Talk:The Number of the Beast (novel)

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It is one of the 'Lazarus Long' set of books, involving time travel, parallel dimensions, free love, voluntary incest, and a concept that Heinlein named pantheistic solopsism (I think) - the theory that universes are created by the act of imagining them so that somewhere Oz is real.

Opinion is divided among science fiction fans as to whether this and other late Heinlein novels are brilliant, creative and original, or simply the wishfulfillment of a man in his second childhood.

Other books in this set include - To Sail Beyond the Sunset, Methuselah's Children, The Cat Who Walks Through Walls and Time Enough for Love.

above three paragraphs exact duplicate of another Heinlein novel -- only need to be said once. --Ed Poor
It's called Pan-Theistic Multi-Ego Solipsism, In short, each man or woman mentally creates their own universe or multiverse, AKA "World as a Myth" (talk) 01:31, 10 March 2008 (UTC)

How can the entry not note this is one long instruction manual for writing science fiction written almost as a practical joke?

From The Heinlein Society:

"THE NUMBER OF THE BEAST is the most massive and wonderful practical joke ever played on the Speculative Fiction genre-reading public. "It's nothing but a MANUAL on How To Write Good Fiction, written on several simultaneous levels --- and people get out of it what they put INTO it. "If you're bemused by the mild porn and physical references being thrust in your face, you never notice what's actually going on ... all the way through the book, you see lecture after lecture about Who's In Charge, Why Is This Happening, These Are Books We Really Liked, and This Is Why ... and every single time there's a boring lecture or tedious character interaction going on in the foreground, there's an example of how to do it RIGHT in the background ... and constant harping and lecturing on the shoddiness of writers who don't generate stories that *flow*, but just jerk characters and events around with no rhyme or reason ... AND EVERY TIME THAT HAPPENS, A 'BLACK HAT' POPS IN AND JERKS THINGS AROUND ... and EVERY SINGLE 'BLACK HAT' HAS A NAME WHICH IS AN ANAGRAM OF HEINLEIN'S OWN. (Or of someone very close to him.)"


Elemming (talk) 07:45, 11 August 2012 (UTC)

Well, that's just the Heinlein Society 'splaining that Heinlein's work was brilliant, as always. What would you have them do? Shrug "Yup, this is dreck" and burn their copies? Mind you, those WORDS IN CAPITALS nearly CONVINCED me.Captain Pedant (talk) 07:41, 20 November 2017 (UTC)

"contender...worst novel"[edit]

If so, then I'm a *much* less selective reader than I'd like to think I am. It's, for example, *much* better than Clancy's Rainbow Six (novel) and The Teeth of the Tiger.
--Baylink 17:43, 19 July 2005 (UTC)

That's not saying much, if true. I have never encountered a book that comes anywhere close to being as awful as TNotB. Not even in the same order of magnitude of dreadfulness. Ben-w 00:11, 20 July 2005 (UTC)
I have read that TNotB was intended to be horrible, in that it was an inside joke by Heinlein effectively demonstrating what NOT to do when writing a novel. See here. JubalHarshaw 18:00, 4 August 2005 (UTC)
I'd be more inclined to believe that if (a) he had ever written anything that was any good and (b) if TNotB didn't share so many characteristics with his other novels. Heinlein is the Naked Emperor of science fiction. Ben-w 22:51, 1 November 2005 (UTC)
I remember reading this book back when it first came out. It was given to me as a gift and I was an avid reader of Sci-Fi at the time but when I read it I thought to myself "this is horrible". The style of writing was annoying and cartoonish. I had never read any pulp science fiction so that could be why. All I remember about it now is the characters constantly arguing about nonsense. Stay away from this book. Go read "The moon is a harsh mistress." That book is brilliant; possibly Heinlein's best. Dr. Morbius 23:40, 30 January 2007 (UTC)

Snarky bad novel remark[edit]

Calling TNotB Heinlein's worst novel is a far cry from Wikipedia's avowed neutrality. I'm going to modify that sentence to be less, ah, acid. Plus I'm rather of Zeb & Hilda. 22:45, 13 September 2005 (UTC)

The actual number[edit]

The article said that the number was 6^(6^6), but acoording to the the book the number is (6^6)^6, which is a lot smaller, being only 29 digits, wheras the larger has over 36 thousand digits. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talkcontribs) .

It's 6 to the 6th power and that in turn to the 6th power. or... 10,314,424,798,490,535,546,171,949,056 —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talkcontribs) .
Both of you are correct, and the current revision of the article reads correctly. Rpresser 22:36, 5 February 2007 (UTC)
Either interpretation of which is but a tiny fraction of the actual number of possible universes in the multiverse (according to Linde and Vanchurin), at 10^10^10^7, or even the number of hypothetically distinguishable such universes (10^10^16). Per arXiv paper at - AJWM (talk) 19:02, 15 October 2009 (UTC)


"Afterwards they discover that they had in fact been to Barsoom, the "colonial Mars" being an illusion imposed on them by the telepathically adept Barsoomians."

Did I totally fail to catch that in the novel, or is someone just making that part up? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 02:27, 17 June 2006

I don't remember that part either, but I don't have a copy to check. —wwoods 17:46, 17 June 2006 (UTC)
I just re-read the entire novel and no-where is this mentioned. -- me.
Look in the end chapter. Lazarus makes this comment:

"... E.R.B.'s universe is no harder to reach than any other and Mars is in its usual orbit. But that does not mean that you will find Jolly Green Giants and gorgeous red princesses dressed only in jewels. Unless invited, you are likely to find a Potemkin Village illusion tailored to your subconscious...."

Rpresser 15:49, 6 October 2006 (UTC)
It's not clear that Mars at Tau+10 is Barsoom, or that they did something very wrong with the coordinates and lost track of their original timeline (and their close parallels). But the fictional timelines were only accessible by rotation, not translation.Albmont 03:13, 9 October 2006 (UTC)
I agree that the connection is spotty. I think it's possible that Heinlein added that implication as an afterthought - so that everywhere the foursome visited (and spent more than a few hours visiting) would be someplace from a book - since he'd already written many chapters about the Mars colony and didn't want to rip them out.Rpresser 07:00, 23 October 2006 (UTC)
Visit the Heinlein Society, they explain in great detail how this one book is both "How to" and "how NOT to" write a story, and that this was his great "goodbye" Every word in this story has meaning to the person it is intended to, not to the reader. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 05:49, 3 May 2008 (UTC)
I looked through my old copy and Jake mentions that the characters are all dead (at least twice) and their adventure a fantasy. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:16, 5 May 2008 (UTC)

Gay Deceiver[edit]

I think Gay deserves a full-character treatment, like the one given to Mycroft Holmes or any other sentient computer. Maybe a link to Gay deceiver (Heinlein) might prompt someone to write her biography. Albmont 03:11, 9 October 2006 (UTC)

No argument here, especially as she appears in all of the World as Myth novels. She has as much right to her own article as Mike does. -- Jim Douglas (talk) (contribs) 03:18, 9 October 2006 (UTC)
could just have a link to the Heinlein Society concordance -- (talk) 19:00, 22 October 2010 (UTC)

The infamous bar bet[edit]

Does anyone know if there is any truth to the infamous "bar bet" between Robert A. Heinlein and L. Ron Hubbard? According to rumor, Heinlein agreed to write the worst novel of all time(this one) and Hubbard agreed to start a religion (Scientology) to test how stupid the public was. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 04:08, 8 October 2007 (UTC)

That would make me feel soooooo much better about the existence of this novel. A lot worse about the totality of humanity, though.-- 09:15, 10 November 2007 (UTC)
Usually, when this rumor is heard, it asserts that each of the writers said they would start a religion; Hubbard started Scientology (by writing Dianetics) and Heinlein wrote Stranger in a Strange Land, in which Valentine Michael Smith starts a religion. (And the Church of All Worlds did use Stranger as a starting point.)
But there is no evidence that this bet ever took place, despite thousands of pages asserting it on the web, usually only mentioning Hubbard's side. Rpresser 04:40, 11 November 2007 (UTC)
Sounds like an updated variant on the C.S. Lewis/J.R.R. Tolkien "bar bet" rumor:

Critical Response[edit]

If somebody wants to add a 'Critical Response' section, here's an interesting reference from David Langford to start out with: (talk) 04:44, 30 December 2007 (UTC)

In my opinion this is obviously a bad review made by someone who is unable to understand the metaconceptual milieu that Heinlein creates in this work. When a critic misunderstand genius, that critic's analysis will eventually be dismissed.
Or, on the other hand, perhaps Heinlein was just screwing with everyone with this work.

Think about it. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 02:58, 18 September 2008 (UTC)

Langford is a well known and respected critic of SF, as well as an author of some SF. One may disagree with his views, but not simply dismiss them as meaningless. DES (talk) 01:21, 29 May 2015 (UTC)


should there be a section to all the direct mentions of other authors univereses and allusions to them?

I know they mention Star Trek, H.P. Lovecroft, the Foundation Novels, (and in a shameless plug) Heinlein's future history series and stranger in a strange land).

He also talks about Clarke's law, (Something like that you should talk to the most "educated" about how something is impossible and then prove them wrong) and mentions that it was from Arthur C. Clarke. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:30, 12 February 2008 (UTC)

I would add references, more than just allusions, to Gullivers Travels (they nearly crash into the sea on Lilliput) and to E.E. Doc Smith's Lensman series (they are accosted by a Lensman and he is told to refer the matter to Mentor of Arisia before they jump out of that fictional universe). — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 02:56, 20 January 2016 (UTC)

Number of the beast wrong[edit]

The number used in the book is "Six raised to its sixth power, and the result in turn raised to its sixth power" (from page 54 of the novel).

The result is 1.03144 times ten to the power of 28 or; 10,314,424,798,490,535,546,171,949,056. I'm not sure why, but some calculators seem to have issues with the double exponents, however you can double check it your self as 6 to the power of 36 as well as 46,656 to the power of 6 will also yield 1.03144~. If I have to explain why those intermediate numbers are important, I'm sorry but your in over your head.-- (talk) 07:53, 3 October 2008 (UTC)

6 to the power of 36 ≠ 6 to the 6 to the 6.
6 to the power of 36 = 6 to the 6 squared
  • Properly speaking, exponents associate the other way, and 6^6^6 would be 6^46656 -- vastly, staggeringly bigger than 46656^6. That said, the text doesn't claim that the number is 6^6^6 but (6^6)^6.
  • Initially it looks like an amusing coincidence that (6^6)^6 = 6^36 but if you take sixth roots of both sides of this equation then all becomes clear. (In both cases you divide the rightmost exponent by 6). Alternatively you can just apply laws of exponents - when taking powers of powers, you multiply exponents.
  • The calculators that are having issues with the double exponents are the ones that are associating exponents correctly - the answer is, to a wet-finger estimate, well over 10^40000 which is far beyond the reach of most calculators' grasp of scientific notation.

Captain Pedant (talk) 14:53, 15 November 2017 (UTC)

Undoing Revision as of 23:49, November 16, 2009[edit]

I was going to add back a bit deleted in the above revision. I don't see any reason not to undo the entire change: It makes no real improvement. This novel does seem "connected to" rather than "associated with" TIme Enough for Love; it does "revolve around" rather than "chiefly concern" the continua device; it's both parody and homage to the pulps. The other changes in the revision seem no more correct. Any objections? Patrickbowman (talk) 20:48, 26 December 2009 (UTC)

Which cover image ?[edit]

Working through Category:Novel has infobox needing 1st edition cover and trying to fix this article; anybody know which cover this article should have  ? appears slightly unclear, and is not that helpful...

Thanks GrahamHardy (talk) 16:01, 16 May 2014 (UTC)