I was re-reading an old favorite, Robert A. Heinlein’s The Number of the Beast, and I started wondering why it was an old favorite. Granted, anything Heinlein is better than most, but why this one in particular?
When I went to find a link to the old cover, I noticed that the reviews are extremely varied in opinion. A lot of people did not like this book. I respect that. I don’t understand it, but I respect it. I do agree with a common thread in those reviews. This should not be your first Heinlein book. Possibly your 20th.
Anyway, I digress.
After much thought on why I enjoyed this book so much, this is what I determined:
1) I have the edition illustrated by Richard M. Powers. Actually, this is the 2nd copy as the first wore out and the pages were being held together with a rubber band. I scoured used bookstores both brick and online until I found a replacement. The illustrations are incredible. 2) The dialogue 3) The discussion of the precise meanings of words followed by the precise use of words 4) Alternating the viewpoint between the four main characters 5) The scene about Dejah Thoris and Captain John Carter. (If you are going “Huh?” read Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Barsoom stories.) 6) OZ!! 7) The bathrooms and the picnic basket 8) Gay Deceiver 9) Floccinaucinihilipilificator. After more than a dozen readings I still have to look this word up every time. Perhaps I need to read it more often. 10) The whole rotating captain thing 11) Star Trek reference 12) SPOILER ALERT for the rest of the list
13) When Hilda gets the best of Lazarus Long 14) The party at the end of the book 15) The book critics lounge
Food is one of the most important world-building tools in a writer’s kit - it defines a world and the people in it. Self-described “food writer with a wicked sci-fi addiction” Jason Sheehan muses on food in science fiction - and whether, in the future, we’ll all be eating dinner in pill form.
Now I’m thinking about food scenes in all the SF & Fantasy books I’ve read. And getting hungry!