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The Fantasies of Robert A. Heinlein

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Robert A. Heinlein, the dean of American SF writers, also wrote fantasy fiction throughout his long career, but especially in the early 1940s. The Golden Age of SF was also a time of revolution in fantasy fiction, and Heinlein was at the forefront. His fantasies were convincingly set in the real world, particularly those published in the famous magazine Unknown Worlds, inc Robert A. Heinlein, the dean of American SF writers, also wrote fantasy fiction throughout his long career, but especially in the early 1940s. The Golden Age of SF was also a time of revolution in fantasy fiction, and Heinlein was at the forefront. His fantasies were convincingly set in the real world, particularly those published in the famous magazine Unknown Worlds, including such stories as "Magic, Inc.," "'They—,'" and "The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag." Now all of Heinlein's best fantasy short stories, most of them long novellas, have been collected in one big volume for the first time. Contents: Magic, Inc. "—And He Built a Crooked House" "They—" Waldo The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag Our Fair City The Man who Traveled in Elephants "—All You Zombies—"


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Robert A. Heinlein, the dean of American SF writers, also wrote fantasy fiction throughout his long career, but especially in the early 1940s. The Golden Age of SF was also a time of revolution in fantasy fiction, and Heinlein was at the forefront. His fantasies were convincingly set in the real world, particularly those published in the famous magazine Unknown Worlds, inc Robert A. Heinlein, the dean of American SF writers, also wrote fantasy fiction throughout his long career, but especially in the early 1940s. The Golden Age of SF was also a time of revolution in fantasy fiction, and Heinlein was at the forefront. His fantasies were convincingly set in the real world, particularly those published in the famous magazine Unknown Worlds, including such stories as "Magic, Inc.," "'They—,'" and "The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag." Now all of Heinlein's best fantasy short stories, most of them long novellas, have been collected in one big volume for the first time. Contents: Magic, Inc. "—And He Built a Crooked House" "They—" Waldo The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag Our Fair City The Man who Traveled in Elephants "—All You Zombies—"

30 review for The Fantasies of Robert A. Heinlein

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    I haven't read this particular collection before, but have read all the stories in it a number of times. It's been a long time, though. Nice to revisit them even if I don't consider several fantasy stories. They're very good for the most part. "Magic, Inc." (1940) - is my favorite fantasy story by RAH, but it's also one of the few that I consider a fantasy. The idea of a world where magic is a science, told from the point of view of the owner of a building supply owner & contractor is great. I th I haven't read this particular collection before, but have read all the stories in it a number of times. It's been a long time, though. Nice to revisit them even if I don't consider several fantasy stories. They're very good for the most part. "Magic, Inc." (1940) - is my favorite fantasy story by RAH, but it's also one of the few that I consider a fantasy. The idea of a world where magic is a science, told from the point of view of the owner of a building supply owner & contractor is great. I think I also learned more about how our government really works from this story than any civics course I took. I didn't believe some of it was true & looked into it. Wow. Our gov't is screwed up. Tough lesson at 10 years old or so, but a good one. The characters were great, too. Fun. "And He Built a Crooked House" (1941) I first read about a tesseract in A Wrinkle in Time, but never really got it & that differs from this one, so I actually looked it up. I had to ask the librarian for help & she was bewildered, but the plus was I learned about the Moebius strip at the same time which I found even more puzzling because I could hold it. I went about playing with one for quite some time. It still confuses me, but that's OK. Anyway, the story itself didn't do much for me as some of it never has made sense, but I like it a lot for where it took me. It's SF, though. "They" (1941) isn't fantasy, but SF horror. Is he paranoid? Very well done & creepy. "Waldo" (1942) is a good story & made even better by today's tech. Actually, 60 years after it was written, its point is far more relevant. A lot of SF, maybe all, but there's a melding of 'magic' that's interesting. "The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag" (1942) could be SF. Interesting mystery with a great detective couple. "Our Fair City" (1948) is plain fun about a corrupt city government & the whirlwind that brought them down. "The Man Who Traveled in Elephants" (1957) isn't one I've ever cared for much. Some will think it sweet. "All You Zombies—" (1959) isn't fantasy at all, but an SF time travel story that blew my mind on several levels the first time I read it in the early 1970s. Even better than "By His Bootstraps" another time travel story of his. This one is grittier than any other story of his that I recall offhand. This is the wrong edition. Mine is an audio edition, but I'm too lazy to create it here.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Ed Erwin

    I haven't read much by Heinlein before, but now I'm motivated to do so. Many of these stories were delightful and they show a great range. "Waldo" starts out seeming like pure SciFi, but takes a turn for Fantasy in the middle. You could still call it SciFi if you want since he tries to offer a possible physical explanation for the magic. If you think of Star Wars as SciFi despite the magical "Force", then so is this. "The Unpleasant Profession..." was delightful. Reminded me of Cocteau's film vers I haven't read much by Heinlein before, but now I'm motivated to do so. Many of these stories were delightful and they show a great range. "Waldo" starts out seeming like pure SciFi, but takes a turn for Fantasy in the middle. You could still call it SciFi if you want since he tries to offer a possible physical explanation for the magic. If you think of Star Wars as SciFi despite the magical "Force", then so is this. "The Unpleasant Profession..." was delightful. Reminded me of Cocteau's film version of the myth of Orpheus, but probably that is just me. Anyway, this story came first. "Magic, Inc." feels very modern. Like a model for "X Files" or "The Magicians". I was surprised to see Heinlein arguing (through his characters) for government action against monopolies since I thought he was thoroughly libertarian. The truth is that his politics fluctuated a lot in his life. The shorter stories here were a mixed bag for me, but I was glad to see the great variation in subject and style.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Alana

    I've reviewed each of the stories individually below, but my rating for the collection as a whole would be a 4/5, as most of the stories were very enjoyable, but also very thought-provoking. I am very interested in reading some of Heinlein's novels. "Magic, Inc." 3/5 This isn't my favorite in the collection of short stories I've read by Heinlein, but it was interesting. It's a take on politics and political questions, but from a fantasy standpoint so he can cover whatever viewpoint he wants. He ev I've reviewed each of the stories individually below, but my rating for the collection as a whole would be a 4/5, as most of the stories were very enjoyable, but also very thought-provoking. I am very interested in reading some of Heinlein's novels. "Magic, Inc." 3/5 This isn't my favorite in the collection of short stories I've read by Heinlein, but it was interesting. It's a take on politics and political questions, but from a fantasy standpoint so he can cover whatever viewpoint he wants. He even uses gun control as a comparison...in the 1940s, which is rather interesting. In the end, it's all a little too neatly wrapped up, although maybe the idea that all of our political problems could only be fixed by magic isn't all that far-fetched. --And He Built a Crooked House" 3/5 I first heard the term "tesseract" from Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time which gives surprisingly easy descriptions of such a complex idea, making it palatable for a children's book. This story takes the idea of folding space, but puts it in the form of a house that could be quite large, but occupy very little space, because it exists in multiple planes at once. Listening to the description is a bit mind-twisting (pardon the pun), but the story itself is interesting, if a bit creepy. Heinlein's ending takes a more humorous turn than I was expecting from the buildup, more of a "learn from your mistakes before it kills you," but the concept itself is a bit disturbing. Not the most invigorating story, but short and readable. "They--" 4/5 I've seen some more negative response for this story, that it's not among Heinlein's better works, but if that's the case, then the rest of his work must be amazing indeed, because I thought this story was quite brilliant, for the most part. The whole idea of self, and that the world is so messed up that it couldn't possibly be real, but all in one person's imagination, speaks to all of us, on one level or another, whether we'll all admit it or not. Haven't we all had a moment (or moments) when we've simply found the world to be too absurd to be real? The infatuation with the self, one's own world in one's mind, is not unique to someone in a mental institution. It's a very human introspection. The fact that we often penalize those who are more introspective than others is something worth thinking on. The ending takes a way a bit from the story, delves more into the sci fi, and is the weak point of the whole thing, but I don't think it destroys the story. "Waldo" 4/5 This story started in one direction and went several other directions than I was expecting. On one level, is the experience of humanity realizing that all new science is magic until we understand it and then it becomes science. On another level, it's about looking to the future and possibilities. On another, it's a story of a man's journey from self-imposed social outcast due to his infirmity and genius into a man hungry for people and real living, using what he has learned to really live in a way that most men never do. All of these things are somehow combined into one story, and even now, I still can't really decide what I think of it. Heinlein discusses everything from atomic energy to nanotechology to parallel universes to... good grief, everything! Some of his ideas are very forward-thinking and some never came to be...at least, not yet. It was interesting to pay attention to when the story was written and what technology was available at the time, and see how much he actually predicted. But the human element is still what remains central to the story and makes it worth reading. A worthy Heinlein story. "The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag" 3/5 This story was interesting until about the last "reveal" section. The explanation, while admittedly sci-fi, was just really "huh?" It was an interesting read, but I wouldn't call it one of the better stories of his that I've read. "Our Fair City" 3/5 A cute little story that isn't really sci-fi except for one element, telling of the demons of corrupt law enforcement. Nothing spectacular, but ok story. "The Man Who Traveled in Elephants 4.5/5 While the ending is no surprise, the buildup and anticipation, the journey to get there, are beautiful. It's such a poignant picture of love, hopes, dreams, the beauty of life and getting the most out of every moment. I actually teared up a little listening to it. A very sweet story. "--All You Zombies--" 4/5 I'm starting to think I need a bookshelf for "messed-up," "twisted," or "just plain weird" stories/books. This one is brilliantly plotted, but good luck trying to untangle all the knots to make sense of this very short story! How the "zombies" line actually comes into play, I haven't quite figured out, but the story set-up is mind-boggling, to say the least. Now I feel like I need to watch the film just to make sense of it!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jon

    1943 Retro Hugo Finalist for Best Novella “The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag” by John Riverside (Robert A. Heinlein) (Unknown Worlds, October 1942) “Waldo” by Anson MacDonald (Robert A. Heinlein) (Astounding Science Fiction, August 1942)

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ian

    Call me a rube, or a jerk, or whatever, but if these are Heinlein exemplars, I don't want to read his novels. In this book the longer stories just get soggier as they go on, the twists and turns seeming more like DETOUR signs. "Magic, Inc." reads like three stories mashed into one, and the shaggy-dog story about political process bloating out the middle wasn't worth the punchline. "The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag" (what a great, anapestic title) could stand to lose thirty pages for sw Call me a rube, or a jerk, or whatever, but if these are Heinlein exemplars, I don't want to read his novels. In this book the longer stories just get soggier as they go on, the twists and turns seeming more like DETOUR signs. "Magic, Inc." reads like three stories mashed into one, and the shaggy-dog story about political process bloating out the middle wasn't worth the punchline. "The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag" (what a great, anapestic title) could stand to lose thirty pages for swimsuit season. And "Waldo" . . . "Waldo" is "Waldo." The shorter pieces, on the other hand, are simpler but much more effective: "—And He Built a Crooked House" reads like pure Asimov, right down to the semi-improbable name of Quintus Teal. "Our Fair City" is fun as hell and made me grin throughout. "The Man Who Traveled in Elephants" isn't terribly surprising but I got misty nonetheless. And "—All You Zombies—" has been anthologized to hell and back, so I probably don't have to add my two cents.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Raymond Rugg

    Robert A. Heinlein is known as the dean of science fiction, and was the first Grand Master of the genre. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke are collectively known as the ‘Big Three’ of science fiction. Just the other day, I saw someone mention in a blog that they had read a science fiction story by Heinlein, and then they mused that the comment was redundant, since all stories by RAH are science fiction stories. But the fact is, Robert Heinlein actually does have some fantasy in his lite Robert A. Heinlein is known as the dean of science fiction, and was the first Grand Master of the genre. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke are collectively known as the ‘Big Three’ of science fiction. Just the other day, I saw someone mention in a blog that they had read a science fiction story by Heinlein, and then they mused that the comment was redundant, since all stories by RAH are science fiction stories. But the fact is, Robert Heinlein actually does have some fantasy in his literary portfolio; more than you might think, and some that you will probably recognize. It may, however, be helpful to revisit the terminology. In a nutshell, science fiction is speculative fiction that has some sort of speculative element that can be explained as falling within the laws of nature, which may or may not be understood in our current scientific framework. Think robots, space travel, aliens. Fantasy, on the other hand, includes speculative elements that are supernatural. Magic and magical creatures, gods, demons and so on. Yes, there are gray areas, and yes, there are exceptions, and yes, there are stories that blend and bend the genres. But for the purposes of this piece, these are the general guidelines that we’ll be using. (For scholarly and in-depth discussion of the terminology, I humbly point you toward the works of James Gunn, a Grand Master of science fiction in his own right, and the Founding Director of the Center for the Study of Science Fiction.) It makes sense to look at the fantasy stories of Heinlein in chronological order, so let’s begin with Magic, Inc. This novella was published in the September 1940 issue of the magazine Unknown Fantasy Fiction, under the title of The Devil Makes the Law. It’s a nice little story about commerce and corruption in a world where magic is commonplace. You could almost think of it as a precursor to the contemporary ‘urban fantasy’ genre. Waldo in Astounding Magazine“Waldo” comes next, a short story that was published in Astounding Magazine in August of 1942, under one of his most frequent pen names, Anson MacDonald. “Waldo” has the initial trappings of science fiction, but we, along with the title character, soon find that “Magic is loose in the world!” And although this story does fall within the parameters of the fantasy label, it is notable for two bits of science: Although he didn’t ever patent his idea, Heinlein is acknowledged as having come up with designs for the modern concept of the waterbed, and this is one of the stories in which it is mentioned. The title character of this tale also develops mechanical robotic hands, and they are dubbed ‘waldoes,’ a term used in the real world today for similar remote manipulators, in honor of Heinlein’s story. In October of that same year, a Heinlein novella was published in Unknown Worlds magazine under the pen name of John Riverside. The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag is not particularly one of my favorite Heinlein stories, not even one of my favorite Heinlein fantasies. The plot runs along the lines that our world is just a pale shade of the true reality, and when that reality bleeds into our lives, terror ensues. It’s not a bad story, and if you’re a Heinlein fan, it’s worth reading…once. But as far as I’m concerned, Roger Zelazny refined and defined this theme, and not even Heinlein can top the Chronicles of Amber, at least in this subject. On the other hand, “Our Fair City,” a short that ran in January 1949 issue of Weird Tales, is one of my favorite Heinlein fantasies. Drawing on his firsthand knowledge of both journalism and local politics, this is a fun tale about a sentient whirlwind. The language, setting and characters are classic Heinlein. If you haven’t read it yet, do put it on your list. Nearly ten years later, his next fantasy story came out in a 1957 issue of Saturn Magazine. Knowing that it is a Heinlein story, I can recognize the writing in “The Man Who Traveled in Elephants” – the homespun, Mid-Western Americana – but if I had picked this one up and read it blind, I wouldn’t have pegged RAH as the author. In a way, it almost reminds me of some of Stephen King’s more sentimental short stories (his earlier ones when he was just finding his stride, and his later ones, when he came back to shorts after a successful career with his ginormously-long novels). And perhaps it’s not all that surprising; Heinlein had to have had some sort of impact on King’s writing given that King considered him to be “not only America’s premier writer of speculative fiction, but the greatest writer of such fiction in the world.” Of the stories listed above, “Waldo” and “Magic, Inc.” have been collected together and published in 1950 as a book under the title, oddly enough, Waldo & Magic, Inc. The others – “The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag,” “Our Fair City,” and “The Man Who Traveled in Elephants” – were collected together in book form, along with three other stories, under the title The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag, in 1959. This collection was later re-issued as 6 x H. In 1999, Tor collected the contents of these two books, eight short stories in all, and published them as The Fantasies of Robert A. Heinlein, although I would debate whether the label of fantasy is appropriate for the three stories in the collection that I am not covering – “All You Zombies”, “They,” and “And He Built a Crooked House”.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Norman Cook

    Magic, Inc. Retro Hugo Award Finalist (1940) 80pp. 3 stars This is a rare foray into fantasy for Heinlein, an early "urban fantasy" that uses fantasy tropes to illustrate one of Heinlein's typical problem-solving men. It's an entertaining enough story, but it's fairly predictable if you know how Heinlein writes. One thing that mars the story considerably is some racist language. "—And He Built a Crooked House" Did not read. "They—" Did not read. Waldo Retro Hugo Award Finalist (1942) 88pp. 3 stars It's a Magic, Inc. Retro Hugo Award Finalist (1940) 80pp. 3 stars This is a rare foray into fantasy for Heinlein, an early "urban fantasy" that uses fantasy tropes to illustrate one of Heinlein's typical problem-solving men. It's an entertaining enough story, but it's fairly predictable if you know how Heinlein writes. One thing that mars the story considerably is some racist language. "—And He Built a Crooked House" Did not read. "They—" Did not read. Waldo Retro Hugo Award Finalist (1942) 88pp. 3 stars It's a stretch to call this a fantasy, but since Waldo calls what he does magic, then I guess it's a fantasy by definition. But what Waldo does is not necessarily magic; it's never really explained. It could be that he found a way to unknowingly tap the energy of a parallel dimension using some kind of scientific method. This story is certainly more famous for introducing the word waldo into use as a generic term for remote manipulators. This term is not widely used nowadays, as far as I know, but it's a term like robot that came from a science fiction story. Some of the other aspects of this story are less well done. When it was published in 1942 no one knew the effects of space flight on people, so perhaps today's readers can give it a bit of a pass. But to begin with, launch accelerations would almost certainly kill someone like Waldo. And for Waldo to spend years in free fall to alleviate the symptoms of his infirmity would actually be the worst thing he could do, because of the bone density loss associated with long term space flight. Moreover, after spending that much time in space, Waldo would not have ever been able to return to Earth. Waldo's personality transformation over the course of the story, from a mean recluse to a bon vivant celebrity, is interesting, if not entirely believable. The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag Retro Hugo Award Finalist (1942) 98pp. 5 stars This is a thriller in the vein of Twilight Zone, where two unsuspecting people get caught in a web of intrigue spun by seemingly alien or demonic forces. Their quest to unravel the mysteries puts them in real danger. Their reactions are believable and the resolution is satisfying. Our Fair City Did not read. The Man who Traveled in Elephants Did not read. "—All You Zombies—" 12 pp. 4 stars This is one of the classics of time travel, perhaps better the second time through when you know what's happening.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    I came for "—And He Built a Crooked House" & "—All You Zombies—"...and to be honest, those were the best parts of the book The other stories just didn't age as well "Magic, Inc" is a protection racket scheme but set in a world with MAGIC. The exceptionally dated language was pulling me out of it constantly. The rest of the stories biggest weaknesses were the final few pages. It would set up a fantastic concept (like in both "They" and "The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag" there's a mindfuck I came for "—And He Built a Crooked House" & "—All You Zombies—"...and to be honest, those were the best parts of the book The other stories just didn't age as well "Magic, Inc" is a protection racket scheme but set in a world with MAGIC. The exceptionally dated language was pulling me out of it constantly. The rest of the stories biggest weaknesses were the final few pages. It would set up a fantastic concept (like in both "They" and "The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag" there's a mindfuck of an idea of what's real in the world and what isn't), really get in there....aaaaaaaand fizzle out in a mess

  9. 5 out of 5

    William Bentrim

    The Fantasies of Robert A. Heinlein I tracked down this book because I have fond memories of Glory Road which was the only other fantasy, I recalled written by Heinlein. This was disappointing, not that the stories but the fact that I didn’t really see them as fantasies. It was more lip service with mention of magic. I guess they could be considered early urban fantasy but I felt they fit more with his general body of work than in the fantasy genre. My impression of Heinlein was that he was a fr The Fantasies of Robert A. Heinlein I tracked down this book because I have fond memories of Glory Road which was the only other fantasy, I recalled written by Heinlein. This was disappointing, not that the stories but the fact that I didn’t really see them as fantasies. It was more lip service with mention of magic. I guess they could be considered early urban fantasy but I felt they fit more with his general body of work than in the fantasy genre. My impression of Heinlein was that he was a frustrated philosopher. Much of his work struck me as proposing a different way of seeing and doing things. These stories had some interesting twists and I did enjoy them.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ryan Patrick

    I'm not always a big fan of short story collections -- if it's a good story I want it to keep going -- but all of these were pretty good, and about the right length.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Austin Wright

    Cool collection! Rare and Forgotten stories!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Anna Hawes

    Loved almost all, especially Magic Inc, Waldo, and They

  13. 5 out of 5

    Michael Emond

    I am a huge fan of Heinlein and this book helps complete my almost complete Heinlein collection. It was a pleasant surprise how much I enjoyed this collection of short stories and novellas and I will do a quick blurb on each one: Magic Inc (novella): An interesting take on a world where magic is commonplace and practitioners of it are hired like skilled laborers. It is really a fantasy that is taking aim at the Mob and unionization with even a touch of Mr. Smith goes to Washington to lobby (and f I am a huge fan of Heinlein and this book helps complete my almost complete Heinlein collection. It was a pleasant surprise how much I enjoyed this collection of short stories and novellas and I will do a quick blurb on each one: Magic Inc (novella): An interesting take on a world where magic is commonplace and practitioners of it are hired like skilled laborers. It is really a fantasy that is taking aim at the Mob and unionization with even a touch of Mr. Smith goes to Washington to lobby (and fails)and even a journey to hell itself. It was fun and had some good characters and great creativity but maybe tried to do a bit too much. Still, probably my fav of the three novellas. - And He Built a Crooked House (short story): Fun little look at a crazy architect who decides to build a fourth dimensional building - good silly fun. They - (short story): A theme which has been looked at many times, a man in a mental house is certain he isn't c razy and the world we think we live in is a lie. Meh - not an interesting take on this theme - and it just ends abruptly. Waldo (novella): A lot of nice themes in this one - world's science starts to fall apart and the leading reclusive scientist, Waldo,is going to help figure out why. The why turns out to be "supernatural" in explanation. I enjoyed this - with my only quibble being, Waldo's transformation at the end is far too sudden and not really believable. The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag (novella): Suspenseful, interesting, with some good characters. As I read, I wrote some "questions" the ending had to answer if it was to be truthful to its start (a lot of mysteries are suspenseful up until the reveal, at which time you think "but that still doesn't explain why X did Y") and the ending was pretty good at addressing them all. My one problem is that his "profession" just comes out of nowhere - it is an interesting idea but not hinted at anywhere else in the story so it wasn't a satisfying ending to me. There was no moment of "oh wow!", just a moment of "oh really? okay." Our Fair City (short story): A whirlwind is alive. What a fun short story. Totally whimsical, makes no sense, but I loved it. Fun and humourous (great running gag with cameraman) and my fav of the book. I am probably alone in thinking that but its light tone and absurdness made me smile. The Man Who Traveled in Elephants (short story): Meh - disliked it. A parable about a man going to the afterlife. Not very engaging and no real point to it. All you Zombies - (short story): I had heard this described as the ULTIMATE sci fi time travel story. this was my first time reading it and while it is semi-clever, I think I liked "By His Bootstraps: better as a time travel story (it is also by Heinlein). This one didn't work because you have to throw in the idea of a guy changing his gender to make it work. Works better as an idea than an actual story.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Luke

    Read this for "All You Zombies", but "The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag" was also excellent.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Avery Engstrom

    I liked this a lot honestly, there are some great stories in here. My favorite was "And he built a crooked house--" because it was just so interesting. I'm all for strange things like that, and it reminded me of "Mimsy Were the Borogoves." The only thing that really weirded me out was the last story. I watched the movie that was based on it before reading it, and the whole time I was just screaming in my head. As amazing as it was with plot twist after plot twist, I felt like they handled trans I liked this a lot honestly, there are some great stories in here. My favorite was "And he built a crooked house--" because it was just so interesting. I'm all for strange things like that, and it reminded me of "Mimsy Were the Borogoves." The only thing that really weirded me out was the last story. I watched the movie that was based on it before reading it, and the whole time I was just screaming in my head. As amazing as it was with plot twist after plot twist, I felt like they handled trans matters in a strange and bothersome way. [SPOILERS] I understand that this was written in the mid-1900s so there wasn't much knowledge of trans people, but it was just, genitals don't equal gender? And erasure of intersex people has been and still is a huge issue, especially since doctors will try to force a child to be one sex or the other. The main character was just lucky she hadn't been to the doctor's before, because they probably would have done awful things (I've heard stories of people have their vaginas "stretched" so they can be ready for sexual intercourse in the future. It's a disgusting practice, really). I wouldn't be so bothered if that was all, but I just feel like some people reading this will think it makes sense. I'm worried they'll think that having a penis means you're a man, and having a vagina makes you a woman. Because this is utterly untrue, obviously. Some trans people don't even wish to transition, and even those that do have still always been the gender they've always been. The whole thing just makes me uncomfortable. [END SPOILERS] Aside from that, I found the story unique and very good. If they hadn't bungled the whole trans thing it would have been perfect.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Thomas Fackler

    A smattering of Heinlein's fantasy oeuvre. Of particular interest to me were The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag, He Built a Crooked House, and Waldo. The first is interesting for its development of a character who knows nothing about himself. The second is great of its explanation and use of four dimensional geometry. The last is an intriguing thought-experiment in parallel universe. The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag has the least number of cracks in its structure, but is the mos A smattering of Heinlein's fantasy oeuvre. Of particular interest to me were The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag, He Built a Crooked House, and Waldo. The first is interesting for its development of a character who knows nothing about himself. The second is great of its explanation and use of four dimensional geometry. The last is an intriguing thought-experiment in parallel universe. The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag has the least number of cracks in its structure, but is the most fantastical so the base set of assumption are already outside of our Earthly reality. He Built a Crooked house gives a good mathematical introduction to the behavior of lower-dimensional objects in higher dimensions, but falls to Heinlein's insistence on the mind's (particularly the subconscious') role in warping and restructuring fixed structure. This last wouldn't be a problem except that Heinlein, much like Chrisopher Nolan in Interstellar, uses this subconscious ability to work his character's out of physical jams. I don't know that it is possible to avoid this problem in fiction of the sort mentioned, but it definitely detracts through its hand-waving. (Squirrel!) Waldo does a better job of balancing on the edge of fact and fiction. The parallel universe is subtly developed and there isn't a lot of explaining of the alternate universe except to say that they could exist. The story made me think a lot about how similar beings in the parallel universe, which was now a power source for our universe, felt about their loss of energy resources. Poignant for our times.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    Heinlein is a master chef. He mixes science fiction and fantasy so adroitly that those people who are fans of one but not the other are still able to appreciate his work. His comments on our society, (still valid from the 1940’s) are remarkable and given with so much humor that the required self reflection tastes less like medicine and more like a gourmet meal. This short story collection is awesome. I don’t know of other fantasy writers (other than Ursula Le Guin) of the time who sewed so many Heinlein is a master chef. He mixes science fiction and fantasy so adroitly that those people who are fans of one but not the other are still able to appreciate his work. His comments on our society, (still valid from the 1940’s) are remarkable and given with so much humor that the required self reflection tastes less like medicine and more like a gourmet meal. This short story collection is awesome. I don’t know of other fantasy writers (other than Ursula Le Guin) of the time who sewed so many issues of social equality into their writing. I appreciate that in Magic Inc. (the first story in the collection – copyright 1940) there is a brilliant female character and learned black male character as well. In All You Zombies (from 1959) he tackles issues of gender identity. Another thing I appreciate in these stories is that the men and women who are in relationships together are respectful of each other, loving, loyal and expressive without shame. Go figure. Heinlein was brilliant! This collection is worth the read.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Pedro L. Fragoso

    Yep, the years pass but this doesn't change: There's Heinlein and then there's everybody else; good to the point of it being unbelievable. (In Chimoio, Mozambique.)

  19. 5 out of 5

    Stephen Beecroft

    An outstanding collection of Heinlein's short stories and novellas. "The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag" is just a gem; almost seventy years later, it stands up very well indeed. "Waldo" is an entertaining look at what the technological future seemed to hold two or three generations ago. "The Man Who Traveled in Elephants" was sweet and surreal. I remember reading "...All You Zombies" in high school and found it chilling. Less so at 49, but still clever and creative. My fond memories of An outstanding collection of Heinlein's short stories and novellas. "The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag" is just a gem; almost seventy years later, it stands up very well indeed. "Waldo" is an entertaining look at what the technological future seemed to hold two or three generations ago. "The Man Who Traveled in Elephants" was sweet and surreal. I remember reading "...All You Zombies" in high school and found it chilling. Less so at 49, but still clever and creative. My fond memories of Heinlein were confirmed through these short stories. Heinlein might be my favorite of the old SF authors: Much better human characterizations than Clarke, much better science than Bradbury, and frankly better storytelling then either.

  20. 5 out of 5

    LiteraryMania

    I've always been a fan of Heinlein - but until now I'd never read any of his short stories. To be honest, I wasn't sure I was going to enjoy them, as I couldn't imagine Heinlein's genius being quite as powerful in short stories as in his novels. While it's true that the majority of these stories didn't delve as much into philosophical issues as his novels - they were still fantastic. Each one had it's own little moral, some are quite obvious and others left up to the reader to muse on. It's hard I've always been a fan of Heinlein - but until now I'd never read any of his short stories. To be honest, I wasn't sure I was going to enjoy them, as I couldn't imagine Heinlein's genius being quite as powerful in short stories as in his novels. While it's true that the majority of these stories didn't delve as much into philosophical issues as his novels - they were still fantastic. Each one had it's own little moral, some are quite obvious and others left up to the reader to muse on. It's hard to do an in depth review on a bunch of short stories, but Magic Inc. (like many of the other stories) was engaging, enjoyable and very tongue in cheek.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Darth

    This is some of the most mediocre / dated Heinlein out there. I had to read it, there were 2 or 3 stories in there I had not read in any other compilations, so some of it was re-read too. The stories are the kind that feel very much from the era they were written, which is not JUST to say they were dated, they were. But also, they give a kind of nostalgia for an era I never knew - kind of like playing a game of fallout 3 and listening to the music while running around in the wastes - somehow it gi This is some of the most mediocre / dated Heinlein out there. I had to read it, there were 2 or 3 stories in there I had not read in any other compilations, so some of it was re-read too. The stories are the kind that feel very much from the era they were written, which is not JUST to say they were dated, they were. But also, they give a kind of nostalgia for an era I never knew - kind of like playing a game of fallout 3 and listening to the music while running around in the wastes - somehow it gives me a feeling of nostalgia for the period. This collection of stories did the same thing for me, just in a slightly less entertaining fashion.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Pat

    Heinlein short stories. Some appear in other collections: Magic, Inc.; "-And He Built a Crooked House;" Waldo; The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathon Hoag; Our Fair City; and The Man Who Traveled in Elephants. Always a pleasure to revisit old friends. Two stories were new to me: "-They" and "-All You Zombies-". Both were less than 15 pages and not as much fun as most Heinlein. (The first was on a Truman-Show theme, the second involved time travel and paradoci.) And certainly not worth purchasing Heinlein short stories. Some appear in other collections: Magic, Inc.; "-And He Built a Crooked House;" Waldo; The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathon Hoag; Our Fair City; and The Man Who Traveled in Elephants. Always a pleasure to revisit old friends. Two stories were new to me: "-They" and "-All You Zombies-". Both were less than 15 pages and not as much fun as most Heinlein. (The first was on a Truman-Show theme, the second involved time travel and paradoci.) And certainly not worth purchasing this book to have if one already has the longer stories.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Elisabeth

    I'd gone off Heinlein, for his cold-war crazy, low opinion of my half the species, and tendency to front-load his stories with politics. But I am very glad I read this collection. Even the annoying stories are pretty good, and a couple of them are wonderful. The Man who Traveled in Elephants is a sweet, touching, delightful story; Our Fair City is hilarious; The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag is a nutty Nick and Nora style detective story; All You Zombies is some time-travel twistiness. I'd gone off Heinlein, for his cold-war crazy, low opinion of my half the species, and tendency to front-load his stories with politics. But I am very glad I read this collection. Even the annoying stories are pretty good, and a couple of them are wonderful. The Man who Traveled in Elephants is a sweet, touching, delightful story; Our Fair City is hilarious; The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag is a nutty Nick and Nora style detective story; All You Zombies is some time-travel twistiness. Highly enjoyable.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jacob

    This was all right -- I think Heinlein's fantasy stories are probably as good as his science fiction. Most of the pages in this one are occupied with three novellas. The first is worth its space (Magic, Inc.) because of the good job Heinlein put into his world building, making it seem like people had gotten fully used to the existence of magic. The second (Waldo) drags after a while, and the third (The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag) should really have been a short story, especially sinc This was all right -- I think Heinlein's fantasy stories are probably as good as his science fiction. Most of the pages in this one are occupied with three novellas. The first is worth its space (Magic, Inc.) because of the good job Heinlein put into his world building, making it seem like people had gotten fully used to the existence of magic. The second (Waldo) drags after a while, and the third (The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag) should really have been a short story, especially since it didn't resolve many of the core plot points.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Lis Carey

    A very nice collection of Heinlein's fantasy stories. I had never read "The Man Who Trave led in Elephants" or "Our Fair City" before. "Magic, Inc.," "Waldo", and "The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag" are all well worth rereading. I will confess that I find "--All You Zombies--" a little bit more annoying every time I read it, but hey, it's only one story, and the last one in the book. Recommended.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Elad

    I originally had only planned to read this for the "The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag" because I had heard so much about it and I'd been told to read it over the years - plus it was just recently announced as an upcoming film adaptation. I had already cracked open the book, there was no way I could stop myself from reading the other stories. Little did I know I would end up enjoying the other stories more than "TUPoJH".

  27. 5 out of 5

    Steven Keith

    I think I had read all these stories, in one collection or another but not in the last 20 or 30 years. All read differently at this stage of my life. It is interesting how many of these stories have inspired other authors ("All you Zombies" core developed by David Gerrold into "The Man who Folded Himself"). I had new appreciation for "Magic. Inc." showing the protagonists dabbling in that blackest of Dark Arts - politics.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Benjamin Kahn

    Some of these stories were excellent - funny, enthralling - and some were just so-so. The best of the stories "And he built a crooked house-", "The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag" were great, but some of the others were predictable or just average. I'd read the book for the two aforementioned stories and possibly "Our Fair City" but not bother with any of the other pedestrian fair in this book.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Joanne

    I am not a big one for science fiction or fantasy titles. However a friend of mine kept after me to try Heinlein ("you'll like him. He's awesome..") Found this book in the local library and boy am I glad. The book contains 8 short stories which were published anywhere from 1940 to 1959. They're not long, they're fun and they definitely have me wanting to read more Heinlein. If you were ever wanting to read Heinlein but were afraid to put in the time, start with this one. It's worth the time!

  30. 5 out of 5

    That70sheidi

    I think I would have found the stories to be more enjoyable if they didn't all have the theme of paranoid schizophrenia running through them. That being said, The Man Who Dealt in Elephants was very touching, if obvious; All You Zombies blew my fucking mind. I listened (audiobook version) to it three times to really wrap my poor, blown apart mind around it. Most excellent stuff in that story.

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