The Number of the Beast (novel)

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The Number of the Beast is a science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein published in 1980. The first (paperback) edition featured a cover and interior illustrations by Richard M. Powers. Excerpts from the novel were serialized in the magazine Omni (1979 October, November).

Contents

Plot

The book is a series of diary entries by each of the four main characters: Zebadiah Carter, programmer Dejah Thoris "Deety" Burroughs Carter and her mathematics professor father Jacob Burroughs, and an off-campus socialite Hilda Corners. The names "Dejah Thoris", "Burroughs" and "Carter" are overt references to John Carter and Dejah Thoris, the main protagonists of the Barsoom (Mars) novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs.

The four travel in the Gay Deceiver, Zebadiah's sporty spaceship, which is outfitted with the professor's "continua" device and armed by the Australian Defence Force. The continua device was built by Professor Burroughs while he was formulating his theories on n-dimensional non-euclidean geometry. The geometry of the novel's universe contains six dimensions; the three spatial dimensions as they exist in the real world, and three time dimensions - t, the real world's time dimension, τ (tau), and т (teh). The continua device can travel on all six axes. The continua device allows travel into various fictional universes, such as Oz, as well as through time. An attempt to visit Barsoom takes them to an apparently different version of Mars than in the Barsoom novels, seemingly under the colonial rule of the British Empire. However, near the end of the novel, it is hinted by recurring Heinlein character Lazarus Long that they had traveled to Barsoom, and that its "colonial" status was an illusion imposed on them by the telepathically adept Barsoomians:

... 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....

Explanation of the novel's title

In the novel, the Biblical number of the beast turns out to be, not 666, but (66)6, or 10,314,424,798,490,535,546,171,949,056, which is the number of parallel universes accessible through the continua device.

Writing style

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