers into other times and alternate universes. They discover that all the fictional worlds that they have explored in literature can be accessed through this device (and have a visit in Oz with Glinda as a result). Time traveling aliens seem to fe ...more
Nov 29, 2008 Manny rated it it was ok
Shelves: science-fiction
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 lin
Nov 06, 2007 Jorn rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: someone trying to get over Heinlein entirely
I've been a big fan of Heinlein for years. But with each successive Heinlein book I read these days, my enthusiasm for his writing wanes just a bit more. This book was so dismal that it actually negatively affected my feelings about other Heinlein books (specifically Time Enough For Love).

In a nutshell, this is Heinlein at his most masturbatory. Towards the end of his career, he set out to tie together not only his own quite broad body of work but also the entire scope of human fiction, sending
Dec 24, 2007 Owen rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Well-read nerds
This book is to science fiction literature as Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back is to cinema: a big, fat, sloppy, self-indulgent love letter to everything its creator holds dear. The first time I read it I hated it, but a few years later I got into an argument about it with someone at a party and decided to give it another try just so I could feel good about being right. Um, it's... yeah, it's kind of great. The more of the references you get, the better it is, so just re-read it every few years un ...more
Bob R Bogle
Apr 16, 2012 Bob R Bogle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: heinlein

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 ob
Mike Moore
Aug 26, 2011 Mike Moore rated it did not like it
I read this book a long time ago, but it stayed with me... oh how it stayed with me. Go ahead and read some of the other one star reviews of this book that are here on goodreads. I'll wait.


So, having read them, you might want to ask me "Come on Mike, is this book really that bad?" I'm glad you asked, because it is. It really and truly is. This book is bad in the way that only a master like Heinlein could achieve. Other bad books can only dream of being as bad as this. The hypothetical collect
Apr 19, 2011 Jon rated it did not like it
Teats: A Hate Story

Exploring the super-multi-omniverse sounds like a simultaneously exhilarating and horrifying experience. I would imagine that, were I in the airborne equivalent of a Ford Focus with three of the people closest to me in this world (my brother having been murdered roundabout the same night I was nearly murdered, myself), I would be less concerned with things like maintaining command structure decorum. I also sincerely hope that I would not find vast expanses of breasts (sorry, t
Mar 26, 2012 Denis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: trade

Arguably one of Heinlein's finest and controversial.

Before forming an opinion on this novel, one must first be familiar with 'golden age' scifi pulps; particularly Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom Mars stories, E.E. doc Smith's Lensmen stories, the fiction of Asimov, Clarke, Poul Anderson, and the likes of Larry Niven, Pournell and Bova as well. Even the worlds of "OZ" is also featured. And naturally, most of Heinlein's earlier work. Only then will you appreciate the scope and wit of this novel.

Jun 30, 2011 Anita rated it really liked it
When I was in elementary school, I went through some boxes my uncle stored in our garage (I was a nosy kid), mostly stuff from his grad school years. Other than a ton of textbooks, I found his diary, some porn, and a bunch of science fiction books. To this day I credit my uncle for my love of sci fi. And porn. Just kidding. Sort of.

This book was in those boxes. I still have it, and it's totally falling apart. I've taped the cover back on a few times.

In elementary school, I could not get beyond t
Feb 24, 2011 Emily rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ga
Mar 21, 2012 Alan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Forgiving souls
Recommended to Alan by: Previous work
Fair warning: this is going to be a contrarian review. The Number of the Beast is roundly recognized to be one of legendary sf author Robert A. Heinlein's very worst novels, right down there with I Will Fear No Evil and his final living works, The Cat Who Walks Through Walls and To Sail Beyond the Sunset. This particular book was written, in fact, while Heinlein was suffering from a debilitating arterial condition that starved his brain of oxygen and caused him to sleep about 16 hours a day... n ...more
Nov 09, 2008 Peter rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Heinlein fans
Recommended to Peter by: nobody
Shelves: science-fiction
I feel very conflicted about this book. It's one of the ones that I've re-read every year or two; it's large, and once you start it it's very hard to put down. Heinlein, whatever his faults, was a storyteller - and a gripping one.

But his faults are largely on display in this book.

When I was a young teen, my brother and I used to torture each other by reading particularly ripe and painful passages out loud to each other. This book, and the "Notebooks of Lazarus Long" excerpts from Time Enough For
Feb 04, 2012 Larry rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I was looking forward to reading this and it started off quite pleasantly, I was enjoying the story, such as it was, but then it got dull, quickly, that is about a third of the way in, and its a 500+ page book.

Basically a scientist invents a dimension jumping machine cum time machine, based around an old Ford car, and he comes up with a theory of the number of universes based on the number 6 raised to the power of 6, 6 times - 6 6 6. A group is assembled, a kind of family group, off on their jol
May 11, 2012 Jean-marcel rated it did not like it
Heinlein gets such a bad rap these days, and I feel like I want to defend him and say that a lot of his stories are really not that bad and sometimes even really cool. I seem to remember enjoying some of the early stuff. "By his Bootstraps" is a terrific short story. Friday and Job were good books. This though? The characters are intolerable! Everythin'gs so smug and pontificating and self-congratulatory. The dialogues go on and on with their self-important posturing and weird internal gender po ...more
Sep 10, 2007 Melody rated it did not like it
You can't go home again.

I read this book a million times when it was new. When I was newish. And, oh, how I loved it. I thought the dialogue scintillating, the ideas deliciously outré, the sex delightfully transgressive, the politics brilliant. I tried to wrap my head around who I was then to think those things about this tired, clichéd, and worst of all- boring- story of some breasts and the brilliant women attached to them. I'm sorry I tried, I'd much rather have had the warm fuzzy memories.
Aug 26, 2008 Sara rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: Someone who hasn't read Heinlein yet
Shelves: didntfinish
After exhaustive research, I have determined that all Heinlein books are mostly about: time and/or space travel, utopian familial structures, casual nudity, physics, incest, human nature, and what is intended to be witty banter. That sounds interesting, and it was the first 2 or 3 times. At this point though, I feel like I'm reading the same book over and over. Which is why I made it maybe 50 pages into this and called it quits.
Jul 13, 2012 Allyson rated it it was amazing
My best friend (at the time) gave me this book in tenth grade and said, "Here, read this." It was the first Heinlein novel I read; I had never heard of the author before. It was a great story and I was hooked from the first words, although I remember being a bit confused toward the end when some of Heinlein's characters from other books appeared. Since two of the main characters were named for characters in the Edgar Rice Burroughs Mars novels, reading this book led me to investigate those as we ...more
Chad Bearden
Feb 19, 2011 Chad Bearden rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi-fantasy
What a weird book. And by 'weird', I don't mean that tangible sci-fi brilliance that gets under your skin and opens your mind to all the incredible possibilities of human endeavors. I mean, it's weird that Heinlein would think it a coherent idea to write this book at all, and even weirder still that a publisher would fund its release. Its content is a convoluted mishmash of Heinlein's worst excesses, including endless chummy banter that probably makes up 60-70% of the page count, characters from ...more
May 31, 2015 Daniel rated it did not like it
This is the worst book I have ever read.

On the surface, it's just trashy disposable science fiction. But it possesses a solipsistic, asphyxiating quality that I found disturbing.

In fact, the text is so solipsistic that I wonder why it was ever written. I don't think it was intended to be read by other sentient beings besides the author; it is more a "memo to myself" filled with fantasies both vapid and lurid, that somehow got printed in a sad publishing accident.

It reminds me of Mark Twain's "T
-Lo más pulp, a mi modo de ver, que ofreció el autor en toda su carrera.-

Género. Ciencia-Ficción.

Lo que nos cuenta. Zebadiah J. Carter acaba en brazos de una joven y fascinante muchacha conocida como Deety cuando esta le confunde con su primo, cuya especialidad universitaria es del interés del padre de Deety, totalmente sumergido en una investigación practica del viaje entre universos y tiempos.

¿Quiere saber más de este libro, sin spoilers? Visite:
Nov 08, 2007 Mike rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scifi, xcharity-2012
Can't believe I dragged this piece of crap around for years before reading it. It was so bad, from almost the first sentence.

"He's a Mad Scientist and I'm his Beautiful Daughter."

That's what she said: the oldest cliche in pulp fiction. She wasn't old enough to remember the pulps.

The thing with a silly remark is to fail to hear it. I went on waltzing while taking another look down her evening formal. Nice view. Not foam rubber.

It goes downhill from there. 1/2 Star.
Nov 15, 2008 brandon rated it it was ok
One of the few books I have actually given up on. This book is one tedious argument about who the fuck is gonna drive the spaceship. Ugh. FAIL.
Apr 28, 2014 Tim rated it did not like it
It takes a real artist to make truly terrible work.

Their mistakes are likely to be original ones, radical sins of commission where the spark that brought them success then points them into the abyss.

Robert Heinlein's The Number of The Beast is a terrible novel in exactly this vein.

Heinlein's return to writing in 1980, after taking most of the 1970's off due to ill health, is nothing if not ambitious. On the face of things, a multi-dimensional romp through time and space, it also aims to be:

Jul 13, 2013 sologdin rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Nutshell: libertarian builds time machine, elects to use it for the noble humanitarian purpose of fulfilling oedipal desire.

Lucked out and got this first edition at a library sale; it includes original interior art by one Richard Powers. The art is the normal ensemble, listed in order of ascending centrality, of cold war era spaceships, trippy expressionisms, and jugs. That’s all thematically consistent with the narrative.

Eponymous number is not the numerology of St. John, but rather 6^6^6, or 1
Jun 21, 2015 Leslie rated it it was ok
Shelves: dad-s-books
I second the reviews that noted this book meandered all over the place.

I suspect Heinlein was experimenting with too many things at once and never managed to get them unified. First, he had to think through how his time-and-space-travel machine worked. So there was a lot of "which world are we in and what is physics and history like here?" Second, he decided to keep rotating which character was telling the story. So there was a lot of "who does 'my darling' refer to now?" Third, he was enamored
Jeff Yoak
The later "world as myth" novels of Heinlein are generally my least favorite. This book suffers from this syndrome to a greater extent than any other with Heinlein finally surrendering to the urge to collect the characters of all of his stories, the characters from Heinlein's personal favorite stories that he didn't write and even "two Heinleins" from parallel universes and get them together for a party. I didn't like the book much when I read it the first time, but I have to say that it has two ...more
I don't think I've ever read this in book form. It was first printed in serial form in (I think) Omni Magazine. I read it there, and don't think I ever bothered to seek out a final copy.

I liked a lot of the elements, such as the churches where people worshiped in the nude (as symbolic of their return to Edenic innocence, I guess--it wasn't really explained). I liked that Glinda the Good put a bathroom in the dimension hopper.

Most of the rest I found choppy and boring. If you just keep traveling
Jun 10, 2014 Andrew rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebooks
I must say that I didn't like at all. This is the first book I read by Heinlein and this is already a disadvantage. It should be a science fiction story: there is a brilliant scientist, a great invention, a group of adventurers, a threat to their life and the beginning of an inter-dimensional travel. Halfway though, I began to wonder if it was worthwhile to finish it and it went from there getting worse. The player follow the adventures of the characters in their wanderings, in some cases absurd ...more
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Robert Anson Heinlein was an American novelist and science fiction writer. Often called "the dean of science fiction writers", he is 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 genre's standards of literary quality. He was the first SF writer to break into mainstre
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Other Books in the Series

The World As Myth (4 books)
  • Time Enough for Love
  • The Cat Who Walks Through Walls (The World As Myth)
  • To Sail Beyond the Sunset

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