Job: A Comedy of Justice

by Robert A. Heinlein

Other authorsMichael Whelan (Cover artist), Gary Friedman (Cover designer)
Hardcover, 1984



Call number

PS3515 .E288


Del Rey (New York, 1984). 1st edition, 1st printing. 376 pages. $16.95.


After firewalking in Polynesia, fundamentalist minister Alexander Hergensheimer never saw the world the same. Now called Alec Graham, he was in the middle of an affair with his stewardess, Margrethe, and natural disasters kept following them. First, there was an impossible iceberg that wrecked the ship in the tropics; then, after being rescued by a Royal Mexican plane, they were hit by a double earthquake. To Alex, the signs were clear that Armageddon and the Day of Judgment were near. Somehow, he had to bring his beloved heathen, Margrethe, to a state of grace, for heaven would be no paradise without her. But time was growing short. And, while he was at it, there had to be a way to save the rest of the world.

Media reviews

''Job'' may not be on a par with such classic Heinlein as ''Stranger in a Strange Land,'' ''The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress'' or the stories he wrote under the ''Future History'' rubric - but it is an exhilarating romp through the author's mental universe (or rather universes), with special emphasis on cultural relativism, dogmatic religion (treated with surprising sympathy) and the philosophical conundrum of solipsism. It is not necessary to share all of Mr. Heinlein's views on man and society to enjoy the bracing clarity with which he sets them forth.
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NBD/Biblion (via
Alex Hergensheimer, lid van een zeer strenge godsdienstige sekte, doet tijdens een cruise over de Stille Zuidzee mee aan een vuurdansceremonie. Het loopt verkeerd af en als hij bijkomt, bevindt hij zich met een andere identiteit op een andere Aarde, in gezelschap van de hoogst verleidelijke Margarethe. Dit wordt de aanvang van een queeste door verscheidene realiteiten die Alex letterlijk naar hemel en hel zal leiden... Robert Heinlein is een zeer bekend SF-auteur. Hij heeft 43 boeken geschreven. Vier daarvan zijn bekroond met de Hugo Award, een internationale SF-prijs. Job is een leuk, vindingrijk en charmant boek. Maar nogal ergerniswekkend zijn de veelvuldige en puberale sekstaferelen en bezinningen over de verhouding man/vrouw. Als je je daar niet te veel aan ergert, blijft een vermakelijk boek over dat op een leuke manier toch een aantal minder voor de hand liggende diepzinnigheden debiteert. Alle 29 hoofdstukken beginnen met een bijbeltekst (die nergens op slaat). (NBD|Biblion recensie, Bob van Laerhoven.)

User reviews

LibraryThing member RRHowell
I'm not wild about this one. It's Heinlein being pretty self-indulgent, and whining about the Judaeo-Christian view of God. But, that said, it's also an unusual take on Job.
LibraryThing member nesum
I should probably confess up front that I am not a Heinlein fan. This is the third of his books that I have read and the first that I really enjoyed. Perhaps my view is tainted in that way.

As I said, I did enjoy this book, but was very uncomfortable with most of it. Heinlein is very impressed with his own knowledge of the Bible, and yet seems to know very little about Christianity. Non-believers often find it strange when I make that distinction, but it is not so very difficult a concept. I had a couple of classes with a woman who knew every fact and date in the textbook, and yet understood nothing of it. She had the knowledge, but was without understanding. When it comes to the Spirit, the problem is even more pronounced (1 Corinthians 2:14).

This is not normally too much a problem. I am a great fan of Isaac Asimov’s, and yet he was utterly blind to anything supernatural at all. That does not make me like his books less. But in this case, Heinlein seems to be writing a great deal of the book as an attack on Christianity, though he has missed the meaning and point of the Scripture he is attacking. The primary problem is his concept of grace, something he believes can be lost the second a stray thought arises. The idea that you must confess all sins immediately before dying or burn in hell provides the backbone for this novel and also provides Heinlein with a terrible injustice to attack. The problem is, it isn’t Christianity. He is attacking a strawman. The novel is weakened because it is directed against his own misunderstandings.

I will repeat that I enjoyed it for the plot and characters. The end was unworthy of the rest, but it was a fun read.
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LibraryThing member jlelliott
I enjoyed this amusing little science fiction novel because I am always up for a little religious satire. Heinlein elaborates on the biblical story of Job, presenting Christian mythology as an eternal bureaucracy. I didn’t find the book particularly memorable, but it was fun while it lasted.
LibraryThing member nandadevi
I have to acknowledge a debt of gratitude to LT member wirkman. He points out that Job is a reworking of a novel by James Branch Cabell, a tribute as it were from Heinlein to an author he much admired. Somehow the book picked up for me after that. After mentally peeling back slightly heavy handed approach that was part and parcel of fitting his story inside Cabell's 'moral story' I recognized the much lighter Heinlein touch and sailed through to the end with ease. And in the end saw that it was a love story, and if you want the background to that story I refer you to his entry in Wikipedia. Recommended, but it's one mostly for the Heinlein or the Cabell fans.… (more)
LibraryThing member beatbox32
This is the first book I've read by Heinlein. After reading the reviews of others, it appears that this piece wasn't a very good representation of "classic" Heinlein. Not having been endowed with possible genre bias, I can say that I enjoyed reading this book. The ending wasn't very satisfying and Heinlein's Christian straw-man was a bit narrow, but I can understand what he was shooting for and I never found myself bored with the narrative.… (more)
LibraryThing member wanderlustlover
In someways I think my journey to this book will always outlast the book itself.

When I was seventeen I told my boss I would read this book, that had been so influential to his young catholic school life. It was one of only two gallon sized bags worth of objects prized from my worst car wreck in my early twenties. It has been the lasting joke of a decade. Whether I had finally read it.

And this late winter, in the year I will turn 29, he sent me a second copy. It is pristine, and not as tender warming as the one that slowly is trying to die, but its very much still in this house with me. (And both copies likely find it queer, I read it on my Kindle instead of through either of them.)

I am not sure I liked this novel. It is slow and plodding, and it does not do details and relationships the way my favorite books do. But it was quite compelling, and I was involved with the point of the novel by about the one-third mark.

I can see very much why it changed his life when it did, though at 29, I can see why it seems for granted to me, with all my life has had in it. I'm not sure I'd rec it to others, but I'm certain I would still love to talk about it with people. And thus I will leave you the quote that will stay with me forever, too:

"Is this Texas, then, or Hell?"

"Well. That's all really a matter of opinion."
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LibraryThing member satyridae
I'd forgotten how thoroughly unlikeable the protagonist of this book is. Ick. I also had a hard time understanding what caused him to fall in love with Marga, and even more, WTF did Marga see in him?

It's an interesting meditation on religious fundamentalism, but ultimately it strikes me as a little too facile. It was written near the end of Heinlein's career and it feels a little as if it were done by rote. There are several recycled bits from earlier works, including the obligatory reference to consensual parent/child sex. The dialogue is a bit stiff- RAH was very stingy with his contractions, and I think that makes for awkward sounding conversations.

The Farnsworth family were far and away my favorite characters. I liked the steampunky elements of the first several chapters. In the end, though, I couldn't get past my distaste for Alex. This one's not going back on the shelf. 2.5 stars.
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LibraryThing member wirkman
The key to understanding this book lies in the subtitle, "A Comedy of Justice." It exactly mirrors the subtitle of James Branch Cabell's breakthrough best seller, "Jurgen." And the plot is similar. Dig deeper, and you will discover that Cabell was Heinlein's favorite author, and that all of Heinlein's later works, from "Stranger in a Strange Land" onward, were attempts to mimic Cabell"s 18-volume "Biography of the Life of Manuel," of which "Jurgen: A Comedy of Justice" was not the best, merely the best-known.

So how did Heinlein do? Well, Cabell repeatedly insisted that he wrote only for his own pleasure. Heinlein, in these later books, seemed to be indulging in a similar private obsession. If that is the case, he wouldn't have cared much what we think.

That being said, "Jurgen" is a far, far better book than "Job: A Comedy of Justice." Cabellian irony fit his mythic cosmos-building and droll story constructs. Heinlein may have aimed for irony, but his personal philosophy rubbed against the grain of that emprise. He was, in the end, a pretty straight-forward guy, if a nudist and all-around crank. This book is one of those very odd failures that may haunt unwary readers for reasons hard to grasp. The haunting, I think, is due entirely to the strange and unlikely presence of the shade of James Branch Cabell.
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LibraryThing member mcarden
I'm picking my way back through Heinlein having first read all I could find in the late 1970s and early 80s. This is a re-read for me but for the most part, an immensely enjoyable romp.

His take on religion is by turns earnest and trite, but he gives it a go and even the harshest critic might acknowledge that he had passing familiarity with their belief system of choice.

Not his best book, and as he so often does, the change of direction in the last 50 pages makes you wonder where it might have gone. Regardless, Bob became so much a part of me that at my most critical I can't dislike this book.
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LibraryThing member EmScape
A modern-day (well, set in 1994, written in 1984) retelling of the story of Job from the Biblical Old Testament, with quite the sci-fi twist. Alexander Hergensheimer is a pious church fundraiser who is experiencing something very weird. He participated in a native fire walking during a cruise ship vacation and regains consciousness in a world not his own. It looks very much like Earth, but everything is different: culture, values, technology, even his name! He falls for his stewardess and thereafter together they are flipped into world after world. Why is this happening to him? Who is doing it? The answers to those questions are highly entertaining and thought-provoking.
Although I didn't care for Alec's constant preaching and proselytizing, I understand the necessity of it as regards to the plot and was able to deal with it better at the end of the book than while I was reading it. I very much enjoy Heinlein's take on religion, and wonder if this is the budding of his World as Myth theories.
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LibraryThing member jefware
I found the ideas in this book mind expanding. For instance, Jehova is looking for a betting partner and turns to Loki as Satan has no interest in destroying some poor schmucks life.
LibraryThing member h3athrow
A funny update on the trials of Job, a conservative Christian who ends up getting more than he bargained for on a vacation cruise. The character Margrethe is fun, and the book's a righteous romp through religion, sexual mores, and the true meaning of a Bad Day. The ending's not as strong as it could be, but the book's worth reading.… (more)
LibraryThing member samfsmith
Picked this up as reading material for a backpacking trip. I read it years ago, back when it first came out. Heinlein is strong on ideas and creativity - not so strong on other things. This is a retelling of the Job story from the old testament, with the added twist that the Judeo-Christian God is not the only God.
LibraryThing member FicusFan
I am a big Heinlein fan, and have enjoyed most of his books. Unfortunately I just couldn't see the point of this one.

It was well written and a quick read. I understand he was making a comment on religion, the people who use it, and its impact and place in society. The problem is, I have no interest in christianity and that was what the story was about. Yes it can apply to any religion, but that doesn't do much for me either. The characters were ok, but too squeaky to be real, and of course many were religious. Then at the end of the book we visit heaven and hell, and meet some of the inhabitants. Frankly I just couldn't wait for it to be over.

What was also sad, was though this book was published in 1984, as perhaps a satire on religion, in the current climate many of the religious rules are almost law here. And you almost can't get elected, or hold public office if you don't 'believe' and tow the party line on all issues. Then the believers appoint judges to interpret the law, and promote rules that tie the hands of those they can't intimidate into silence.
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LibraryThing member Orangez
This was my first Heinlein novel and I must say I enjoyed it! I bought it at a garage sell for 30 cents because I vaguely recognized the name.

I just read Christophers Moore's "Lamb" before this and must say that this was a refreshing take on religion.

In the end love is all that matters in every life I guess...… (more)
LibraryThing member jprutter
This is the first Heinlein book I read and still one of my favorites. A hapless protagonist gets his life turned upside down as he is thrust from one impossible situation to the next. Along the way he reevaluates his view on love and on religion all without losing his faith.
LibraryThing member gbanville
Since I did not have a religious education something that I didn't understand when I first read this book was that Heinlein was making an interesting play on some of the very theme's of the book of Job, particularly where the Biblical Job wishes that he had an advocate in Heaven, and wishes that he could sue God for his greivances.… (more)
LibraryThing member fuzzi
All the other books I've read by Robert Heinlein I really liked, but this one left me totally cold. I did read to the end just to see if it would get better, but it did not.
LibraryThing member SimoneA
A fun and enjoyable story about a man who suddenly finds himself shifting into different versions of earth, along with a girl he meets after his first shift. The main character is a very religious man, which gives room for a satirical take on religion. I enjoyed the book, but was not greatly impressed. Reading the reviews here, I will have to pick up one of Heinlein's more popular works to see if they are better.… (more)
LibraryThing member Karlstar
I really enjoyed this when it came out. Imagine the story of Job told in future times, with multiple universes and all the things that can go 'wrong' to a modern/future person, without being grim, terrible or nasty. Its a bit irreverent if you are a strict religious person, but I found it enjoyable.
LibraryThing member gypsysmom
Heinlein delves into religion in this book. Alexander Hergensheimer is a fundamentalist minister but then everything changed and he is supposed to be Alec Graham, an underworld figure. He is in love with Margrethe but he is afraid that the weird things happening on earth mean the end of the world is coming and Margrethe is a heathen. Can he save her so that she is in Heaven with him?… (more)
LibraryThing member Fledgist
Alexander Hergesheimer, a minister of religion, takes a bet to firewalk in Tahiti, and the world changes. Then it keeps changing while he crosses the Pacific, falls in love, crosses Mexico, America, ascends into heaven, and descends into hell. This is, perhaps, the best late Heinlein. It is funny, poignant, and pointed. The ending is pleasant, if a bit dated. There's a bit of the flavour of Stranger towards the end.… (more)
LibraryThing member lycomayflower
Typical Heinlein narrative style coupled with a somewhat atypical story of a modern-day Job who is jerked from one reality to another (usually losing everything in the transition) by, he suspects, God (or gods). Drags a touch in the middle, but Heinlein brings the whole thing to a satisfyingly irreverant and nifty conclusion. In other words, he does explain (mostly) what's been going on, and the explanation is worth the time it takes to get to it.… (more)
LibraryThing member Unreachableshelf
This is quite possibly my favorite of Heinlein's works that I have read so far. For once he manages to write a story that is mostly plot rather than lecture that engages me; I have a bizarre fondness for being lectured by him even though it's not something I enjoy from other authors. Maybe it's because of how unusual it is for one of his protagonists to be presented as being so thoroughly wrong about the world for so much of the book. Maybe it's because I've always been a sucker for stories about following one's love beyond death. Of course, it could also be professional ego from the way he flatters librarians.… (more)


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Physical description

376 p.


0345316495 / 9780345316493
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