Heinlein, Robert A.—Job: A Comedy of Justice

Behold, happy is the man who God correcteth; therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty—Job 5:17.

I admit to having a pro-Heinlein bias—he is my favorite author—but, frankly, he deserves it. Robert A. Heinlein is possibly the most influential science-fiction/speculative-fiction writer in history, and I believe he is unequivocally the best. I have enjoyed every one of his novels that I have read (more than twelve so far), and his work never fails to make me think.

Job: A Comedy of Justice (1984) was, unfortunately, one of the last few Heinlein novels, but it is among the best. If you ever wondered what would happen if you threw conservative religious fundamentalism into a science fiction context (or, even if you haven’t), you will probably love this creative, inventive novel.

The world has changed for fundamentalist minister Rev. Alexander Hergensheimer—literally. Hergensheimer is from a version of Earth where an organization called Churches United for Decency exercises undue influence over government policy, dirigibles are the standard for airborne transportation (fixed-wing aircraft have not been invented), and north America is a rural, agrarian society. After walking through fire during a trip to Polynesia, the world suddenly bears little resemblance to the one he knows—and much more resemblance to our own.

Graham/Hergensheimer takes this inexplicable change as a sign that the end-times are near, and realizes he must try to bring his lover, Margrethe, into a state of grace. What follows is a freewheeling story where closed minds are opened and old habits are broken, all while Graham/Hergensheimer’s world continues to change at the most inopportune moments and he begins to question and doubt the God that he has believed in all his life—a God that he questions even more when he gets caught up in the rapture and brought to Heaven.

This story is far-fetched, and yet it is somehow believeable. It plays upon the religious and social questions that everybody—believer or nonbeliever—has asked themselves, and comes up with the kinds of answers that we’ve almost always been afraid to consider: Maybe there is a God, and maybe he is playing tricks on us.

5 out of 5 stars.

Scott Bradford is a writer and technologist who has been putting his opinions online since 1995. He believes in three inviolable human rights: life, liberty, and property. He is a Catholic Christian who worships the trinitarian God described in the Nicene Creed. Scott is a husband, nerd, pet lover, and AMC/Jeep enthusiast with a B.S. degree in public administration from George Mason University.