Thirty-two years after Heinlein dies, he releases another novel. I think this must be some kind of record.
A group of friends find themselves targeted by a mysterious alien organization and have to flee through the multiverse to stay alive. Does this sound familiar?
It should. This is actually lifted from the first draft of The Number Of The Beast, Heinlein’s comeback novel after seven years of inactivity caused by deteriorating health. After a radical surgical procedure to bypass a blocked artery that was causing him cognitive issues, he rewrote a couple of books. Starting with Expanded Universe, which was not a novel, but more of a collection of essays held together by some of his earlier short stories, and followed by The Number Of The Beast, which was one of his most controversial and poorly-received novels, mainly because he refused to let an editor touch it. I have very mixed feelings about the latter, as it has some really great, moving parts, unfortunately broken up by heaps of self-indulgent and tedious exposition.
This novel starts out exactly the same as The Number Of The Beast; in fact, about the first quarter is word for word. The change starts when they transition near Mars and some of this “new” stuff is pretty entertaining until it devolves into page after page of dreary detailing that could have been skipped. To be honest, I gave a lot of this section only a glimpse and skipped through it.
Once they leave Mars, it goes back to the familiar narrative and I was happy to see them visit Oz again. Once they leave there, some of the narrative will seem familiar for a while, then the adventure goes into some new territory, most of which I think is an improvement over the previous release. The ending is lifted from another of his older novels; I’ll leave it to you to figure it out.
I really wish whoever compiled this novel from the draft they found had tightened it up; maybe submit it to an experienced editor before releasing it? This could have been great instead of ho-hum.
It is only a must-read for fans of the Grand Master.
Flytrap rating 5/10