In March, a new Heinlein novel came out, assembled from fragments found in his papers. The Pursuit of the Pankera contains no interpolations to link the fragments together; when placed in their correct order, they form a complete novel. …
I don’t remember hearing about that before. How interesting. I used to like Heinlein a lot … not JOB, that one left me utterly cold. Hmm. I guess I liked some of his juveniles the best? Looking back, I might pick Door Into Summer as my probable favorite. That wasn’t the case when I was a kid, but I think it’s the one that stands out now. I do remember thinking his last few books in particular were perhaps not as well put-together as some of his earlier work.
Anyway, whatever, this is still an interesting find.
Here’s this particular reviewer’s reaction:
I awaited it with some trepidation, as pre-publication announcements stated this was, as its subtitle stated, “A Parallel Novel About Parallel Universes,” and the novel it paralleled was, alas, The Number of the Beast. …
Despite my fondness for alternate-history tales, I found long ago that Number was easily Heinlein’s worst book. Pursuit turned out to be somewhat better, but it still has serious flaws. Something the editor did, as a service to the reader, was to place a discreet marker in the margin, near the top of page 152, where the two novels diverge—the first thirty percent is virtually identical to the original.
Yes, indeed, that is interesting. I thought the last, I don’t know, the last third or so of Number of the Beast was pretty awful. I did like the beginning, which is the part that’s essentially unchanged in Pankera.
Wow, it sounds like the two books diverge utterly on the way to Mars. If you’ve read Number, you remember the Mars scenes, I’m sure. In Pankera, this is actually Barsoom.
Okay, and it sounds like Lazarus Long vanishes from the pages of Pankera. Good. He was not an asset in Number. The reviewer didn’t like the new ending, but I hardly see how it could be less appealing than the Lazarus Long ending. I really did not appreciate having all the universes stirred together that way.
All right, the reviewer’s main problem is the protagonists’ genocidal campaign against the Pankera:
Late in the tale, they survey many alternate Earths, and find ten of them to be “infested.” The worst case is our own world—it’s easy enough to figure this out from the clues Heinlein gives. Their solution to this problem is unethical in the extreme: extermination. If it proves impossible to root out all the Pankera from a particular Earth, the entire planet is to be burnt off.
Yikes. Wow. That does sound a bit extreme.
Have any of you actually read this? What did you think?