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The Pursuit of the Pankera: A Parallel Novel About Parallel Universes Paperback – April 20, 2021
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“An absolutely essential and 'must read' novel for the legions of Robert Heinlein fans, The Pursuit of the Pankera: A Parallel Novel About Parallel Universes is an extraordinary work of science fiction”―Midwest Book Review
"Heinlein still offers a rollicking ride even after all these years."― The Oklahoman
The Pursuit of the Pankera is one of the most audacious experiments ever done in science fiction by the legendary author of the classic bestseller Starship Troopers.
Robert A. Heinlein wrote The Number of the Beast, which was published in 1980. In the book Zeb, Deety, Hilda and Jake are ambushed by the alien “Black Hats” and barely escape with their lives on a specially configured vehicle (the Gay Deceiver) which can travel along various planes of existence, allowing them to visit parallel universes.
However, unknown to most fans, Heinlein had already written a “parallel” novel about the four characters and parallel universes in 1977. He effectively wrote two parallel novels about parallel universes. The novels share the same start, but as soon as the Gay Deceiver is used to transport them to a parallel universe, each book transports them to a totally different parallel world.
From that point on the plot lines diverge completely. While The Number of the Beast morphs into something very different, more representative of later Heinlein works, The Pursuit of the Pankera remains on target with a much more traditional Heinleinesque storyline and ending, reminiscent of his earlier works.
The Pursuit of the Pankera was never published and there have been many competing theories as to why (including significant copyright issues in 1977). Over time the manuscript was largely forgotten but survived in fragments. A recent re-examination of these fragments, however, made it clear that put together in the right order they constituted the complete novel.
And here it finally is: Robert A. Heinlein’s audacious experiment. A fitting farewell from one of the most inventive science fiction writers to have ever lived: a parallel novel about parallel universes as well as a great adventure pitting the forces of good versus evil only the way Heinlein could do.
This previously unpublished manuscript by Grand Master Heinlein will be in demand by his many fans and readers interested in the history of the genre. It's based on the same premise and features the same characters as his The Number of the Beast (1980). Indeed, the first third of the book is identical. But the novel then veers into an entirely different story, appropriately, since the books are based on travel through alternate worlds. As in Beast, our intrepid explorers travel to various fictional universes: Burroughs' Barsoom, Baum's Land of Oz, Smith's Lensman universe, confronting the idea that all fictional universes exist somewhere in the multiverse. Beast is recognized as the first work of Heinlein's late style, but The Pursuit of the Pankera is mostly in his middle style and occasionally hearkens back to his earliest pulp action writings. Together, the two novels offer fascinating insight into an inflection point in the evolution of one of science fiction's greatest writers. Pankeracan also be read on its own, though it will be of greatest interest to Heinlein fans.
-- John Keogh ― Booklist
An absolutely essential and 'must read' novel for the legions of Robert Heinlein fans, The Pursuit of the Pankera: A Parallel Novel About Parallel Universes,/i> is an extraordinary work of science fiction and a welcome addition to both community and academic library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that The Pursuit of the Pankera: A Parallel Novel About Parallel Universes is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).>p>
Editorial Note: This edition of The Pursuit of the Pankera: A Parallel Novel About Parallel Universes is enhanced for Heinlein fans and academia with the inclusion of an informative introduction by David Weber, an American science fiction and fantasy author who has written several science-fiction and fantasy books series, who is best known for his Honor Harrington science-fiction series.
The voice is heartbreakingly Heinleinian, and it ranges from whimsy to the chest-out strutting of Lazarus Long revisiting his own past. By the by, Lazarus is mentioned and involved with our heroes’ lives, though under an alias.
Interpersonal relations, sexual tensions, and pleasurable titillations abound. Familial hierarchies, or the societal kowtowing to them, are reminiscent of fifties morality, but not to the point of being stifling. If anything, they are employed masterfully to maintain loving conflict.
I will reveal no more; all Heinlein fans deserve to experience this wondrous revisiting for themselves.
-- David Lloyd Sutton ― Manhattan Book Review
- Publisher : CAEZIK SF & Fantasy (April 20, 2021)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 504 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1647100291
- ISBN-13 : 978-1647100292
- Item Weight : 1.6 pounds
- Dimensions : 6.25 x 1.25 x 9.25 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #438,727 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Reviewed in the United States on May 28, 2020
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Let's get started ...
First off, let's get something straight here. Regarding the content of Pursuit of the Pankera -- Heinlein didn't "look at what he had written and decide it was crap because it didn't hold true to the characters of the other universes like the Lensmen and Barsoom series". Then rewrite the whole shebang. That's nonsense. I'm a fan of ERB, E.E. Doc Smith and L. Frank Baum as much as any of you. Heinlein's purpose was NOT to "remain true" to the characters of those other authors, it was to write his OWN interpretations of those well known preceding authors of classic Science Fiction.
That was the entire BASIS and the sole reason for the book's addressing "parallel universes". So that Heinlein in the guise of "alternate universes" could use the characters of those authors interpreted and applied to his own means and for his own ends. If you think otherwise then you just don't know your Heinlein because Bob was anything but stupid or prone to embarking on unproductive failures. RAH was very conscious of his bottom line. Thus he was quite well aware that he could not and should not try to extend the works of previous, enormously popular authors and their massively well-known characters. He just wanted to "borrow" them for his own work and so the mechanism he chose was to create parallel universes that HIS originally created characters (Zeb, Deety, Jake, Hilda and their "car") would experience. This gave him the wiggle room he wanted to do whatever he felt like without the constraints of remaining strictly, exactly, precisely true to the originals. By using alternate and parallel universes Heinlein could mold those other characters to the story he wanted to tell and he did so masterfully.
Masterfully because every single one of us who knew what he was talking about in reference to Edgar Rice Burroughs, E.E. (Doc) Smith and L. Frank Baum's novels "got" what he was doing and recognized those other "universes". It was like meeting old friends who had put on a new suit of clothes and the tag in those duds read "Tailored by Robert A. Heinlein".
The problem and the reason why Pankera was not published earlier, say in 1973 or so, is not one of writing style, homage to other authors, lack of rigor to pre-existing characters or any of that sort of horse leavings. The reason this wasn't published had nothing to do with frustration over style, or fears of treading on the toes of another author, or any sort of artistic stenosis. The biggest reason was plain, old, garden variety, contemporary, temporal to the current United States of America, copyright infringement and fear of litigation arising therefrom.
Because Barsoom, Oz, and the Lensmen's universe are all elements of stories copyrighted by other authors and other publishers.
Nearly 50 years, a half a century, has passed since Bob Heinlein wrote this original version of "The Number of the Beast" and was forced by his editors and publishers to re-write it without the potential copyright infringements. Clearly during this half century span and due to expiry, permissions and whatever other mechanisms could be brought to bear the Family and Estate of Robert Anson Heinlein has brought you, as best as possible, his original "Number of the Beast" and if you're a fan of Bob Heinlein's work you should be very, very grateful.
As I am.
Because this is a great work of Heinlein as it was meant to be before bean counters and lawyers made him write that mish-mashed hash that was originally published.
Don't get me wrong, I love Zebbie, Deety, Jake, Hilda and Gay Deceiver in BOTH books. I'm also a fan of Lazarus Long's stories. But the original Number of the Beast just sort of sputtered out during the last few chapters and I've always wondered why the heck Heinlein gave such a great book such a weak ending. Now we all know why.
If you enjoyed the original Number of the Beast you should absolutely love Pursuit of the Pankera. Because Pursuit of the Pankera is the undiluted original straight-up-without-ice version and without all the problems, inconsistencies and outright flops caused by the meddling of lesser men in Heinlein's original story line.
Now we have Pursuit of the Pankera to add to Spider Robinson's creation of Variable Star from Bob's notes and these great works are now the property of eternal posterity. In these posthumous works we have been very blessed and I know for as certain a certainty as is possible this side of the veil that Bob would approve. I also know that he's laughing because some of you don't "get it".
I just wish Pursuit of the Pankera were about eight or ten chapters longer. When you get to the end you'll see what I mean. The family and estate had to make due with what they had that was Real Robert Anson Heinlein and that's what they did but I wish ol' Bob would have written a few more chapters before closing this book. Even so, if you read it carefully you'll see that it's not a cliffhanger and no character's fate was unaccounted for.
Please feel free to comment, I'd love to discuss this book with both lovers and haters thereof while it's still fresh in my mind.
recall it all that well, but I know I found it underwhelming, with
some good parts, and then a lot of bickering about "lifeboat rules"
and "white mutinies" followed by an ending that didn't really address
the threat that was the impetus to the plot.
For some reason, while he was writing TNOTB, Heinlein was also
writing _The Pursuit of the Pankera_, using the same characters and
starting point while taking the story in a different direction.
Perhaps he was making a point about the Many Worlds theory, alternate
history and characters who more than half suspect they are fictional.
Again, for some reason, he decided not to publish _The Pursuit of
the Pankera_ after TNOTB. In general I would say he should have
done the opposite and kept TNOTB in the trunk. TPOTP is a much
more fun book, not as bogged down in blind alleys as Beast, and
spends more time in interesting places.
I am struck, as well, by something I totally missed when reading
The Number Of The Beast back in the day. Despite all the invocations
of Doc Smith, I somehow did not see that at least the first third
of the book is a recapitulation of Smith's _The Skylark of Space_
(the first space opera): Two bantering couples, a brilliant scientist
and man of action, a deadly menace and a wonderful new conveyance
to unimagined worlds. To take it even a bit further, Smith was to
some extent lampooning Burroughs, with his naked, martial Martians,
so that the Skylark's first destination "Osnome" is modeled on (and
sounds like) "Barsoom". In Pankera Heinlein goes to the original
but even has the Earth party do the doubletalk grandiose introductions
to the natives that Smith pioneered.
The book opens at a campus party where Zebadiah John Carter, a man
with many escapades in his past who nonetheless enjoys playing the
campus dilettante, quickly meets Deja Thoris Burroughs, the young
woman who will be his bride, her brilliant mathematician father
Jake, who has been desperately trying to get in touch with him, and
somebody who is trying to kill them all, including the party's
hostess, Hilda Corners, who unknown to Carter (or to her) is his
Making a quick escape in Zeb's flying car (we are at some indefinite
point in the future), the foursome quickly tie the knots in whirlwind
courtships and go to ground to try and figure out what is going on.
What that is, is that apparently some nonhuman species has infested
the Earth and has it violently in for anybody with enough mathematical
talent to figure out where they came from, or how to escape. Jake
had, in fact, been seeking out Zeb under the assumption (for
complicated reasons) that he was also a brilliant mathematician.
He's not. But he *does* have the practical engineering skill to
adapt Seaton's (ah, I mean Burroughs's) discoveries into a
multiuniversal drive which will fit in _Gay Deceiver_, the
aforementioned flying car.
With that barely done, the foursome bugs out just in advance of a
nuclear strike on their bolt-hole and decides that Earth is no
longer safe. A few adjustments and misadventures behind them, they
find themselves at Mars in a parallel universe and decide to take
a rest stop.. To find themselves on Barsoom, hosted by Carthoris,
Thuvia and the original Dejah Thoris (the warlord, whom Zeb has put
out is his cousin is off on adventures). Of course trouble has a
way of following one (or four)...
Although Zeb is essentially the main character, the story is told
in alternating first person sections, narrated by each of Zeb,
Hilda, Deety & Jake. This works pretty well, though Deety has an
"I'm X, I am" tic that can be annoying, and each of the characters
This was a fun book, better, as I said, than "the original". My
main criticism would be that he still doesn't totally "stick" the
ending, though it is better than TNOTB. After a whole book of
pretty much "real time" adventures, we suddenly go into fast forward
mode where there are a bunch of kids we never get to know, and the
foursome go off on a genocidal tear (that is not a good look for
them), before getting it under control and deciding to actually
address the threat seriously. And we are just about to see that
happen (with a whole bunch of cast additions that we have our
suspicions about, but which said are never wholly addressed) when
the book ends. Granted we know that they are going to carry the
day, and all live through the battle, but it's a bit of an anti-climax,
and still never really addresses the underpinnings of the threat.
Also, be aware this is late period Heinlein, so you have ideas on
sexual liberation from a man born in 1907, and who has very firm
ideas on sex roles. Of course, I think he turned it up to 11 to
make some heads explode on purpose, but yeah, those heads are going
to explode. (Mine just hurt a bit).
As for the trunk-novel status of the book.. There were a few places
where there were some obvious needs for edits (one chapter was
almost 100% dialogue for instance, so that apparently Heinlein
forgot whose chapter it was and dropped into third person at one
point), and a few spots that could have used another draft (Carthoris
came across looking too naive at one point, for instance), but in
general this is well flowing, sure-footed Heinlein prose.
If you are asking yourself: Did Lazarus Long show up like he did
in TNOTB? The answer is.. maybe.
On the Late Heinlein scale, this is closer to _Friday_ than anything
else, so if you detest LH, you may still like this one. I did.
For a good chunk of this story, there is a great deal of nonsense that was cut out of Number of the Beast, and the first large section that is exactly the same.
Ideas are proposed that later will lead to something but not in this book. I would have liked to discuss this with RAH, it would have been interesting (for me) and educational.
The characters all get a lick and a promise but evolve as well for the better in NotB, especially Deety and Hilda who spend much of this book shopping while their men folk do 'important things'.
Deety repeats her catch phrases a little too often, and there is a lot more technical talk that was removed later, but by the last 30%, heads in an interesting direction that I thought I knew and quickly found I did not, which after so much similarity to NotB, was very welcome and good fun. It's been a long time since I read any 'new' Heinlein.
Not a must read, but worth the time if you want to. Undercooked in places and over in others, it checks out.
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But this recovered work feels much more like the Heinlein I used to love. Adventure and excitement. A sense of wonder. So much that was lost in his later works is here. Discernible characters. Decent dialogue. Less up-your-arse points of principle.
Doch schon auf dem Weg zu den Autos werden sie angegriffen und flüchten in Guy Täuscher, Zebs Flugwagen. In Jacob Burroughs Zuflucht angekommen - die ein wshrer Preppertraum ist - erfährt Zeb, dass sein frischgebackener Schwiegervater ein Gerät erfunden hat, dass es ihm ermöglicht zwischen Paralleluniversen hin und her zu reisen. Und dieses Gerät baut er in das Flugauto seines Schwiegersohns ein. Und das ist gut so, denn bald haben ihre Verfolger die Burroughs/Carters eingeholt und zwingen sie zur Flucht über die Dimensionsgrenzen - und zum Mars, der dort aber Barsoom heißt und wo der Name John Carter großes Gewicht hat. Was Zeb sofort für einen geschickten Betrug nutzt.
Und ab hier wird es wirklich ganz anders. Die vier verbringen sehr viel Zeit auf Barsoom, bevor es sie - ziemlich kurz - nach Oz verschlägt und sie später längere Zeit bei den Lensmen weilen.
Das ist interessant, aber lsnge nicht so interessant wie der wilde Ritt durch die narrativen Welten, den 'Die Zahl des Tieres' darstelllt mit der wechselnden Kapitänsschaft, der späteren selbstbewussten und selbstständigen Guy Täuscher, der deutlich originelleren Umsetzung der multiperspektivisches Ich-Erzählung und einfach deutlich mehr Humor. Außerdem wirkt das Ende arg verkürzt und fällt erzähltechnisch deutlich gegen den Rest des Romans ab, so dass ich die letzten 25 Seiten nur noch querlesen konnte. Vielleicht war das der Grund, warum Bob das lieber in der Schublade gelassen hat - und ab dem ersten Teil bei den Lensmen hätte ich das wirklich begrüßt. Eher etwas für Komplettisten.
Heck, if you have read the alternate universe version of this story you may well feel the urge to read it again after getting to the end of this one.
Due to the error in judgment of the publisher of the time only one of the original twin books was published. For some reason lost to the mists of time this half of the story remained hidden until 30 years had passed. In the cosmic scheme of things that delay is strangely appropriate. But it left the unsupported twin diminished at the time. With the release of this book the adventure is now whole.
I do have a hunch that you may need to be a Trekkie or a Whovian to not feel lost in time or space.
I haven’t enjoyed a new book so much in 30 years! Considering the situation of the Covid-19 world and the stress that we all feel this book that’s 30 years late arrived at the right time. I think that many fans of Heinlein will feel the same way as I do.