I'm trying to remember the name of a story, I think the author was Larry Niven, but it might possibly be from Heinlein's "Future History" series (but a check of the stories included in the Future History indicates it's not in there), about a man whose commute is stopped because a criminal has to be 'adjusted'.

In this case, the criminal was a hit-and-run driver who left his victim untreated on the roadside, and was sentenced to suffer in the same manner. So his leg was carefully broken and he was left, untreated and in pain, on the side of the road in the same place for an hour. All the time ambulances were standing by, and every effort was made to ensure that the criminal did not suffer unduly - but that he did suffer, in a manner as close to the suffering he inflicted on his victim.

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    Not the answer, as it turns out, but Niven's story "Cruel and Unusual" has a similar theme: After a member of a Chirpsithtra crew is kidnapped and accidentally killed [by way of a slow allergic reaction] by her abductors, the Chirpsithtra enact the same fatal punishment on the kidnappers themselves.
    – Gaultheria
    Aug 2, 2018 at 4:40
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    Possible duplicate of What's the book by Heinlein that contains all other books?
    – Otis
    Aug 27, 2018 at 20:24
  • I'm voting to leave open and dupe closing the other way, the answer here is far better than the answer on the older question. @Otis may I remind you to select the highest quality Q&A pair as the target as opposed to the older (as per our site policies).
    – Edlothiad
    Aug 27, 2018 at 20:43
  • @Edliothiad, I considered that, but the other question uses a description much more representative of the book overall than this question's single and very specific detail. Thus, I do think it is a higher quality. Also, the other proposed target is already a duplicate target for other questions about this book.
    – Otis
    Aug 27, 2018 at 22:08

1 Answer 1


That scene is from Heinlein's The Number of the Beast.

(And not, as I originally claimed, Job: A Comedy of Justice.)

The Bible affects their penal system, again by selective quotation: 'Eye for eye, tooth for tooth...'

This results in a fluid code, with no intent to rehabilitate but to make the punishment fit the crime. I saw an example four days after we settled here. I was driving our steam wagon south on the highway out of town and encountered a road block. A policeman told me that I could take a detour or wait twenty minutes; the highway was being used to balance a reckless driver.

I elected to pull over and wait, then joined some spectators. A man was staked with one leg stretched out at a right angle. A police wagon drove down that cleared highway and ran over his leg, turned and drove back over it a second time.

There was an ambulance waiting - but nothing was done for a timed seventeen minutes. Then surgeons performed amputation on the spot; the ambulance took him away and the block was removed.

(The Number of the Beast, chapter XXXVIII.)

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    @Danny3414, d'oh! My mistake. I'll update, including a quote, later this evening. Aug 2, 2018 at 5:43
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    @Danny3414, I can't delete the answer since it has been accepted, but it may as well be correct. The scene didn't appear in both books, I'd simply misremembered which one it was. Aug 2, 2018 at 7:54
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    That's OK - I'm a pretty big Heinlein fan and I'd forgotten which book it was in too. :-) Aug 2, 2018 at 13:24

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