The Pursuit of the Pankera

A Parallel Novel About Parallel Universes

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So this is Robert A. Heinlein's latest novel. Pretty good trick for a guy that's been dead since 1988. I think he might have appreciated the chutzpah involved in putting it out.

The first 29% of this book is pretty much the same as RAH's The Number of the Beast, published in 1980. (If you have a Kindle version, and you want to immediately skip ahead to the new stuff: search for the word "Splat".) But then things diverge. And you may find the divergence interesting, or not.

Let me repeat my synopsis from TNofB: Zeb Carter is at a party, where he meets Deety, daughter of math prof Jake. The party is hosted by Hilda. Zeb and Deety decide to get hitched, Jake and Hilda do the same, and then it develops that some baddies—the "black hats"—are trying to kill Jake for his discovery/invention of the means to travel between parallel universes. Deety and Hilda are impregnated, the universe-hopping gadget is installed in Zeb's flying car, and they're off. Not trying to save the world, but avoiding death.

As with TNofB (slight spoilers ahead) the plot depends strongly on what the characters call "multiperson solipsism". For the book's purposes, this means they can visit universes they previously considered to be entirely fictional. Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom. Baum's Oz. Doc Smith's Lensman universe. All these diverse realms get mustered into an unlikely alliance to exterminate the "black hats"—the Pankera.

Unfortunately, the book shares the same features I disliked in TNofB: too much Heinlein-character yakking, and at certain points things just stop for a page after page discussion of some obscure point about Barsoomian protocol, or the flying car's operating system, or…

Let it be said, however, that I found some of the pages to be amazingly magical.

Can I recommend it? If you are less than a rabid Heinlein fan, probably not. But if you thought The Number of the Beast was OK, than you might find this OK as well.

Last Modified 2024-01-23 2:06 PM EDT