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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 (P)2012 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

Critic Reviews

“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 listeners say about The Number of the Beast

Average Customer Ratings
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

One Aching Pain Short of Heaven

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

I love this book - BUT I really recommend waiting until they delete the passages narrated by Emily Durante. I'm so sorry to say it - but her segments are so terribly awful that I have to skip them. It is NO FUN listening with my hand on the button to "Scram" when I hear that voice. It interrupts the flow of the book - abruptly break the mood. It distracts me with thoughts like "nepotism, training wheels" and "at my expense". There is at least one passage where she is actually inoffensive. Thank Goodness I know the book so well. So I just imagine through those parts. We who purchased it should get a credit for the corrected version with Ms. Durante excised and replaced by...Ms. Dunne for example. It pains me to say that of someone's narration - but it pains me to listen to Ms. Durante. For those who've read the other Lazarus Long novels and stories - this entire book is memorable and rather important. Like me, readers may have been waiting for its audio format. I call it Hands-Free reading. It is a torturous shame that they allowed one poor narrator to ruin the overall experience. As may be...the book and the other narrators are all such a pleasure!

What other book might you compare The Number of the Beast to and why?

I compare it to...other Heinlein books, especially the Future History works: The Cat Who Walked Through Walls...Time Enough For Love... pick one and insert title here. Why? Because they are part of a larger opus, their elements: content, tone, narration/listening experiences, make comparison to this nearly automatic for me.

Would you listen to another book narrated by the narrators?

I might listen to Mark Twain, and other books with a cool, scratchy, country/Southern US twang, by Mr. Runnette; perhaps very short children's books by Ms. Durante, after she's trained up; and Anything by the other Narrators.

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

YES!!! A REVISED, CORRECTED VERSION as described above!!! YES!! Follow-up with an APOLOGY! And...Yes - the rest of the Future History Books - and Short Stories. Wake up RAH - rejuvenate him and give him a stiff infusion of modernity and set him back to joyful work!!

Any additional comments?

USE NARRATORS THOUGHTFULLY - Example: If Zeb is clearly described to have a deep, resonant voice - don't use the one male talent with the higher-pitched, cool, yet scratchy/twangy, elder sound to voice him. It's not fair to them or to the text. Heinlein's books are Smart - even with his certain "off" views and socio-sexual anachronisms. But they are ultimately smart as all h=ll - and that makes the not-smart choice of any narrator even more off-putting. I truly hope it will be amended.

57 people found this helpful

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I've been waiting for this book in audio format...

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

I would have waited even longer to have better narration. I'm two hours into the audiobook. I'm forcing myself to continue on, because I haven't experienced this story since my paperback copy went missing back in the early 90s.

How did the narrator detract from the book?

I don't mind ensemble readings. The Godfather was quite enjoyable. But this... I don't know if I'll finish it. I like Bernadette Dunn, usually. I don't care much for her reading of Hilda, but in my opinion, her performance is the best of the group. Deety's narrator makes her sound utterly immature and annoying. Her intelligently-written character becomes whiny and annoying. Zeb is read like he is a doddering old man. Jake's character performance is not memorable either way.

35 people found this helpful

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Good book, but some voices were irritating

Is there anything you would change about this book?

The book itself rotates perspective between the four main characters. For the audio, they handled this by having four voice actors, one for each perspective. And so the actor reading as Jacob, for example, would voice the entire chapter written from his perspective, including doing his impression of Hilda's voice when she is speaking, etc. Then when it's a Hilda perspective chapter, you have that voice actor doing their impression of everyone's voices. The total effect was irritating for me, and might had been confusing as well had I not previously read the book in print. It would have been better if they had either:

1) had each of the actors do their own dialogue in all chapters, and have the actor whose perspective the chapter was do all of the non dialogue.

Or

2) just had one person narrate the entire book.

What three words best describe the narrators’s voice?

While the male voices were fine, the female voices often came across as overly ditzy or sexual, which detracted from the book as a whole.

26 people found this helpful

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Nice Teats

Boy meets girl, boy is impressed with girl's large breasts, girl and boy along with girl's father and his girlfriend fly to Las Vegas to get married, the same night they first meet. Next morning girl and girl's step mother decide to parade around the house topless. Girl admits to step mother that she would have slept with her dad if he wanted, she loved him so, what was the problem. Step mother admits to admiring step daughter's husband.

Do I need to continue, cause there is more?

25 people found this helpful

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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...

12 people found this helpful

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Well, that was a waste....

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

A completely different book

Would you ever listen to anything by Robert A. Heinlein again?

Yes, I'm working my way through all of his books. I love most of his stuff. LOVE it. Which is the only reason I kept reading this waste of time.

Have you listened to any of the narrators’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

I don't think so.

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

The geometry and navigation lessons, the nonsense about command, and any scenes involving the four main characters.

Any additional comments?

Heinlein has created a mess of a book. He has created characters I can't stand, a story premise that is unintelligible, and seems to have a fetish for the word "kiss." In almost every scene where someone is leaving, someone else is saying "kiss me." He has done this in other books, but this one is just brutally annoying.

The only thing I liked was "Gay Deceiver" and the furtherance of the Lazarus Long mythology. But that was the last quarter of the book. The rest - well, read this if you're reading other Heinlein stuff. You'll hate it, but it's like the one course in college you had to take.

Don't bother reading it otherwise.

11 people found this helpful

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So disappointing

What would have made The Number of the Beast better?

I loved starship troopers and stranger in a strange land. This one is just weird. The major themes are nudism, breasts, open and insestual marriage, commanding and sci-fi and fantasy books I've not read. When Asimov called Heinlein a "flaming liberal," he wasn't kidding. I kept hoping they would explore clever uses of the continua drive, but nothin. I had to stop listening at the end because it made no sense to me. There should be a required reading list for before you read this book so you could get any of the references. It doesn't work on its own.

10 people found this helpful

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Must listen before cat that walks through walls

The sory in this book besides a homage to the authors of the golden age of SF & F is the ultimate multiverse story. The two following novels form RAH "The cat who walks through walls" which also has the prerequisite of "The Moon is a harsh mistress" the novel "to sail beyond the sunset" is also based on the result of this book. A must listen for Hienlien fans.
Great listen

9 people found this helpful

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Classic late Heinlein.

Would you listen to The Number of the Beast again? Why?

Although I will probably listen to this again, as I usually listen to my Heinlein often, it won't be any time soon. Having four narrators was probably the best way to present the four different viewpoints, but the narrator for DeeTee sounded too much like a little girl and didn't pull off the male voices as well as the other female narrator.

8 people found this helpful

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Don't start here...

The performance is interesting, with the round-robin of narrators reading the chapters as told from the various characters' points of view, and the narrators do very good jobs, but it's ultimately Heinlein himself who lets us down. The concept of the story is good, but the story itself is just a hot mess. Jerry Pournelle once said that Heinlein's biggest problem was that he became too big to edit, and this story is proof of that statement.

6 people found this helpful

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  • A P Smith
  • 06-25-13

Unbelievably bad!

Being a science fiction fan, I thought I had better check out some Heinlein as the author seems to be highly regarded and often mentioned in the same breath as the the great Asimov. For the first couple of hours I thought I must have made a mistake and downloaded the wrong book!

Quite simply this is book is unbelievably bad. The plot, on paper, sounds promising, travel to different dimensions/parallel universes in a home made time machine while being pursued by aliens - all classic sci-fi stuff. However the plot is virtually irrelevant because 90% of the book (not an exaggeration) consists of banal bickering and discussions about trivia between the main characters. The characters (and the author) seem only to have the vaguest passing interest in the plot.

For example the characters arrive on an apparently inhabited Mars in a parallel universe. What's the first thing they do? Explore? Express wonder at their location? No, they have an incredibly long and tedious discussion about sleeping arrangements, how best to program the ships computer, bicker endlessly about the chain of command and even arrangements for going to the toilet!

I won't even mention the dodgy science and the frankly embarrassing (for a sci-fi author) lack of understanding of the capabilities of computers (it's as if this book was written in 1930 not 1980!). The female characters are completely unbelievable and seem to have been created to fulfil the authors adolescent fantasies. Speaking of which the whole book reads like it was written by a 14 year old boy, except a 14 year old boy would have put more action in it!

I can't image how frustrating it must be to read because after half an hour I wanted to slap all the main characters. After 2 hours I could cheerfully have throttled the lot of them and the author to prevent him inflicting any more of this on anyone.

I understand that this book was apparently written while the author was recovering from a serious illness and that his brain may have been starved of oxygen. That might explain a lot because I can see no other way that a supposedly celebrated author could spew out this tripe.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Mrs S
  • 08-27-14

Very well done

Would you consider the audio edition of The Number of the Beast to be better than the print version?

Much Better

If you’ve listened to books by Robert A. Heinlein before, how does this one compare?

A bit too technical - I could have done without all the maths

What about the narrators’s performance did you like?

doing this as separate narrators per person fitted the book exactly and it ran very smoothly. very well done.

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

mainly irritation at all the wrangling about who was "Captain"

Any additional comments?

I have had this book in my to listen to pile for a fair while but was a bit nervous about playing it mainly because I did not want to be disappointed as I had re-read the book and found it very hard going. Not to worry ~ I thoroughly enjoyed it (mostly) but all 4 could have done with a good slap at times.

3 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Mr N.
  • 07-08-13

One of Heinlein's most difficult reads!

Fortunately this is not typical of Heinlein's work! It is an attempt to examine fiction as history, unfortunately the plot and characters decend into gibberish, with the thread of the book disapearing. I would avoid this book and look at Time Enough for Love, I will fear no Evil, A Stranger in a Strange Land, Friday or Starship Troopers which bettyer represent this very gifted Sci-Fi author. This is definately for Fans only!

3 people found this helpful

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  • Mr
  • 08-06-13

I struggled with this one

What did you like best about The Number of the Beast? What did you like least?

This book has some really good use of language, discussions of theories and I loved how the story switched between characters. I found the narrators ok but not amazing. This is normally enough for me to love a story but I found the whole thing a struggle. It felt long, slow and the only reason I stuck with it until the end was out of some reverence to the author and the hope that it would get much better. The early parts of the book (earth and mars) were really good but anything after chapter 38 became a chore.

I really cannot put my finger on what might have been my least favorite parts I am guessing its just the book wasn’t a good fit for me. As a result of haven’t given the story as a whole a low score.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Number of the Beast?

The best part of the book would have to be the whole mars British vs Russian thing. I would this part of the book the most enthralling. The characters where great and the way the plot worked really kept me going.

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

the narrators were good and worked well together, some of the males performance seemed to be a bit lacking in enthusiasm from time to time and didn’t always fit the mood of the story.

Could you see The Number of the Beast being made into a movie or a TV series? Who would the stars be?

it could be done and if made faster i would find it entertaining

Any additional comments?

this book has made me down load john carter of earth and given me a list of other books to down load. all of which were mentioned in this book. i hope once i have listened to or read these that i will return to the number of the beast and find it more enjoyable.

1 person found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Dr Zimpat
  • 08-21-22

Utter nonsense, definitely not Heinlein’s best

I didn’t listen to the whole book, I gave up after about five hours. When your enemies have a time machine but don’t manage to catch you in time, how does this add up? Heinlein wrote this brilliant short story “by his bootstraps” about a time traveler which gave a consistent idea.
Besides of this it is the usual sexist setting of intelligent young naked women with more intelligent naked older men. I don’t recall any Heinlein story where past menopause women are worth playing an important role or even being mentioned. Of this you can read in a more interesting way in Time enough for love or Stranger in a strange land.
I also find none of the narrators does a very good job. Sounds more like text to speech to me.
In a nutshell: I found it disappointing, but I only read like 20% of it.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Dave's Universe
  • 08-13-22

wonderful Sci-Fi

Heinlein is always pushing the boundaries of what the social norms were. Maybe a bit too much with some of the pseudo science in places and definitely went off the boil at the end.
other than that a wonderful read and one of my personal favourites.

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  • Paul Hamer
  • 03-31-22

Typical Heinlein

An interesting idea, about a device that allows travel through multiple universes becomes somewhat self indulgent as the author takes the reader through his personal favourites.

The narration of different characters is handled by using different voice artists for each chapter which takes some getting used to, but this is also a stylistic effect from the book- each chapter is first person for a different character.

It’s a fun romp and took me back to reading it many years ago.

PS Americans should NOT be allowed to attempt British or Russian accents, especially “cockney” and “Received Pronunciation”. Luckily in this book it is presented as the character doing the impression of another person in the narrative, for the most part anyway, so it can be forgiven.

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Dave
  • 02-26-21

long ...too long

Imagine a 5 hour story strung out to over 21 hours......its painfully slow, rambling and dull. There are many aspects of this book that are dated and you have to accept and forgive that, its fact that its too long by at least 15 hours that ruin it.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • LC
  • 12-31-20

Variable - slow in places

I found this one quite hard to follow as it is vey much like a never ending “gossipy” conversation which I couldn’t always make sense of.
I also found it slow and lacking interest at times, although it did seem to get better later on in that regard.
Overall it was worth listening to though, although I much preferred some of the others by Heinlein.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Mr. G. Northam
  • 06-02-19

Terrible performances

I have read this story a few times over the years so I bought this. I made a mistake don’t make the same mistake as I did.
The acting is awful if I’m being polite, the characters are specific ages but the actors are clearly not, I know that sounds picky but it’s really distracting. Read this book don’t listen to it.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Sue
  • 04-08-16

A bit too clever

I found all the calculations to pilot Gaye Deceiver too distracting and the final chapter annoying.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Anonymous User
  • 03-16-21

great book not sure about naration

couldn't get into it because of naration. oh my god it was bad bad bad

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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Lance Williams
  • 01-27-21

Why Narrated By A Person With A Lisp ?

Love the book, the lisp, or what seems to be a lisp, made it impossible to enjoy. I gave up after 30 mins, and if anything else I puchase turns out like this, I will give audible the flick

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  • Lawrance Pope
  • 09-25-20

Wonderful

I'm a sucker for sci fi adventures and this encapsulates everything I enjoy! Was a delight to listen too

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Brian Carew
  • 05-15-20

Hard on the ear

while the story is excellent, the use of multiple readers makes it a little difficult to follow at times. Male readers pretending to be female and females pretending to be male giving different voices for the same characters was tedious.

Overall I did enjoy the book.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 10-30-19

Slow and Messy

The story wanders and the pacing is all over the place. While the premis is good the execution is poor

.