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The Pursuit of the Pankera

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The Pursuit of the Pankera

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Author: Robert A. Heinlein
Publisher: CAEZIK SF & Fantasy, 2020

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Book Type: Novel
Genre: Science-Fiction
Sub-Genre Tags: Alternate/Parallel Universe
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The Pursuit of the Pankera is one of the most audacious experiments ever done in science fiction by the legendary author of the classic bestseller Starship Troopers.

Robert A. Heinlein wrote The Number of the Beast, which was published in 1980. In the book Zeb, Deety, Hilda and Jake are ambushed by the alien "Black Hats" and barely escape with their lives on a specially configured vehicle (the Gay Deceiver) which can travel along various planes of existence, allowing them to visit parallel universes.

However, unknown to most fans, Heinlein had already written a "parallel" novel about the four characters and parallel universes in 1977. He effectively wrote two parallel novels about parallel universes. The novels share the same start, but as soon as the Gay Deceiver is used to transport them to a parallel universe, each book transports them to a totally different parallel world.

From that point on the plot lines diverge completely. While The Number of the Beast morphs into something very different, more representative of later Heinlein works, The Pursuit of the Pankera remains on target with a much more traditional Heinleinesque storyline and ending, reminiscent of his earlier works.

The Pursuit of the Pankera was never published and there have been many competing theories as to why (including significant copyright issues in 1977). Over time the manuscript was largely forgotten but survived in fragments. A recent re-examination of these fragments, however, made it clear that put together in the right order they constituted the complete novel.

And here it finally is: Robert A. Heinlein's audacious experiment. A fitting farewell from one of the most inventive science fiction writers to have ever lived: a parallel novel about parallel universes as well as a great adventure pitting the forces of good versus evil only the way Heinlein could do.


Zebadiah (perspective)

"At once, Captain Zebadiah Carter!" With no spoken command, the three thoats executed 'Troopers left about!' and headed at ground-shaking speed for the shoulder of the hill where they had appeared. Deety and Jake closed in quickly. Deety hugged me, banging me on the back of my noggin with the barrel of her shotgun in doing so.

"Oh, my captain, I'm so proud of you!"

I kissed her. "Hilda is the hero, not me."

"I'm proud of Hilda, too. Aunt Hilda, are you all right, honey?"

Hilda stopped nuzzling her man long enough to answer. "That big lunk bruised my ribs. But he couldn't help it. He's rather sweet, actually. Handsome, too."

" 'Handsome'!"

"Deety baby, you don't expect a Great Dane to be pretty by the same rules as a butterfly."

Deety looked thoughtful. "That's logical. I must look at him again, with unprejudiced eye."

"Postpone the debate, girls, and listen. Jake, can you manage a sword salute?"

"Eh? Certainly!"

"Okay, here's the drill. We line up, Jake on the right, Hilda next, Deety next, me beside Deety?Deety, you can 'Present arms' with a gun?"

"I've seen it. I can fake it."

"Good. Hilda, all you have to do is a Girl Scout salute. I give 'Draw?Swords!' You gals do nothing; Jake and I draw and come to order arms in three counts. Then I give 'Present?Arms!' Jake and I do it, two counts, one for each word?but Deety, don't move until I say 'Arms!' "

"I'll be out of step," Deety objected.

"They won't be critical. When I 'Return... swords!' you come back to order arms?and I'll say, "Fall out" and Doctor Burroughs?you're Doctor Burroughs in public from now on and you two are always 'princess' and I'm always 'captain.' Protocol. Any questions? I hear them coming."

We lined up. The thundering herd rounded the shoulder and came straight at us, lances at charge, only this time it was the starboard wing man who was about to skewer me. They didn't slow and I was ready to beat the Barsoomian record for backward broad jump?but couldn't because both women remained rock steady.

When it seemed impossible that they could stop, the thoats slammed on brakes with all twenty-four legs, and stopped dead as three lances swung up vertically into perfect salutes. My boy almost brushed the tip of my nose with his, but upright his lance was four meters away.

"Draw!?Swords!" (Grab?Draw?Down! Hup! two! three!)?and Sharpie tossed in her own variations. No Girl Scout salute for her?she followed our motions, right on the beat, with her hunting knife.

" 'Present'!"?hilts to three chins?"Harmp!" Blades flashed down while Deety chucked her gun into the air, caught it with both hands. I've seen it done more by the book, but never with more snap.

The three giants let out wild yells, which I chose to interpret as cheers. I waited a long beat, then dismissed my "troops."

But the big boys weren't through. Tawm Takus glanced right and left, and suddenly bunting bloomed from those upright lances, joined together into one big banner (magnets? magic?), spelling:


Greater Helium Chamber of Commerce

Copyright © 2020 by Robert A. Heinlein


The Pursuit of the Pankera

- Naomi_uk72


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