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Starting with Number of the Beast Heinlein began the systematic incorporation of most of his great novels into a single multiverse. Additionally, he included works by other authors in this multiverse.

My question is pretty simple: What order should these books - and their connected books - be read in?

I'll be happy with just a reading order, meant to prevent spoilers, for all the World as Myth books that Heinlein wrote. Including ones prior to Number of the Beast that are talked about in the World as Myth books. For example, reading Number of the Beast before Stranger in a Strange Land will result in some spoilage. So one should read Stranger first.

Chronological order would be pretty meaningless, so focus on preventing spoilage.

However:

Ideally I want a list of ALL books that are part of this multiverse and might be spoiled by reading World as Myth so I will create and dole out a maximum bounty to the first person who can produce what looks like a complete listing of not only the Heinlein books, but the books of anyone else involved. Yes, 500 rep is up for grabs.


Orders that aren't acceptable and why

Order Written - While it seems on the surface that the order these books were written in is the logical reading order, this doesn't take into consideration the capabilities of the human mind. Take To Sail Beyond the Sunset for example. Within this book, there are references to works that were written long enough ago that they might be lost in the shuffle. After reading the entire Barsoom series (11 books) and the entire Future History series (24 books) would anyone still remember the reference to All You Zombies?

It would, therefore, be logical for people to read All You Zombies at the last possible chance before encountering themes from that story within the World as Myth universe.

The same applies to the books from the Moon is a Harsh Mistress series, reading them right before reading The Cat Who Walks Through Walls would be ideal.

Chronological - To expand on why Chronological order won't work well, we need only see that many books are broken into different time-lines. While it might be REALLY INTERESTING to read all of these books in the correct chronology, you'd be skipping from book to book and lose the narrative. Not ideal for a first read.


The ideal order, therefore, is to read things at the last possible moment before they are brought up. So you can safely read the Future History series before reading all the books that are brought up in Number of the Beast. Then reading all the books brought up in The Cat Who Walks Through Walls and so on.

My question is still one of reading order, in that no list seems to exist of all the books mentioned and in what order can they be safely read in.

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    Frankly, I think published order is the best way to do it. That would include those other books mentioned in Heinlein's books but not written by him. – Michael Todd Mar 25 '11 at 14:10
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    @Michael Todd: That makes some sense, however it would mean that you'd have to read SO many books before ever getting to "World as Myth." Additionally, I would have to read them to find out what books are part of it, so this still needs to be answered. If only to list all of the related books. – DampeS8N Mar 25 '11 at 14:53
  • Incidentally, how detailed do you want? For example, the first chapter in The Number of the Beast references Benjamin Lee Whorf (half of the linguist duo that proposed the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis), Alfred Korzybski (semantics), Claude Shannon (a founder of information theory), and Lobachevski (Nikolai Ivanovich? Plagarist mathematician sung about by Tom Lehrer). Each of them gets a single (last) name mention -- in a single sentence. We could attempt to explain all such references, but I'm not sure it's worth the time. – Martha F. Mar 25 '11 at 23:25
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    I found the endings of both Cat and Sunset disappointing -- NotB had the best ending, and certainly explained the ending of Cat -- which ended on a cliffhanger. That's why I put it last -- it's like it explains all of what went before it. – Martha F. Mar 27 '11 at 16:59
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    ansible.co.uk/writing/numbeast.html An hilarious and sadly accurate review (for me, anyway.) – user1392 Mar 31 '11 at 1:55
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+500

Heinlein includes LOTS of stuff into his World as Myth books.

You could try to read all of them, but most of them are just mentioned or have a character show up.

Core World-as-Myth books (These are either direct sequels to The Number of the Beast, or shows the origin of a major character or situation in those books.)

  • The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (good stand-alone story, and it's a great book)
  • Stranger in a Strange Land (not one of my favorites, but very popular. Also stands alone.)
  • Time Enough for Love could be considered the first of the World as Myth books, but the majority of it is the story of the life of Lazarus Long, and it covers the majority of what you need to know to understand the Future History part of the World as Myth stuff.
  • Number of the Beast (This is probably needed to understand the next books at all, however reading it again after them is also a good idea)
  • The Cat Who Walks Through Walls should come next. Sequel to The Moon is a Harsh Mistress as well as The Number of the Beast
  • To Sail Beyond the Sunset is a direct sequel to Time Enough for Love as well as The Cat Who Walks Through Walls. This was also Heinlein's final novel.

Heinlein-written works that are mentioned/included in the World as Myth include:

Stand-alone books or stories:

  • Stranger in a Strange Land
  • Citizen of the Galaxy
  • Between Planets
  • Double Star
  • Podkayne of Mars
  • I Will Fear No Evil
  • Glory Road
  • Beyond this Horizon
  • Rocket Ship Galileo
  • "The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag"
  • "The Menace from Earth"

Books with Hazel (Meade Davis) Stone (in order)

  • The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (Core to World-as Myth)
  • The Rolling Stones

The Future History books (the Lazarus Long books are part of this) (List taken from Wikipedia)

  • Life-Line
  • "Let There Be Light"
  • The Roads Must Roll
  • Blowups Happen
  • The Man Who Sold the Moon* - Characters here are in the core World-as-Myth books
  • Delilah and the Space Rigger
  • Space Jockey
  • Requiem
  • The Long Watch
  • Gentlemen, Be Seated!
  • The Black Pits of Luna
  • "It's Great to Be Back!"
  • "—We Also Walk Dogs"
  • Searchlight
  • Ordeal in Space
  • The Green Hills of Earth (Features Rhysling, a poet mentioned several times by Lazarus Long.)
  • Logic of Empire
  • The Menace from Earth
  • "If This Goes On—"
  • Coventry
  • Misfit
  • Universe
  • Methusaleh's Children (The first appearance of Lazarus Long. You don't need to read this before Time Enough for Love, but it's good background information.)
  • Common Sense
  • Time Enough for Love (Core to World-as Myth)

He also mentions books and stories he didn't write, including:

There are quick references to many other SF writers and works -- including discussion of the books of Asimov, Marion Zimmer Bradley (Darkover), Niven and Pournelle (Mote in God's Eye), Larry Niven (Known Space), Jack Williamson, Edgar Rice Burroughs (Pellucidar), Star Trek, Middle Earth, and Poul Anderson.

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    @Marths F. If you can arrange these into a specific reading order, this is an answer. And if you can find the 'others' that he includes characters from, I can award you the bounty I plan to set as soon as I am able to. :) The Circle of Ouroboros is maybe a good starting point to find external characters that are important, and thus should be included. – DampeS8N Mar 25 '11 at 17:11
  • However, you are missing some short stories and other books. The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag for one. All You Zombies is another, connected to the Circle of Ouroboros I mentioned above. :) – DampeS8N Mar 25 '11 at 17:13
  • @DampeS8N -- I'm exhausted just from compiling the list so far, which is why I made it a community wiki answer -- so that other people can fill in the gaps that I missed. – Martha F. Mar 27 '11 at 16:58
  • He also, in "Number of the Beast," makes reference to Edgar Rice Burroughs' Pellucidar books. They visit some underground world and Deety is sure that's it, but her Father thinks it's some combination of such worlds. – Tango Jun 17 '11 at 2:47
  • I did not notice the Mote in Gods eye reference in World as Myth. InterestinG! – geoffc Jun 17 '11 at 18:34
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Background and objective:

The Number of the Beast isn't meant to be completely understood on first reading, and that's one if its biggest weaknesses. I read the book having read very little of Heinlein's other works, and found it to be a delightfully eclectic book.

Instead of attempting to cover all of Heinlein's work as Martha did, I've concentrated on what books one should read for maximum enjoyment of the four core world-as-myth novels. I've omitted books that are mentioned in passing as well as books where a character makes a very quick appearance.

As I said above, you can read these books having read none of Heinlein's other books, but I don't recommend it unless you enjoy uncertainty and opaqueness in your fiction. (I do, as it happens, but I suspect that most readers do not.)

Familiarity with Heinlein's other works is helpful, as well as familiarity with classics such as the Oz books, the Lensman books, Alice in Wonderland, and the Barsoom books. (I still haven't managed to get through most of those, but I'm familiar with the stories and characters at least a little bit.)

Suggested reading order:

The chart below puts the books in an order that presents one with the "Future History" and standalone books (the green and gray rectangles) before reading the world-as-myth books they lead into (the red rectangles). It also alternates easier books with more challenging ones. However, you can alter this order based on availability of the books, but the arrows in the chart are a guide to what books lead into others. (The core books should be read last where possible.)

enter image description here

Time Enough for Love is an odd case. While it's part of the "Future History" books, characters in the book are an important part of the story in The Number of the Beast. Indeed, Number is, in some ways, a conclusion to the story of Lazarus Long. Whether or not Time Enough for Love is a core world-as-myth book is unclear, but it's definitely a prelude to the world-as-myth story. (To Sail Beyond the Sunset is similarly more a part of the "Future History" story than the world-as-myth story.)

Summary:

If you enjoy works where everything is explained neatly, read The Number of the Beast last. However, the books that follow will make little sense, in particular The Cat Who Walks Through Walls depends on familiarity with earlier works. However, Number benefits greatly from multiple readings, and can be re-read in whole or in part.

  • Thank you for this. It is a good starting position. My reason for asking this was really to get a complete-complete listing as none seems to exist anywhere. But this answer will also be helpful for anyone interested in the core books. – DampeS8N Mar 30 '11 at 1:15
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    Martha's answer is more complete, but a list of books that long is intimidating to anyone approaching these. We might also consider doing one of these for Heinlein's Future History proper, if someone asks about that series. – neilfein Mar 30 '11 at 2:41
  • I'd love to see you/others do these as part of the tag wikis for many series. – DampeS8N Mar 30 '11 at 11:03
  • Sure, if I've read the books involved I can do a chart like this. – neilfein Mar 30 '11 at 21:31
  • My general suggestion is also to skip the Beast and maybe read it last. (if you're fan you read it anyway; being prepared for a badly written book might help). A great chart! – Balog Pal Jun 16 '13 at 16:52
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I agree for the most part with neilfein and DampeS8N with the note that Revolt in 2100 leads in to Methuselah's Children (or, more appropriately, vice-versa; depending on how you read it) and I Will Fear No Evil eludes to parts and parcels of Methuselah's Children and Stranger in a Strange Land.

The very worst you could do, actually, is read them how I read them: starting with Number of the Beast, then to Expanded Universe, and from there the rest.

More must-reads include Life-line (Dr. Pinero also shows up in I Will Fear No Evil) and the Menace from Earth (which lightly touches on life on Luna, mentioned in turn on The Cat Who Walked Through Walls).

Also, Star and Oscar Gordon (from The Glory Road) show up at the end of The Number of The Beast, and their significance is diminished if you haven't read that by then.

Share Water and Grok, friends :)

protected by Community Jun 26 '13 at 14:00

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