Volume 2, Number 04, Winter, 1984

By Robert Heinlein
Ballantine/Del Rey, 376 pagers $16.95.
Reviewed by Neal Wilgus
September 1984

The good news is that Heinlein’s new novel is his best in years—the bad news is that it isn’t particularly libertarian. I was in a rush to read it. with the idea that it would be a likely nominee for the 1985 Prometheus Award. But, while I can recommend it highly, it is not really suitable as a Prometheus nominee.

Job tells of the travels and tribulations of Alexander Hergensheimer, a latter-day Job in a world he mistakenly thinks he understands. Correction—a whole series of worlds—for in the first two thirds of the story Alex is miraculously bounced from one world to another with no rhyme and little apparent reason.

The story begins innocently enough with Alex on vacation in the South Pacific, where he takes a dare and walks through the fire pit with bare feet. This jolts him into the first of a long series of alternate dimensions, each a world of 1994 with a different history, technology, and predominant culture. Along the way he picks up a girlfriend. Margrethe, who sticks with him through thin and thick despite the fact that he’s a born-again fundamentalist and she's a follower of Odin's Old Religion.

In the final third of the novel Alex is raptured to heaven and ruptured to hell where there turns out to be more to God and Satan than we were led to believe—but I won’t go into detail for fear of spoiling the fun. This cosmological fantasy ls also high satire and Heinlein doesn’t disappoint us, even if some of the irritating habits that have plagued his work over the past decade linger on.

Alas, I find little that is specifically anarcho-libertarian in Job. True, there’s a comment that hell is "an anarchy except for a touch of absolute monarchy," and there’s also the passing remark that "there is no such thing as a free lunch." And, of course, Heinlein’s overall outlook is libertarian to the core and flashes of that outlook can be found throughout.

But a Prometheus nominee needs more than flashes and passing comments. It doesn’t necessarily have to demonstrate an anarchotopia, but the issue of how best to find freedom ought to be fairly central and directly if not not simply implied in the novel's background. I fully expect to see Job among this year’s nominees, of course, and it might even win—but I hope that something more explicitly anarcho-libertarian beats it.

In the meantime Job is very entertaining, thought-and laughter-provoking and well worth your time. It will probably be a best seller too and bring even more honor to our "dean of science fiction." As well it should.

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