Job: A Comedy of Justice (1984) by Robert A. Heinlein


Leave it to Bob to ruin a good blasphemy story. All the parts are there: a science fiction Job, manipulated by frivolous gods who shuffle him from universe to universe, job to job, with his savvy, pagan girlfriend in tow. But Heinlein’s old-fashioned, fuddy-duddy chauvinism coats this tale with dust, making it not nearly as biting or progressive as true religious criticism should be.

But let’s admit it: even Joan Rivers ain’t got nothin’ on Bob Heinlein’s grasp of female fashion. We always know what the ladies are wearing. Or not wearing, which is often the case. I’ll spare you the paragraphs, for they are difficult to tailor for this post because the many musings about female dress tend to… linger.

In his defense:

Talent shmalent. You should see the stuff that gets published. But you must hike up those sex scenes; today’s cash customers demand such scenes wet. Never mind that now; I didn’t call you here to discuss your literary style and its shortcomings. (p. 393)

Not that the sex scenes are particularly wet in this novel. Plenty of male gaze, followed by chastely referenced bedtime tumbles.

And the suggestive incest is really just Satan talking, so that’s perfectly appropriate and not at all something Heinlein might or might not be obsessed with because he doesn’t seem to comprehend the most basic tenets of cognitive development research.

Worse yet, good ol’ boy gags in the forms of sexism and ethnic slurs speckle this tale as comic relief— granted, it’s most often presented as a logical frame of voice for the Christian activist protagonist, yet it often flickers with the paternalistic candor of Heinlein’s strong, narrative voice. It’s hard to tell which is which.

If you are ever naughty enough, I may beat you. But I would never put you away.’ (p. 134)

Much like the plight of his protagonist, a man at the mercy of the gods as they shuffle alternate universes like a deck of cards, this novel is yet another demonstration that the social progress of the mid-20th century befuddled this celebrated Grand Master. But perhaps we should let Mr. Heinlein speak for himself:

I think my greatest trouble with all these worrisome world changes had to do, not with economics, not with social behavior, not with technology, but simply with language, and the mores and taboos thereto. (p. 210)

Much as his fans will disagree, Mr. Heinlein was never ready for the future.


11 thoughts on “Job: A Comedy of Justice (1984) by Robert A. Heinlein

  1. You hit the nail on the head when you said that he “was never ready for the future.” There are plenty examples of authors who manged to write about the future during the same time period who were able to write books without being chauvinistic.

    Liked by 1 person

    • fromcouchtomoon says:

      Yes! Even if he tried to blame it on publishing, or the demands of his fans, which he seems to suggest in that top quote, it doesn’t make sense because other scifi authors were plenty successful without the blatant chauvinism. He cultivated that sexist fandom of his with novels like this.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hahaha, ““was never ready for the future.” That describes a number of SFF authors these days, doesn’t it?


    • fromcouchtomoon says:

      These days, with the Ad Puppets and Shox Lame, uh, yeah, those weirdos are killing themselves treading water in a tsunami of new, eager readers. Working so hard to be lame and alienate potential fun and excited fans. Fine, if you’re so desperate to limit your readership stuffy, bland dinosaurs who enjoy reading the same minor variations of one or two themes.

      I may not be a kiss-ass reader, but at least I am an engaged reader. I will read the hell out of people’s books 🙂

      As for the vintage authors, I think that’s why Heinlein grates on me so much– he’s so far behind his peers in progress. Even his grandpa peers who never quite grasped feminism at least tried to pretend that they got it. But this dude just didn’t have the intellectual empathy to comprehend something outside of his very limited, traditional worldview. And when he tried to be progressive, it was just in sexual matters, which only confirmed his desire for power over others: multiple females, obedient females, and little girls, and very homophobic.

      Heinlein’s just overtly gross. And musty. He’s like the B.O. of SFdom. I would so cold shoulder him.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Rabindranauth says:

    Lol, awesome review. I love that you always have just the right quote from the book. This actually makes me glad I dumped all the Heinlein I bought but never read in a box to donate the other day; fairly sure this was one of them! I’ll read his most popular stuff, someday, but I think that’ll be it for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • fromcouchtomoon says:

      I think that’s a sound decision. I’ll be reading The Moon is a Harsh Mistress soon. We’ll see if it holds up to the praise, but I have a feeling he’ll piss me off about something.


      • I enjoyed Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, but I recently have read some reviews that make me think I maybe was concentrating so hard on certain elements of the novel that I missed some things that would totally piss me off today. Looking forward to reading your thoughts on that.


  4. […] Only one book blogged this month at FC2M. One! And, boy, was it a Job. […]


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