Job: A Comedy of Justice
Job: A Comedy of Justice is a novel by Robert A. Heinlein published in 1984. The title is a reference to the biblical Book of Job and James Branch Cabell's book Jurgen, A Comedy of Justice. It was nominated for the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 1984, and the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1985.
The story examines religion through the eyes of Alex, a Christian political activist who is corrupted by Margrethe, a Danish Norse cruise ship hostess -- and who loves every minute of it. Enduring a shipwreck, an earthquake, and a series of world-changes brought about by Loki (with Jehovah's permission), Alex and Marga work their way from Mexico back to Kansas as dishwasher and waitress. Whenever they manage to make some stake, an inconveniently timed change into a new alternate reality throws them off their stride (once, the money they earned is left behind in another reality; in another case, the paper money earned in a Mexico which is an empire is worthless in another Mexico which is a republic). These repeated misfortunes, clearly effected by some malevolent entity, make the hero identify with the Biblical Job. On the way they unknowingly enjoy the Texas hospitality of Satan himself, but as they near their destination they are separated by the Rapture -- Margrethe worships Odin, and pagans do not go to Heaven. Finding that the reward for his faith, eternity as promised in the Book of Revelation, is worthless without her, Alex's journey through timeless space in search of his lost lady takes him to Hell and beyond.
Heinlein's vivid depiction of a Heaven ruled by snotty angels and a Hell where everyone has a wonderful, or at least productive, time -- with Mary Magdalene shuttling breezily between both places -- is a satire on American evangelical Christianity. It owes much to Mark Twain's Captain Stormfield's Visit to Heaven.
The novel is linked to Heinlein's short story "They" by the term "the Glaroon", and to his earlier novel The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress by referring to the Moon colonies "Luna City" and "Tycho Under".
WARNING! There are unmarked Spoilers ahead. Beware.
- Alternate History: Many, many examples.
- Burn the Witch: Played with in one universe Alex visits.
- Caught Up in the Rapture: Alex
- Cosmic Plaything: Alex
- Digital Piracy Is Evil: In one scene, a character makes it a point to ask his daughter if she legally paid for a pornographic hologram.
- Earth Is Young: The world was created recently, as a joke. As Satan puts it at one point, "My brother Jehovah is a bit of a jerk." What bothers Satan about the world is mostly that Jehovah stole most of the design. (It turns out that all this world-making, by a whole host of divine beings, under the review of another class of beings described as being "as far above me as I am above you" is all some cosmic artistic expression. As Satan explains, "This isn't about justice. This is about art.")
- Fluffy Cloud Heaven: Subverted, as mentioned above.
- God Is Evil
- God Karting with Beelzebub
- A Hell of a Time: "a Heaven ruled by snotty angels and a Hell where everyone has a wonderful, or at least productive, time"
- Kindly Vet: Used as an analogy.
- Pals with Jesus
- Parental Incest: Satan's wife tells him he should boink their daughter as a way of getting her past her rebellious teenager stage. Alex is startled not only by this, but by Margrethe immediately agreeing that it's a good idea.
- Satan Is Good
- Self-Inflicted Hell: Played with, in that characters go to whatever afterlife they believed in when alive.
- Tasty Gold: The "acid test" is performed on one of Alex's coins.
- Trauma Conga Line: Too many to list here.
- Work Off the Debt: The usual way Alex survives in a new world.
- You Are Worth Hell: Or wherever it was that Margrethe ended up.
- Zeppelins from Another World: Alex's home world.