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The Number of the Beast | [Robert A. Heinlein]

The Number of the Beast

The wickedest, most wonderful science fiction story ever created in our - or any - time. Anything can begin at a party in California - and everything does in this bold masterwork by a grand master of science fiction. When four supremely sensual and unspeakably cerebral humans - two male, two female - 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, danger, ecstasy, and peril.
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Publisher's Summary

The wickedest, most wonderful science-fiction story ever created in our - or any - time. Anything can begin at a party in California - and everything does in this bold masterwork by a grand master of science fiction.

When four supremely sensual and unspeakably cerebral humans - two male, two female - 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, danger, ecstasy, and peril.

Robert A. Heinlein (1907–1988) was the dominant science-fiction writer of the modern era, a writer whose influence on the field was immense. He won science fiction's Hugo Award for best novel four times.

©1980 Robert A. Heinlein. 2003 by the Robert A. & Virginia Heinlein Prize Trust (P)2012 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

What the Critics Say

“One of the grand masters of science fiction.” (Wall Street Journal)

“The most influential science fiction writer of all time!” (Locus)

“[A story] about two men and two women in a time-machine safari through this and other universes. But describing The Number of the Beast thus is like saying Moby-Dick is about a one-legged guy trying to catch a fish.” (National Review)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.7 (359 )
5 star
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Story
3.8 (327 )
5 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Sterling Decatur, Illinois, United States 01-06-14
    Sterling Decatur, Illinois, United States 01-06-14 Member Since 2004
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    73
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    "An off the wall story"
    What disappointed you about The Number of the Beast?

    This is not the hard Sci Fi one would expect from Heinlein but a sex obsessed juvenile yarn that took aspects from a multitude of classic tales and spewed them out in a Douglas Adams like story that took itself seriously.


    What could Robert A. Heinlein have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

    Time and space travel make for great stories. he could have kept the story original not stealing from Larry Niven and the Wizard of Oz. He could have tried for a plot and given an ending to this mess.


    What three words best describe the narrators’s voice?

    All the narrators did a fine job. I just feel bad they were assigned to this project.


    If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from The Number of the Beast?

    Everything from the John Carter of Mars nonsense forward which is 95% of the book.


    Any additional comments?

    Don't bother with this book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jason Thornhill, ON, Canada 12-18-13
    Jason Thornhill, ON, Canada 12-18-13 Member Since 2006
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    "Narration so bad this book is impossible to follow"

    I've never read the print version of this book, and I found it impossible to follow this version. They cycle through the voice actors seemingly at random with all the characters being read by all the actors. It's jarring and disorienting. I just learned by reading other reviews they're trying to do each characters perspective, but it fails utterly and this recording is a mess that is painful to listen to.

    Aside from that several of the voice actors (I don't know which) are so inappropriate, they make the characters just sound wrong for the role the character is supposed to fill and the inflections seem to change the nature of each of the characters each time they change readers.

    I'm a huge Heinlein fan, and I think I hate this book, but I really can't tell if it's a good book or not after this reading.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Richard D. Shewman Erie, PA United States 11-25-13
    Richard D. Shewman Erie, PA United States 11-25-13 Member Since 2001

    rshewman

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    "Frustrating at so many levels!!"

    Robert Heinlein is the master of 20th century science fiction. That is a given among anyone who has read much in the genre. When he was good, he was very, very good. However, it must also be admitted that when he was bad he was bad. Along with "I will Fear No Evil", this 1980 novel "The Number of the Beast" comprise the corpus of what I consider his “bad” novels.

    This book explores the multiverse, which is an interesting concept, and suggests that works of literature are either expressions of real universes in the multiverse or real universes are generated when an author tells a story. This concept is introduced about about a third of the way into the book and there are a series of visits to literary universes before our protagonists encounter Lazarus Long and his buddies and everyone goes off on a little adventure that helps move along the Lazarus Long story arch. The story takes hundreds of pages in the print edition and 21 hours and 34 minutes in the audiobook. It is a story that could have been told better as a short story or a novella at most.

    The protagonists are a group A-type personality, high achievers who are related by marriage and friendship but forced to stay with each other in the space of a large car for what turns into several weeks. Very quickly they can’t stand one another. The back and forth bickering among the characters gets irritating after a while. It might be forgiven if they were moving a plot line forward but there really isn’t much of a plot to the book. Even the end of the book is random, as if Heinlein’s editor called and asked when he was going to get his next book submitted. So, the master reached over, pullet the sheet of paper from the typewriter, tossed it in the box with the rest of the typescript and sent it off to be published.

    There were four narrators but they didn’t consistently read the same character as would be the case in a dramatic performance of the book. The voice actor who played the character who begins the chapter would read the chapter, and do the voices for the other characters if they showed up in chapter. After a while you had four different versions of each of the four main characters to keep sorted in your head. It was confusing to say the least.

    This audiobook is frustrating at so many levels! Yet, if you ask me if I will I read other Heinlein books in the future? Of course, he’s the master and he has many more very good books than bad ones.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Harvey Millet, AB, Canada 11-24-13
    Harvey Millet, AB, Canada 11-24-13 Member Since 2012
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    13
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    "a bit to far fetched but still entertaining"
    What did you like best about The Number of the Beast? What did you like least?

    cool car, to much unrelated banter


    Which character – as performed by the narrators – was your favorite?

    DT


    Do you think The Number of the Beast needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

    it is open ended but i don't think there is much chance of a follow-up


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    J. Queen Ventura, SoCal 11-19-13
    J. Queen Ventura, SoCal 11-19-13 Member Since 2013
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    "Terrible disapointment"
    This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

    Nobody, it's too adult for children, too childish for adults.


    What do you think your next listen will be?

    I'll continue with "The song of Ice and Fire" and "The Gap Cycle."


    Who would you have cast as narrator instead of the narrators?

    The narrators weren't really the problem, I think they did the best they could with such week material.


    What character would you cut from The Number of the Beast?

    All the characters in this book are too shallow to miss. I listened for about 12 hours of this book and just couldn't stand the pointless drivel of dialog any longer.


    Any additional comments?

    Robert Heinlein is a celebrated author, if this book is like the rest of his work then his notoriety is the only mystery of interest.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    JoAnn Bismarck, ND, United States 11-06-13
    JoAnn Bismarck, ND, United States 11-06-13 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Waste of Time"
    Any additional comments?

    I made it through a couple hours of listening then had to abandon the book. It was a lot of inane babbling between the characters with a story line that falls flat on its proverbial face.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Thomas Columbus, OH, United States 04-20-13
    Thomas Columbus, OH, United States 04-20-13 Member Since 2004
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    "A Tribute and Life After Death, or not."

    There are a lot of themes introduced in The Number of The Beast (TNOTB). Some of them are more fully fleshed out in Heinlein's later books, but they all show up here.

    First, TNOTB is an homage to what he considers the greats of Science Fiction and Fantasy. He starts by writing in the style of the old masters. It's a pulp fiction opening that reminds one of Edgar Rice Burroughs, H. P. Lovecraft, E. E. (Doc) Smith, L. Frank Baum, Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson) and even early RAH himself. Before the novel is finished he's mentioned and/or imitated as many writers, stories, and genres as he thought fit. A fun exercise for the reader is to try to pick out all of the SF&F references. Some of them were quite old, but others were as current as could be, as of the date the novel was completed. (Well, fun for me; your tastes may differ.)

    Second, with the exception of Friday, all of his novels from TNOTB on deals with afterlife. This one starts with a situation in which the four protagonists 'die.' I believe he's working on the premise that human beings are incapable of really understanding their own deaths. Our myths all point to some sort of afterlife. So in that sense TNOTB deals solely with the common afterlife of Zeb, Deety, Jake, and Hilda. Several times in the novel, the characters themselves reference this concept as they ask whether or not they had died and this was their afterlife.

    Of course there is always the theme that Heinlein always pounded home in his books: personal responsibility. His main characters were always self-aware and accepted total responsibility for their circumstances and their lives. I'm obviously a Heinlein fan. The only two things I ever faulted him for were his didacticism and his incest theme. But when he put some boundaries on those two, he was quite an entertaining writer who I could reread and relisten to any time.

    The narration of this novel is better than it has been for some of his work. I'm glad to see the narration getting better as more of his works come online. (In case you're wondering, I HATE, HATE, HATE the narration of Time Enough FOr Love; it's too good a work to be that poorly narrated.)

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    House book adict Westport, CT 03-07-13
    House book adict Westport, CT 03-07-13 Member Since 2011
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    2
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    "So bad I had to stop ---and I never do that"
    Would you try another book from Robert A. Heinlein and/or the narrators?

    no


    What do you think your next listen will be?

    Black House by Stephen King


    What aspect of the narrators’s performance would you have changed?

    They did the best they could


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    Disappointment


    Any additional comments?

    The slowest most dragging plot (is there a plot?) --no narrative pace. Inane dialogue, and sophmoric humor --even an obsession with nudity ("ooooo they aren't wearing clothes"). Jeeez. How this could be described as "the wickedest and most wonderful science fiction story ever..." completely eludes me.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Aden LAFAYETTE, CO, United States 02-26-13
    Aden LAFAYETTE, CO, United States 02-26-13 Member Since 2010
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    "It. Never. Ends."

    I have most of Heinlein's work in print or audiobook. This is the worst one for so many different reasons.

    Story:
    Allah have mercy. I feel like I've done an N-space jump into universe of arrested pubescent development. "Stranger In A Strange Land," is brilliant because it rode high on the crest of the 60s counter-cultural movement, challenging nearly every moral bedrock of Western society. It is superb and does what Sci-Fi does best. This work isn't even an echo in an out-house of the mind that created "Stranger," or "The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress." The story is as juicy as a packing peanut.

    The dialogue in this book is pointless, too. I feel like I'm being treated to the discarded remnants on the cutting floor of "Time Enough For Love." The characters in this book are the same as Laz/Lor/Athena/Gallahad without the hook-laden narrative of Lazarus Long or great storyline.

    I'm a loyal masochist so I suffered through the whole recording the same way I listened to Robert Plant's solo work simply because I'm a Led-head and thought, "At some point, this will get good." I had hope, so much hope. Now I just have scars.

    Performance:
    It's a good thing I don't have a yard arm and a length of rope or I may be swinging in the breeze. I'm having a hard time describing this performance without using expletives. Horrible is a compliment. Female narrators should not try to imitate male voices by lowering theirs. [Under any circumstances]. Seriously. There should be a law. This was like listening to a woman with traumatic brain injury but without the benefit of being a public service announcement. Someone should be held accountable.

    I now have a soundtrack for the waiting room in Hades...

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cherie 12-21-12
    Cherie 12-21-12
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    "Horrific narration"
    Would you try another book from Robert A. Heinlein and/or the narrators?

    I love Heinlein - and have read this book many times but thought I'd try the audible version - narration was a painful listen! None of them were good. Two of them were AWFUL.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The story is great - narration really ruins it however


    Who would you have cast as narrator instead of the narrators?

    *I* could've done it better - can't imagine anyone worse


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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