Job: A Comedy of Justice

ISBN: 0345316509
ISBN 13: 9780345316509
By: Robert A. Heinlein

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Reader's Thoughts


After consuming several Spider Robinson books, I felt it was necessary to explore some of Heinlein's work finally. I decided upon Job: a comedy of Justice because it was recommended by a friend. I loved it. I can totaly see where Spider Robinson has been influenced greatly by this writer.I will be going into some more of his work soon.


Heinlein was rather against organized religion, a stance quite similar to my own, and in no book is it more obvoius than Job.Job mostly mocks organized religion and Christianity in general, but the story itself is pretty enjoyable, if not one of my favorite of Heinlein's.

Chadwick Saxelid

Alex Hergensheimer's misadventures in time start with a stroll through a fire pit that leaves him with only a single blister, but stranded in a world far different from the one he was in when he first stepped into that pit. The one good thing about his new life and new identity, he is now one Alec Graham, is the lovely Margrethe Gunderson. A saintly sweet and sinfully shapely woman that Hergensheimer/Graham finds hard to resist. As Alex/Alec tries to figure out what is happening to him, the world around him changes again and again; sometimes in drastic and dangerous ways. The one constant in all the ever changing worlds in which he finds himself living in is Margrethe. Alex/Alec, a fundamentalist preacher in his home world, grows fearful of not only losing his beloved companion in an unexpected world change, but losing her for all eternity. Margrethe is not a Believer. Believing that they are suffering through the tribulations of the prophesied Last Days, Alex/Alec finds himself in a literal race against time to save the soul of the woman he has come to love almost has much as he loves God Himself.If my memory (and the blurbs on the book cover) is still serving me correctly (and I am beginning to have my doubts, at times, about both) Job: A Comedy of Justice was considered to be one of Robert A. Heinlein's last significant contributions to the Science Fiction genre. (The other, again if that memory of mine is serving me correctly, was Friday.) Having finally finished the book, I cannot agree that it was anything remotely approaching significant. While it could catch my attention for brief passages, it could not hold it long enough for the book to become either unputdownable or just a quick and entertaining read. It's not that the book was dull or uninteresting, it had plenty of laugh out loud moments and fascinating "What If" alternate worlds with plenty of upside down/inside out cultural switcheroos to keep pulling me back. It's just that there was a certain lack of urgency to the "save Margrethe's soul from eternal damnation" subplot (Hergensheimer's devout religious beliefs and religion in general have almost nothing whatsoever to do with the story proper) and, after allowing Alex/Alec and Margrethe to adjust to the first world or two, Heinlein seems to lose interest and grow bored with all the necessary alternate world building and tweaks in history. Although the possibility of losing Margrethe in an unexpected world change is mentioned and worried about, it is quickly dismissed as irrelevant, despite presenting Heinlein with ample opportunity to build psychological suspense and explore the figurative terror and sorrow of losing someone you love before exploring the literal terror and sorrow of losing someone you love when the Rapture finally arrives. It is at that moment that Heinlein's novel truly comes to comedic and philosophic life as he turns the afterlife on its metaphoric head without seeming to break any Christian theological "rules" regarding Heaven, Hell, and the After Life. What Heinlein describes is far from comforting and for some it could very well be the stuff of nightmare. It all depends on the individual reader's religious beliefs, or utter lack thereof.Job: A Comedy of Justice opened solid, grew very weak in the middle, but closed on a note strong and humorous enough to leave me satisfied with the end result. As long as you don't start the book with any expectations higher than of being mildly entertained, then you just might come away feeling the same.

***Dave Hill

As noted below, each time I re-read this, I enjoy it all the more. The narrator, Alex, is a tough nut to crack -- and, ultimately, the story is less about him (and Margrethe) than the metastory (just as in the Biblical book of Job). It's simply a bit of sacrilegious fun, and worth the periodic re-read.----------(Oct 2011)Most recent re-read, and, each time, I enjoy this book more. Yeah, it's full of standard Heinleinian philosophizing, yeah it suffers from a multitude of (literal) deus ex machina ... but Alec Graham is a fun character, a diamond in the rough, culturally prejudiced while remaining pure at heart and fiercely dedicated to love: an appropriate saint. Having read more Twain since my original review, I also see far more parallels to Twain's works ("Letters from Earth" in particular).The book is, in short, a philosophical romp, using parallel Earths as a framework, and Mid-western Christianity as a backdrop. And it's fun.----(Original review, 4/2003, with ratings scale 1-3)Summary [2]: This 1984 novel is one of Heinlein’s lesser-known works, and one of his few non-sf fantasies, but it remains delightful for all of that. Alex, the protagonist, finds himself being shifted maliciously between different parallel Earths, accompanied by his paramour Margrethe, all the time worried that the signs point to the Judgment Day — an event that minister Alex longs for, but which he fears will mean Margrethe’s damnation.And then Judgment Day actually arrives …There’s little “science” in this Heinlein work; it’s much more a religious fantasy, which could as easily have been penned by Mark Twain. Like Twain, Heinlein enjoys tweaking his characters for their vanity and self-righteousness, though Heinlein seems willing to pick here on bigger targets than Twain would have dared. There’s a bit too much meandering of the plot at times; Heinlein gets a bit lost at the struggle by Alex and Margrethe to keep anything of worth with them as they are shifted from world to world. He also seems to be both nostalgically fond of revivalist Christianity while scornful of the theology behind itEntertainment [3]: Like most Heinlein works, it’s good fun and occasionally thought-provoking. Who could ask for much more?Profundity [2]: Thinking you have all the answers is hubris that’s waiting to be taken down a peg. Roll with life’s punches. Don’t sweat the little things. Hard work won’t kill you. Love without respect isn’t love. The universe is run with a lot less justice than one would like to think. Piety does not imply horse sense. Love is more important than material things; it’s more important than a lot of immaterial things, too.Re-readability [3]: I pull this one off the shelf every few years.

Matteo Pellegrini

Escursionisti inter-dimensionali, attenzione: basta imboccare una volta sola il bivio sbagliato del tempo, e la Terra si trasforma in un vero e proprio pianeta-miraggio, sempre elusivo, anche se apparentemente a portata di mano. Alex Hergensheimer, durante una crociera in Polinesia, comincia ad avere il sospetto che qualcosa non quadri: la sua austera motonave è diventata un’allegra Love Boat, gli ultimi novant’anni di storia sono cambiati, e lui stesso ha ora un altro nome, Graham e in tasca un milione di dollari di dubbia provenienza. Che cosa mi è successo? si chiede l’imbarazzatissimo Alex. E’ finito in un altro universo? Si è spezzato qualcosa nella trama della realtà e il mondo è prossimo alla fine? Qual è il mondo “giusto” e come arrivarci?


I put off reading this for a long time because the title made me think I knew what was going to happen. I was so wrong. This is a really enthralling and different kind of story. If you take the Bible very seriously and are really offended and the very idea that God and the universe are not what you thought they were, then this is not for you. If you enjoyed Lamb by Christopher Moore then you should be okay. P.S. God is the bad guy.


A comedy of justice, true in every sense of the word. Job is the riveting tale of dimensional travel and exciting circumstance to test the limit of your imagination and perception of our world. Knowing that the book is set in a non-standard universe from the very beginning helps in clearing up your thoughts for the thought provoking look at a human’s spirituality. The book itself is beautifully written, every page being exciting as well as moving the plot along.Job could be considered one of the best novels from Heinlein for its look at the cosmos and organization of the divine. “Nobody's ever been this far up before” sums up one of the few unique looks on religious endeavors. The only considerably bad parts of this book would be the preachy nature the characters can draw into at times. But other than that, this novel is worth reading for anybody who can question their own divine entities.

Liam Proven

An odd novel; Heinlein, the doyen of doyens of golden-age SF, writes what is essentially a theological novel, although buried in there is a many-worlds, universe-hopping SFnal tale. If it's not all just a hallucination anyway.It's very odd to read a new-to-me Heinlein now, in the C21, some thirty to thirty-five years after I devoured all the Heinlein I could get. This contains some vintage themes and in some ways feels like it was a dry run for /Stranger in a Strange Land/ - it is, essentially, Heinlein forcibly blowing open the mind of a small-minded, moralistic, religious bigot and impressing upon him something of Heinlein's own libertarian, sex-positive, amoral views.But then again, despite how unpopular many of Heinlein's views are in the modern liberal world, myself, I am largely in agreement with them, so I rather enjoyed it. A neglected RAH, well worth a read if you like his more adult stuff and are able to put yourself into his mindset or at least suspend judgement. If you feel he's dreadfully non-PC and a hoary crusty old letch, then you're not going to like this one - but then again, you might find yourself having *your* mind stretched open a bit yourself.

Bernie Gourley

In "Job: A Comedy of Justice" the protagonist, Alexander Hergensheimer, finds himself randomly drifting from one alternative universe to another. After his initial shift, he's joined by a lover, Margrethe, who knows him from her world as Alec Graham. The couple stay together through many other ill-timed world shifts, and are only separated when Hergensheimer finds himself in heaven. When faced with the question of what he's willing to do to be reunified with the woman he loves, the novel really gets interesting. As you might have expected, the name of the book is the Biblical name "Job" (i.e. rhymes with lobe)and not "job" as in an occupation.Each time the couple shifts, they are poor anew. That is, while geography remains the same, history and money are different from one world to the next. Hergenshiemer washes dishes because he can't engage in his trade by training, preacher, in these worlds.Just as Dante inadvertently convinces us that the first circle of hell is preferable to heaven (who wouldn't prefer the company of Socrates and Virgil over that of Jerry Falwell and Jimmy Swaggart,) Heinlein creates an afterlife that is a good deal more complex but also more just than the Biblical version.I recommend this lesser known Heinlein book. It's both humorous and thought-provoking.


In someways I think my journey to this book will always outlast the book itself. When I was seventeen I told my boss I would read this book, that had been so influential to his young catholic school life. It was one of only two gallon sized bags worth of objects prized from my worst car wreck in my early twenties. It has been the lasting joke of a decade. Whether I had finally read it. And this late winter, in the year I will turn 29, he sent me a second copy. It is pristine, and not as tender warming as the one that slowly is trying to die, but its very much still in this house with me. (And both copies likely find it queer, I read it on my Kindle instead of through either of them.)I am not sure I liked this novel. It is slow and plodding, and it does not do details and relationships the way my favorite books do. But it was quite compelling, and I was involved with the point of the novel by about the one-third mark. I can see very much why it changed his life when it did, though at 29, I can see why it seems for granted to me, with all my life has had in it. I'm not sure I'd rec it to others, but I'm certain I would still love to talk about it with people. And thus I will leave you the quote that will stay with me forever, too: "Is this Texas, then, or Hell?" "Well. That's all really a matter of opinion."

John Dalton

Heinlein is acknowledged as one of the greats of science fiction, and yet I think this is the first book of his that I� ve read. I saw it on the shelf in a second-hand book store, and picked it up purely because I recognised his name.[return][return]First, a note on the title: it� s � Job� as in the biblical book of Job (rhymes with � robe� , or at least it did when I was doing bible study).[return][return]The story is about a man, Alexander Hergensheimer, who participates in a fire walk and comes out the other side into a world that is different to his own. In this world people recognise him as Alec Graham, but he has no idea who this man is or what has happened to him. In the end it doesn� t matter, because the phenomenon of shifting into different worlds continues and Alex (accompanied by his new lover Margrethe, the stewardess) doesn� t stay in any one place long enough that his lack of identity is a problem.[return][return]One of the side-effects of this world shifting process is that it usually renders his money worthless. When the world shifts the global political landscape changes, and notes marked � United States of America� are useless if that part of the world is known as the � North American Union� in this universe. As a consequence Alex and Margrethe are always broke, and have to work for their meals and lodging. The only job he can get (quickly, with no recognised qualifications) is as a dishwasher - and somehow it seems that dishwashers are needed everywhere they go.[return][return]As the title hints, religion is a strong theme throughout this book. Alexander was an ordained minister in his own universe, a universe dominated by extremely right-wing fundamentalist Christians. No, even worse than our universe.[return][return]Alex� s views on morality and religion are obviously coloured by his past, but his exposure to worlds with much more liberal views on many issues causes him to question whether all that he� s been taught to believe is true.[return][return]In the end he learns something of the value of love and tolerance over strict adherence to inflexible dogma.[return][return]Possibly this was not the best introduction to Heinlein� s work. It� s science fiction only in the broadest sense, in that it uses parallel universes as a plot device. There� s no science involved at all though, and I usually prefer SF with some basis in reality.[return][return]The religious element of the story is really the central theme, and this book is at heart a satire critical of fundamentalist Christian churches. Heinlein has either done a lot of research, or was brought up with a strong religious background - I� m not sure which - but I wonder how much of the book is accessible to those without a reasonable level of familiarity with the Bible.[return][return]I felt that the ending of the book was rushed, and a copout. There� s a real deus ex machina thing going on, and while the ending is much more clearly (and unsubtly) satire than the rest of the book, I found it unconvincing and unsatisfying.[return][return]All in all, I� d only recommend this book to Heinlein fans or those with enough familiarity with the Bible to appreciate the many biblical references. I� ll have to try one of Heinlein� s better known works next time.[return][return](Originally posted at )

Misha Lipatov

Warning!!! The following review contains some spoilers.In 1967, a military doctor in Soviet Union wrote a story about a man and the love of his life. The story was not about just those two, but also about Jesus, Satan, and all kinds of mystical events and fantastical characters. I am talking about The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. Seventeen years later, a retired naval officer, physicist and mathematician in the United States of America wrote a book that is the mirror image of Bulgakov’s novel, reflected in the icy mirror of the Cold War. This is Robert Heinlein’s “JOB: a Comedy of Justice.” It is fascinating to note the similarities and differences between the two books. My first clue to the connection between them was the fact that the name of the main heroine of the latter book is Margrethe – the Danish version of the Russian Margarita. Jesus and Satan play an important role in this book as well, and the author’s attitude towards all the main characters has a remarkably similar feel to that of Bulgakov in his novel.On the other hand, there are differences, caused by the different environments in which the authors grew and wrote their books. For example, Bulgakov’s book is written as a third person narrative, in which the main character (the Master) is not an obvious focus of the book in the least. On the other hand, The Master’s equivalent in Heinlein’s story, Alexander Hergensheimer, tells the whole story from his point of view and is, without question, the obvious focus of the entire novel.The two authors both do an excellent job expressing a beautiful attitude towards religion, relationships between men and women, societal ideologies, political structures and life in general – an attitude that reflects a deep and simple compassion of men who traveled and worked in the service of humanity, men whose views were educated but simple and who didn’t let the superficialities of their respective societies hide the basic goodness and simplicity of human nature.


It's strange. I did not enjoy this book as much as the last time I read it about 20-25 years ago. I am guessing that part of it is because I listened to the audiobook this time and I did NOT enjoy the reader. His voice seemed out if place for much of it, at least in my opinion, and other than occasionally adding a southern drawl, many of the characters sounded alike. His reading also makes me think of someone whining continually.Also, when I read this last, I think I was more of a religious rebel than I am today, and thus the book spoke more to me. Today, I see some of the underlying points of the story, but I think they get muddied in the narrative or even contradict themselves at times.As to the structure of the story itself, I must admit that it really takes too long to get to the final act. We got the point on all the changes and how the protagonists have had to suffer, why make the reader suffer as well. And the final climax was almost too silly, again in my opinion. Thus overall, an ok book, but one I probably won't read again. It did not live up to my memory of the book.

Richard Palmer

** spoiler alert ** This book went in directions and places I did not expect. It took quite a while until I really did realize that it was a retelling of the biblical story of Job. There were quite some departures, and after a while, the fantasies got a little tiring. How many times was there going to be a world change, and why are all these details necessary? The pace picked up once Alec went to heaven. All the humorous sketches of the administration of the city of New Jerusalem were rather funny. This continued down into hell, but then things slowed down a bit. I kept wondering, "Where are we going with all of this?" In the end, Heinlein came back to the story and wrapped things up. I would rate it high for imagination and creativity, but a little low for the repetition and distracting details. My favorite line was from Alec, in chapter 20: "I had hoped for time enough for love, but no..." How artful of Heinlein to bury that reference to his other novel in a little unimportant dialog!

Kevin Catarino

This book is awful. I never liked Heinlein, but I found this on Junk Day and decided to give it a try. My god, does it suck. The prose is around a third-grade level and the plot couldn't be any less interesting. The thing that totally ruined it for me was that, if he's supposed to be Job, why is he given the girl of his dreams to accompany him on his interdimensional jaunts? And if washing dishes in Mexico is your idea of Hell, you are an extremely sheltered human being. I didn't even finish this shitheap, and I blame it for my lapse in reading over the past few weeks. It was my nightstand book, and instead of read it, I opted for insomnia. That's how bad this is.

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