I'm never quite sure what to make of Heinlein. When I start one of his books, I usually think, within ten pages, "Good gods, this man was a jerk." But then, after fifty pages, I see that some of that is the characters, some of it is the era, and some of it is Heinlein mercilessly deprecating himself. And he seems like a decent enough bloke then.

I'm currently reading The Number of the Beast. I'm finding it very entertaining indeed; the concepts are interesting, if not fascinating, and the self-referential bits amuse me greatly. It's certainly typical stuff for his era; characters are all geniuses (although he doesn't come out and state it like the late great E. E. "Doc" Smith did), they can all suppress emotion in favour of logic, and short shrift is given to the notion of the science being possible. This is even more the case in the current book, as it delves into fictional universes - including Doc Smith's, and Heinlein's own other settings. This, I'm told, is the "World as Myth" concept that he made use of in other books as well. And now I'm going to have to track those down too.

I'm fascinated, too, by how well he gets his head around the differing points of view. The Number of the Beast is written from four differing points of view, all of which are similar but distinct, and sees characters from another book - or maybe this one is a sequel to the first? - in a completely different light. A character who was not just a good guy but the good guy there is a neutral or somewhat bad guy in this, and is exactly the same. That's cool.

A lot of the... calling it philosophy probably isn't accurate, so "the ways of thinking" contrast strongly with Stranger in a Strange Land. I found it fascinating too, and I'm going to have to go back and re-read with comparison in mind.

So yeah. Heinlein had something good going on. Glad I noticed.

Posted by Drew Shiel at February 8, 2005 9:38 PM | TrackBack

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I was never too into Heinlein, but Job is a nifty book. Not as deep as the two you're discussing, but ridiculously fun. I don't know if you've read it, but that's my two cents.

Posted by: Greg Burgas at February 9, 2005 3:19 AM