New Heinlein

A new Robert A. Heinlein novel is in the pipeline, based on a previously undiscovered edition of “The Number of the Beast.”

I have misgivings. Some Heinlein enthusiasts believe “The Number of the Beast,” published 1980-ish after a long hiatus from writing, was written while Heinlein was cognitively impaired due to circulatory problems in his brain, and rush-edited by Virginia Heinlein, his wife, and sent to publishers because the Heinleins needed the bucks.

Heinlein biographer William Paterson is skeptical about that theory. “Number” is certainly of a piece with the later Heinlein.

“Number” is one of my least favorite Heinleins. If it didn’t have his name on the cover, I don’t know that I would have even gotten through it.

One Heinlein fan — not present here — recently said that when reading Heinlein you should read his early and middle works and stop at “The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress,” except for maybe you can read “Friday” too.

And stay away from “Stranger in a Strange Land;” it’s crap.

I agree with that, though I’d also add “Job: a Comedy of Justice” to the “maybe” list.

And I’d also say the first third of “Stranger” has its charms if you’re a retro-future fan like me. On the one hand, Heinlein circa 1960 predicts an early 21st Century with self-lighting cigarettes! Flying cars! Mars missions! 3D TV! and picturephones! But no Internet or smartphones, and though there is something like a fax machine it’s rare and expensive and a sign of main character Ben Caxton’s clout as a journalist that he has one for his own private use.)


Of course I will! The day it comes out!

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