Friday, September 30, 2011

The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag by Robert A. Heinlein

  The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag is another collection of Heinlein shorts. Heinlein wrote only one fantasy story that I'm aware of, Glory Road, and the title story of this book may be his only attempt at a psychological horror/mystery. A private investigator, Edward Randall, is retained by Mr. Hoag to find out what it is he does during his working day. Hoag seems to have a particularly strange form of amnesia which leaves him with no memories of how he spends his time during the daylight hours (an odd twist on the usual vampire meme), and after discovering a substance he thought was blood under his fingernails at dinner one night, has decided he must know, however horrible it might turn out to be.

Edward and his wife, Cynthia, begin by trailing Mr. Hoag on his way to work one morning. Strange things begin to happen, and the more they pursue the case, the more frightening things get. Edward begins to be visited in his dreams by the "Sons of the Bird", a mystical cabal of powerful beings, and eventually these SOBs threaten him and Cynthia if they continue to investigate Hoag. A rather interesting twist at the end, and a surprising profession for Mr. Hoag.

The Man Who Traveled in Elephants is just a light hearted look at the afterlife, and a rare glimpse of Heinlein's more whimsical side.

All You Zombies is a quirky time travel tale, about a man who, like the old song, was his own grandpa.

They is a solipsistic piece of work. A man is locked up in a mental ward after displaying signs of paranoia, and spends much of his time there trying to prove satisfactorily to himself that he is not at all like other people in the world around him, and that much of the world around him has been created to deceive him into thinking he is just an ordinary human. True to form, no surprises in the way it ends, really.

Our Fair City is a charming little tale about a sentient whirlwind that sweeps a city clean of political corruption.

And He Built a Crooked House is a fun bit about an avant-garde architect who decides to build a four dimensional house in three dimensions. When a Southern California earthquake twists the house into the fourth dimension, he and the owners get stranded for a while.

Not your typical Heinlein collection, but fun for a change of pace.

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