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I remember a thread here in the SciFi Stack Exchange about the longest sci-fi series. Someone mention a standalone Heinlein book that seemed to somehow include all other books ever written in its story. Does anybody know which book is that?

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5 Answers 5

up vote 21 down vote accepted

Heinlein's Number of the Beast features a vehicle that can travel through space and time and to fictional worlds such as Oz and Barsoom.

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"Gay Deceiver! Bounce, bounce, bounce!" –  Wayfaring Stranger Mar 13 at 11:56
    
I tried to get someone to name a boat "Gay Deceiver" once ... they declined. –  joshbirk Mar 13 at 18:25
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@joshbirk That's what our boat is called. We sort of had to when we got assigned 666 as registration number by the harbour-master. About once a year someone asks if it is after the book. Most of the time people think it is a homosexual thing. We get some really strange looks sometimes. –  Tonny Mar 13 at 22:09
    
I'd also say The Number of the Beast is probably the book that includes all the other books. Characters from different stories appear in it: it has Lazarus Long from Time Enough for Love and Manuel Garcia O'Kelly-Davis from The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. He also introduces his World as Myth idea in this book, I think, and there's a scene near the end where characters from many different fictional stories appear. –  Pixel Mar 14 at 17:16

For the sake of completeness (although I think accepted answer The Number of the Beast is the most all-encompassing of Heinlein's "multiverse" novels), I'll throw in The Cat Who Walks Through Walls.

It weaves together characters and storylines from a variety of other Heinlein novels, most prominently The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress and Time Enough For Love.

In spirit and tone, though, it functions as a sort of sequel to The Number of the Beast. Not for reasons of any narrative continuity between the two, but because each is a freewheeling parodic adventure within the conventions of a particular genre. Where Beast was primarily a romp through the conventions of pulp sci-fi. The Cat is Heinlein at play with the tropes of hard-boiled detective fiction. Flawed tough-guy hero, mysterious femme fatale, inexplicable murder to open the action - it's all swiped from the noir playbook.

Finally, the spacetime-travelling fictional-world-visiting Gay Deceiver from Beast also makes a reappearance in To Sail Beyond The Sunset, but there it's more of a walk-on cameo at the end.

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Depending on when in his career you're thinking of, and how complete an "all" you're insisting on, "Time Enough For Love" references many/most of his other books and embeds at least two sequences that are novella-to-novel-length in their own right.

Time Enough For Love

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I’m not sure whether this is what you’re looking for, but Wikipedia says,

For Us, the Living  contains many foreshadowings of Heinlein's later writings.  The 2086 of the book has a significant resemblance to both Beyond This Horizon and the Earth of Methuselah’s Children.  Other familiar elements include the "Covenant" from "Coventry", a variation on Starship Troopers’  suffrage only through federal service, rolling roads and a cat as a minor character.                … (and more)

… and there are similar remarks in the introduction to the book.

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It sounds like they were talking about his collection The Past Through Tomororow. It's not all the books he's ever written, but it's a really good overview of his future history. The stories are presented in chronological order relative to one another.

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