Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Scared yet?

Happy Halloween from me and my favorite decapitated zombie vampire.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


In case you missed it, the sixth edition of Roast Beef's wonderful zine, Man Why You Even Got to do a Thing has been released, thanks to the wonders of the Achewood universe. If you want to know what grodles or kadonklin means, the result of Nice Pete reviewing a Chinese/Mexican restaurant called Mr. Wing's Taco, or what an imaginary date with Roast Beef might turn out like, then this is the zine for you. Buy it!

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Magic of Oz

The Magic of Oz: A Faithful Record of the Remarkable Adventures of Dorothy and Trot and the Wizard of Oz, Together with the Cowardly Lion, the Hungry Tiger, and Cap'n Bill, in Their Successful Search for a Magical and Beautiful Birthday Present for Princess Ozma of Oz (1919) (or just The Magic of Oz, for short), is the first of the two Oz books written by Baum that were published after his death.

In this book, as you might guess from the subtitle, all our favorite characters go off on a search for really cool things to get Ozma for her birthday. Ozma doesn't need anything, since she is an immortal magic fairy, but she does like to throw big parties, and everyone loves her so much that they like to find neat ways to help her celebrate.

The gang separates into two main groups: Dorothy, the Wizard, the Cowardly Lion and the Hungry Tiger go off to the forest to get a dozen monkeys that they plan to magically shrink and then train them to jump out of Ozma's birthday cake and do some neat tricks; Cap'n Bill, Trot, and the Glass Cat go to a weird island that the cat found once where a magic flower pot blooms, fades, and grows new flowers every few seconds.

Meanwhile, in another part of Oz, a Munchkin named Kiki Aru discovers the secret for transforming himself (and other living things) into anything at all (all you have to do is pronounce Pyrzqxgl correctly). He uses his newly found transformative powers to leave his boring village and go explore. He runs into the exiled Nome King, Ruggedo, who convinces him to transform them both so they can rally together all the beasts in Oz, conquer the Emerald City, and take revenge for the loss of his kingdom.

Cap'n Bill and Trot get near the weird island, but when Cap'n Bill starts making a raft, they run into a mean animal called the Kalidah (who has the head of a tiger and the body of a bear, and is rather gruesomely dealt with by the Cap'n):

Cap'n Bill was cutting from the trees some long stakes, making them sharp at one end and leaving a crotch at the other end. These were to bind the logs of his raft together. He had fashioned several and was just finishing another when the Glass Cat cried: "Look out! There's a Kalidah coming toward us."

Trot jumped up, greatly frightened, and looked at the terrible animal as if fascinated by its fierce eyes, for the Kalidah was looking at her, too, and its look wasn't at all friendly. But Cap'n Bill called to her: "Wade into the river, Trot, up to your knees--an' stay there!" and she obeyed him at once. The sailor-man hobbled forward, the stake in one hand and his axe in the other, and got between the girl and the beast, which sprang upon him with a growl of defiance.

Cap'n Bill moved pretty slowly, sometimes, but now he was quick as could be. As the Kalidah sprang toward him he stuck out his wooden leg and the point of it struck the beast between the eyes and sent it rolling upon the ground. Before it could get upon its feet again the sailor pushed the sharp stake right through its body and then with the flat side of the axe he hammered the stake as far into the ground as it would go. By this means he captured the great beast and made it harmless, for try as it would, it could not get away from the stake that held it.

Cap'n Bill knew he could not kill the Kalidah, for no living thing in Oz can be killed, so he stood back and watched the beast wriggle and growl and paw the earth with its sharp claws, and then, satisfied it could not escape, he told Trot to come out of the water again and dry her wet shoes and stockings in the sun.

"Are you sure he can't get away?" she asked.

"I'd bet a cookie on it," said Cap'n Bill, so Trot came ashore and took off her shoes and stockings and laid them on the log to dry, while the sailor-man resumed his work on the raft.

Sadly, when the two get to the island, they realize it is enchanted and their feet have grown roots and planted them in the ground. To make matters worse, they start shrinking, as their bodies are transformed into a root system. At least the flower is pretty, though...

In the meantime, the Kalidah, although pinned fast to the earth by Cap'n Bill's stake, was facing the island, and now the ugly expression which passed over its face when it defied and sneered at Cap'n Bill and Trot, had changed to one of amusement and curiosity. When it saw the adventurers had actually reached the island and were standing beside the Magic Flower, it heaved a breath of satisfaction--a long, deep breath that swelled its deep chest until the beast could feel the stake that held him move a little, as if withdrawing itself from the ground.

"Ah ha!" murmured the Kalidah, "a little more of this will set me free and allow me to escape!"

So he began breathing as hard as he could, puffing out his chest as much as possible with each indrawing breath, and by doing this he managed to raise the stake with each powerful breath, until at last the Kalidah--using the muscles of his four legs as well as his deep breaths--found itself free of the sandy soil. The stake was sticking right through him, however, so he found a rock deeply set in the bank and pressed the sharp point of the stake upon the surface of this rock until he had driven it clear through his body. Then, by getting the stake tangled among some thorny bushes, and wiggling his body, he managed to draw it out altogether.

"There!" he exclaimed, "except for those two holes in me, I'm as good as ever; but I must admit that that old wooden-legged fellow saved both himself and the girl by making me a prisoner."

The glass cat (who doesn't grow roots since she isn't made of meat), runs for help, and finds the Wizard and Dorothy, who have been transformed by the magic of Kiki Aru. Eventually that all gets straightened out, Kiki and the Nome King get their comeuppance, and Ozma has her birthday party. And since the subtitle helpfully notes that our heroes' search was successful, you can probably conclude that the flower pot and monkeys are taken to the Emerald City as planned. But does Ozma like her presents?

Read the whole thing here, and find out for yourself, fool.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

No Country for Old Men

I moved No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy (2005) up to the top of my reading list, as I wanted to read it before the movie (directed by the Coen brothers) comes out, which I believe will be quite soon. Reading the book before seeing the movie almost never works out (the movie tends to disappoint), but I don't think that will be the case with the Coen brothers. They have disappointed me in the past, but I can't wait to see what they do with this story.

Oh, and this book is great and awesome and rough and violent and wonderful. I read the last 150 pages in one night. It has good guys, bad guys, and a few guys that are kind of caught up in circumstances. There is quite a bit of honor and pride and stubbornness as well. I can't say much more than that because I liked it too much. You should read it too.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Turn of the Screw

Thanks to the tid-bit sized e-mails of Dailylit, I just finished reading The Turn of the Screw by Henry James (1898). This novella is very time- appropriate for October, since it is a very strange psychological little ghost story.

The meat of the story has a governess being hired by a dashing man who is uncle to two orphaned children he has housed in the country. The governess is hired to teach the young girl, and is ordered not to contact the uncle about anything, no matter what. Once there, she is charmed by the girl and befriended by the housekeeper. Soon after, the young boy is set home from boarding school for some unnamed infraction. The governess is charmed by the boy as well and quite happy with herself and her job. Until she starts seeing the ghosts of her predecessor and the lover of the former-governess -- who both died under mysterious circumstances. Our governess must rescue the innocent children from these creepy ghosts! Or are the children really so innocent? And are there even really any ghosts?

My next Dailylit read is Dracula (I'm already a few sections in). I think ghost stories make excellent daily email reading...

[You can sign up for it on Dailylit here, or if you want to read it all at once, check it out here.]

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


For some reason I set my alarm for 6:45 am, which is odd since I always set it for 6:00 am. I occasionally forget to set it altogether, but I really never just set it for some random time that is not the time I want to get up. My brain woke me up at 6:05, so I wasn't late, just disoriented.

Then I spilled a really full glass of grapefruit juice on the carpet before I even got to have one sip, and spent my drinking-juice-and-watching-the-news time by sopping juice out of the carpet instead.

Hopefully the day gets better starting...... now.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Can't Stop, Won't Stop

When Choo nicely lent her copy of Can't Stop, Won't Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation (2005) by Jeff Chang to Dr. M, I started flipping through it, and then just couldn't help reading it before we gave it back.

Chang gives an excellent history of hip-hop (mostly music, but also dance and graffiti) from 1968-2000. He nicely balances historical discussions of the political, social and cultural context of the movement with portraits of individuals and groups that helped shape and change hip-hop through the years. Rather than provide laundry lists of influential artists and albums, Chang picks a handful of key people and gives the reader a longer discussion of their life and work.

In addition, there are some great photographs, and the book has a nice size and shape (is it weird that I sometimes love how a book feels in my hands even more than I love the book itself?)

I learned a thing or two from this book, and would totally recommend it to anyone with even a passing interest in hip-hop culture.

[Check out Jeff Chang's page here for more information on this book, his other projects, and the author himself.]

Saturday, October 20, 2007

What is Spacebeer Good For?

According to Google Analytics, about 60% of the people who look at Spacebeer are my handful of lovely friends. You guys are swell, of course. But the more hilarious other 40% of visitors are people who wander into the blogosphere via a set of finely executed and/or really dumb and misspelled Google searches. But what on earth are these people searching for? And can they find it here?

Well, as a handy reference for the large chunk of that 40% who are looking for the same things, here are the top five most requested Spacebeer posts:

1. Galaxy Nachos. If as many people who search for this recipe actually bought the Achewood cookbook, then Chris Onstad should send me a percentage of the profits. And if as many people make the nachos as look at the post, America will be 10% fatter in 2008.

2. Chigger bites. America wants to know what to do about chigger bites, and they are coming to me to find out.

3. La de Bringas (aka That Bringas Woman). This is obviously required reading for a bunch of classes out there, and yet woefully under-represented in the world of Cliffs Notes. Popular searches for this book include "plot summary" and "paper" as well as phrases that obviously come from the essay assignment these kids are supposed to write. Read the book, ya'll. It is actually pretty good.

4. Fricano's Deli. Maybe you guys should put up a website? Or at least reactivate that MySpace page that I linked to in my other post. Inquiring minds in Austin are feverishly google searching for you, and all they can find is my nice little review.

5. Pee party. There are actually two Spacebeer posts with pee party in the title (one and two). This might imply that something is a bit off about my sense of humor, but at least I'm not the one searching for actual pee parties on Google. Come now.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


I saw one of these on the wall right by my head at work today. And then I squished it. I wouldn't want my head to end up looking like this would I? [Warning: that last link is actually pretty gross.]

Monday, October 15, 2007

Gray Lensman

Gray Lensman by E. E. "Doc" Smith (1951) starts us up right after the action of Galactic Patrol. Our hero, Kim Kinnison, is once again using all his resources, strength and smarts to try and infiltrate the drug- dealing, power- hoarding, Civilization- hating entity known as Boskone. In doing this, he will have to stretch his power with the Lens beyond that of any other lensman, and although he has a lot of help from his friends, most of the work can only be done by him alone.

Well, him and the brief help of the "trimly attractive blonde" librarian at the Library of Science. The library interaction happens around page 99 on my copy -- worth reading if you are a librarian, but not really worth quoting. The librarian helps Kinnison sort through the great thinkers of the world by running a set of data cards through their computer and selecting for the highest ratings of different criteria. Yay libraries!

There is a lot of great action in this one, and some very fun science (including the creation of a black hole [or a "negasphere"], the towing of a planet from one universe to the next, human regeneration of limbs, and an awesome climax where a key target is destroyed by slamming two uninhabited planets into it from opposite directions). Yay!

And of course, the sexy red-headed nurse, Clarissa MacDougal (the one with the perfect skeleton) isn't forgotten. The sexual tension continues to build through Gray Lensman and by the end it looks like those two crazy kids will finally get together. And breed more perfect skeletons!

[Finally -- isn't the spacesuit on this cover the greatest? If I could make one of these, I might wear it around all the time. I think it would bring me the respect I so greatly deserve.]

Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Undertaker

I love The Undertaker. Love love love him. So I was totally surprised when I looked at his Wikipedia page and discovered that he lives in Austin! Really? I am hoping that Wikipedia is right on this one, because I would love to run into the Undertaker somewhere. If you see a 6'10", 300 pound dude with long reddish hair around town, give me a call. [Incidentally, Wikipedia was made for wrestling fans. There is a huge amount of information on every single move in The Undertaker's wrestling career. I love him and I couldn't read the whole thing. Do yourself a favor, though, and scroll down to the bottom to read up on his finishing and signature moves, nicknames, signature taunts and gimmicks.]

The Undertaker's most famous signature move is, of course, the Tombstone Piledriver. So let's all sit down and watch this Tombstone Piledriver compilation (come on, its only a minute and a half long, you'll like it -- plus all the crotch in the face action is rather entertaining):

And if that isn't enough, check out The Undertaker doing a Tombstone Piledriver on the world's strongest man, Mark Henry (who also apparently also lives in Austin? Is Wikipedia fucking with me?).

[One more link: an Onion story on the Undertaker taking on funeral arrangements for Eddie Guerrero, a wrestler who died of heart failure in 2005.]

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Red Zone Blues

I recently received a free copy of Red Zone Blues: A Snapshot of Baghdad During the Surge by Pepe Escobar (2007) from the LibraryThing early reviewers program (which is awesome -- I love getting free books!)

Escobar is a Brazilian journalist who reports for the Hong Kong/Thailand-based Asia Times. Red Zone Blues is a compilation of his reports from Baghdad during the surge, together with an introduction and conclusion, and some new material in between. The book was published by Nimble Books, which specializes in fast publishing of material related to timely events. In this case, most of the material discussed in this book happens in the spring of 2007.

The author is obviously anti-Bush and anti-surge. And so am I, so I agree with many of his points. I didn't always like his writing style -- I felt like his sarcasm was occasionally over the top, and tended to obscure the validity of his arguments. He also has a tendency to over-metaphorize (a new word?) pretty much everything. Particularly in the introduction and conclusion, the florid writing and tenuous connections and arguments (the surge is like Carnival in in Rio? the Iraq war could be stopped if people would take to the street like they did against Vietnam?) distract from the meat of the book.

And there is some interesting meat there: the best parts are interviews with Iraqis in Baghdad and refugees in Syria. This is what I really wanted from the book -- what are ordinary people doing there in their everyday lives? How do they get groceries? Where do they work? Those interviews alone make the book worth reading.

Part of my problems with this book might have been solved with a better editorial presence -- but when the point is to publish something right now, I can understand why rigorous editing might be put aside in the name of timely publishing.

I can't say that I would recommend this to everyone, but at 100 pages, it is worth the time for someone interested in another perspective on the war in Iraq.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


I donated blood today, and they had the donation room all decorated with skeletons and cobwebs for Halloween. Don't you think vampires would have been more appropriate? I'd love to see some "we want to suck your blood" public service ads to encourage blood donations...

[And isn't this baby vampire costume both awesome and not awesome? I can't quite tell how I feel about it.]

Sunday, October 07, 2007

The Tin Woodman of Oz

The Tin Woodman of Oz (1918) is my new favorite of the later-period Oz stories. So forgive the extensive quoting below, and believe me -- it is totally worth it.

It starts as a quest between the Tin Man, the Scarecrow, and a little boy named Woot the Wanderer to journey back to the Tin Man's hometown and find the girl he was supposed to marry before he rusted in the forest. Back in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz when Dorothy and the gang oiled his joints and rescued him from the rust, the Tin Man realized that he didn't have a heart and couldn't love this girl, Nimmie Amee, anymore -- which is why he asked the Wizard of Oz for a new heart. Alas, the Wizard only had kind hearts and not loving ones, so the Tin Man still couldn't love the girl who loved him. The group decided, though, that as a matter of duty, he should present himself to Nimmee Amee, marry her, and make her the Empress of the Winkies.

Nimmie Amee was in love with the Tin Man when he was Nick Chopper the woodcutter, but she was the servant of the Wicked Witch of the East (the one Dorothy's house falls on later), and the witch enchanted Chopper's axe so that he cut off his own limbs one by one. Luckily, Chopper knew this tinsmith that fashioned tin limbs for him as his meat limbs were cut off, eventually finishing him off with a tin head when the witch had that cut off as well. Did all this tin dissuade Nimmee Amee from loving Chopper? Of course not...

"'I am sure, my dear Nick,' said the brave and beautiful girl -- my name was then Nick Chopper, you should be told -- 'that you will make the best husband any girl could have. I shall not be obliged to cook for you, for now you do not eat; I shall not have to make your bed, for tin does not tire or require sleep; when we go to a dance, you will not get weary before the music stops and say you want to go home. All day long, while you are chopping wood in the forest, I shall be able to amuse myself in my own way -- a privilege few wives enjoy. There is no temper in your new head, so you will not get angry with me. Finally, I shall take pride in being the wife of the only live Tin Woodman in all the world!'

Makes a lot of sense... The three companions get in all kinds of hijinks and adventures on their way across Oz, including getting trapped in the castle of a giantess and fighting their way through an invisible kingdom. Eventually the get to the forest of the Tin Man's youth, when, to their surprise, they run into another tin man who has rusted in the forest. After oiling him up, the man tells them that he is Captain Fyter, and he fell in love with Nimee Amee after the Tin Man never showed up for their wedding (since he was rusted in the forest at the time). But could Nimee Amee love Fyter as much as Chopper?:

"She told me he [Chopper] was nicer than a soldier, because he was all made of tin and shone beautifully in the sun. She said a tin man appealed to her artistic instincts more than an ordinary meat man, as I was then. But I did not despair, because her tin sweetheart had disappeared, and could not be found. And finally Nimmie Amee permitted me to call upon her and we became friends. It was then that the Wicked Witch discovered me and became furiously angry when I said I wanted to marry the girl. She enchanted my sword, as I said, and then my troubles began. When I got my tin legs, Nimmie Amee began to take an interest in me; when I got my tin arms, she began to like me better than ever, and when I was all made of tin, she said I looked like her dear Nick Chopper and she would be willing to marry me."

When the group can't find Nimee Amee at her house, they go to Ku-Klip the tinsmith's where both of their new tin bodies were built. The two tin men reminisce about the times they had there:

"It seems almost like home to me," he told his friends, who had followed him in. "The first time I came here I had lost a leg, so I had to carry it in my hand while I hopped on the other leg all the way from the place in the forest where the enchanted axe cut me. I remember that old Ku-Klip carefully put my meat leg into a barrel -- I think that is the same barrel, still standing in the corner yonder -- and then at once he began to make a tin leg for me. He worked fast and with skill, and I was much interested in the job."

"My experience was much the same," said the Tin Soldier. "I used to bring all the parts of me, which the enchanted sword had cut away, here to the tinsmith, and Ku-Klip would put them into the barrel."

"I wonder," said Woot, "if those cast-off parts of you two unfortunates are still in that barrel in the corner?"

This is where it gets really good. All those cast-off parts were put to use, and the Tin Man even finds his head in a cupboard and has a little conversation with himself (note: the head is a real jerk). Since no one can die in Oz, the body parts all retained their liveliness even though they were no longer attached to their owner. This gave Ku-Klip an idea:

"Who is Chopfyt?"inquired Woot.

"Oh, haven't I told you about Chopfyt?" exclaimed Ku-Klip. "Of course not! And he's quite a curiosity, too. You'll be interested in hearing about Chopfyt. This is how he happened:

"One day, after the Witch had been destroyed and Nimmie Amee had gone to live with her friends on Mount Munch, I was looking around the shop for something and came upon the bottle of Magic Glue which I had brought from the old Witch's house. It occurred to me to piece together the odds and ends of you two people, which of course were just as good as ever, and see if I couldn't make a man out of them. If I succeeded, I would have an assistant to help me with my work, and I thought it would be a clever idea to put to some practical use the scraps of Nick Chopper and Captain Fyter. There were two perfectly good heads in my cupboard, and a lot of feet and legs and parts of bodies in the barrel, so I set to work to see what I could do.

"First, I pieced together a body, gluing it with the Witch's Magic Glue, which worked perfectly. That was the hardest part of my job, however, because the bodies didn't match up well and some parts were missing. But by using a piece of Captain Fyter here and a piece of Nick Chopper there, I finally got together a very decent body, with heart and all the trimmings complete."

"Whose heart did you use in making the body?" asked the Tin Woodman anxiously."

"I can't tell, for the parts had no tags on them and one heart looks much like another. After the body was completed, I glued two fine legs and feet onto it. One leg was Nick Chopper's and one was Captain Fyter's and, finding one leg longer than the other, I trimmed it down to make them match. I was much disappointed to find that I had but one arm. There was an extra leg in the barrel, but I could find only one arm. Having glued this onto the body, I was ready for the head, and I had some difficulty in making up my mind which head to use. Finally I shut my eyes and reached out my hand toward the cupboard shelf, and the first head I touched I glued upon my new man."

"It was mine!" declared the Tin Soldier, gloomily.

"No, it was mine," asserted Ku-Klip, "for I had given you another in exchange for it -- the beautiful tin head you now wear. When the glue had dried, my man was quite an interesting fellow. I named him Chopfyt, using a part of Nick Chopper's name and a part of Captain Fyter's name, because he was a mixture of both your cast-off parts. Chopfyt was interesting, as I said, but he did not prove a very agreeable companion. He complained bitterly because I had given him but one arm -- as if it were my fault! -- and he grumbled because the suit of blue Munchkin clothes, which I got for him from a neighbor, did not fit him perfectly."

Well, eventually the two tin men find their former sweetheart and present themselves as bridegrooms for her to choose between. As you might guess, Nimee Amee wasn't just pining away for the Tin Man all these years, and managed to find herself a new husband, who really reminded her of her former beaus, for some reason. Plus he had one tin arm.

[And, of course, you can always read the whole thing for yourself right here.]

Friday, October 05, 2007


This weekend I lamely will have to be at work all day on a Saturday, but I will get some official first aid and CPR training out of it. I will also learn to use this automated external defibrillator, and I'm kind of excited about that.

Let the accidents begin!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Celebratory foodstuffs

If you ask me out, live with me for five years, and then ask me to marry you, three years later I will make you this delicious plate of fruit and cheese and buy you a bottle of wine. My new theory is that all occasions should be celebrated with cheeses.

Happy Anniversary, Dr. M.

[more foodstuffs here. And note that the scrabble pictures were from last year's anniversary.]

Monday, October 01, 2007

The Number of the Beast

Hilariously, this is my 667th spacebeer post. Which means that if I had posted just one less post back in the past, my review of Robert Heinlein's The Number of the Beast (1980) could have been my 666th post!

I had really been wanting to delve back into Heinlein (after reading a bunch in high school and college and ignoring him since then), and since the lovely chew had just finished this one, I took advantage and borrowed it. And although there were some very entertaining bits and pieces in this book (Oz!), for the most part I found it to be very self-indulgent and a nice demonstration of all the weaknesses of Heinlein's books.

In The Number of the Beast a brilliant mathematician and scientist, widower Dr. Jacob Burroughs, has invented a machine that plays with the dimensions of time and space and can send you into an thrilling number of other universes -- actually the number is 6 to the 6th to the 6th, or the number of the beast. He and his daughter, D. T. Burroughs (who everyone calls Deety) go to a faculty party thrown by family friend Hilda Corners to seduce Zeb Carter to consult on the machine (under the impression that he wrote some mathematical papers that his cousin actually wrote). After about five minutes of dancing, Zeb proposes to Deety, all four go out to their cars, and Dr. Burroughs car explodes. They hop into Zeb's Kit-like super-computer car, Gay Deceiver, and buzz away to get married. While on the way to the preacher, Hilda and Jacob decide to get married too.

It turns out that some kind of freaky alien from another dimension is trying to kill them all to stop the science behind the time machine from leaking out (although this danger pretty much drops out after they get into space). After an interminable "honeymoon" period at the family bunker (punctuated with long discussions of the pluses of nudity in the family circle, what Hilda and Deety's boobs look like, how their nipples react in social situations, and lots of rather creepy inter-familial sexual innuendo) the family group installs the time machine into Gay Deceiver and starts exploring the multi-universe.

Once they are in space, things get a little better. Everyone takes a turn as captain. We visit some alternate universes, spend a long time on a alternate Mars that serves as a penal colony for Britian and Russia, and eventually swoop into a string of fictional universes made real (Oz, Lilliput, Wonderland, the world of the Lensmen, etc.). Although this section kind of reads as fan-fiction, it was intriguing to watch these new characters interact with these other fictional universes. Plus it kept their clothes on. This brings in Heinlein's theory of pantheistic solipsism, or World-as-Myth where all fictional universes actually exist, and everything is sort of real and imaginary at the same time. Not a bad theory, although it seems to give Heinlein carte blanche to indulge in fan-boy overload.

So, back to the story: the two ladies both happened to get pregnant on the first night of their marriages, so the group comes up with a mission of finding a safe planet to homestead and have their babies on. They program the computer, survey the universes, and settle on a not-quite-Earth that fits the bill. This seems like a good place to end the book, but instead Heinlein has them get restless and go off on another adventure:

This time they very quickly hook up with Lazarus Long and a host of Heinlein's characters from other books. I read Time Enough for Love long long ago (I think), but I did not remember enough about it to be dumped into this universe with no lifejacket. I could sort of keep up, but found it to be rather tough going. This section perfectly demonstrates Heinlein's ideal family structure: Everyone is naked all the time, men and women all greet each other with passionate mouth kisses regardless of their relationship, and free love and procreation is the norm. You can even have sex (or genetic babies) with your father! Or your brother! Great! And you can live forever and there never really seem to be consequences for anything.

The epilogue where the characters throw a big convention bringing together people from all parts of space, time and fiction turns into nothing but a giant referral fest so filled with inside-jokes, winks and nods that I almost gave up (but not quite, I really will read anything). Somehow the evil alien sneaks back in at the very end and is destroyed (or is he? Do we care?)

To be fair, Heinlein was an old, beloved, established science fiction writer when he came out with The Number of the Beast and he certainly wouldn't be the first artist who succumbed to his own myth in his old age and indulged himself in self-referential works that pale in comparison with his earlier pieces. This book has some fun stuff in it, and possibly if I had read some Lazarus Long stuff a little more recently, I would have found the last 100 pages to be rather fun as well. This book would entertain a die-hard Heinlein or science-fiction fan who wants a fun little parody, but I certainly wouldn't recommend it for a reader new to Heinlein.