©2003 the Robert A. & Virginia Heinlein Prize Trust; (P)2009 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Part supernatural thriller, part noir detective story, Heinlein's trip down the rabbit hole leads where you never expected. Currently in development to be a feature film.
"One of the grand masters of science fiction." (Wall Street Journal)
"The most influential science fiction writer of all time!" (Locus)
Three word summation: Smoke and mirrors...Maybe that's what "reality" actually is.
Robert Heinlein wrote the classic "Stranger In A Strange Land" as well as a later work, "Job", and I could see thematic elements of both these later novels in "The Unpleasent Profession Of Jonathan Hoag." I started reading sci fi by reading some of my dad's collection of '40's/'50's pulp magazines such "Astounding Stores", "Worlds Of If", "Analog" etc. and this novel was reminiscent of many of those old stores. As I listened to this story unfold, I was picturing an old black and white movie shot in the late 1940's. I always enjoyed those old mysteries! The revelation of what Mr. Hoag actually was up to immediately brought to mind an episode of The Twilight Zone, and a certain Stephen King story which shall remain unnamed because if I named it, you'd have the mystery solved before you read the the book!
My favorite scene was when Ted Randall is brought before The Son's Of The Bird and warned against have any dealings with Mr. Hoag. And of course the last few scenes where what Mr. Hoag has been up to is finally revealed were also very enjoyable.
Having read this book decades ago, my main reaction was the pleasure of rediscovering a good old Robert Heinlein yarn as only R.H. can spin them.
For my money, there are few authors of speculative fiction, living or dead, who have written such a thoroughly enjoyable body of work as Robert Heinlein. I look forward to listening to them all again!
Minor details do date the story (a tad bit), in a quaint way. BUT...the other thing that "dates" it, is the "out of the box" thinking that this period of sci-fi writers did quite well. A balance is struck between the ways the story could be called "dated"... and the latter wins (in my book). LOL. BIGtime :)
I don't even know how good or bad the book itself is. I really could not bare to listen through any more than about 15 minutes of it because the narator does such a terrible job. He is flat, stolid, and unemotional. He gives the characters absolutely no character. It's like listening to a robot talk.
I'm not a huge fan of Heinlein, but I took a chance on this one. I wasn't terribly surprised...I didn't love it, but I didn't hate it.
The plot goes as follows: Jonathan Hoag seems to have no memory of his job---he doesn't know what he does for a living and seems to have no memory of working hours. So, he hires a husband-and-wife detective agency to tail him when he goes to work, but they get tangled in a larger and more confusing mess...
As an adventure tale, the story is only so-so. There is some interesting discourse on dreams, memory and perception on the nature of reality...themes that would be explored more thoroughly by Philip K. Dick a few decades later.
Overall, I think the story was reasonably well-written, with the mystery unfolding slowly. I did find the ending somewhat unsatisfying.
Tom Weiner did a really good job as the narrator.
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