Archive for The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag

Review: The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag

Posted in 1959, 3:Lunar, Review with tags , on March 20, 2009 by Aaron

Robert Heinlein

Wow.  It’s such a pleasure to read Robert Heinlein.  I haven’t actually read a book of his for… well, I don’t know how many years.  Before the era of modern communications and the Internet, I was a huge consumer of Heinlein fare.  I cut my teeth – literarily speaking – on his juveniles.  And in the last few years I have listened to practically everything of his on audio book, some more than once.  This book however, has been one that has somehow stayed low on my radar.  I have of course known of it’s existence, but never had the opportunity to take it in for some reason.  Until now.

This is a collection, the title story occupying about half of the book.  It’s a horror.  Or, it’s supposed to be a horror, I think.  Heinlein’s style doesn’t translate well to the horror genre.  I wasn’t scared, or troubled.  He just doesn’t write with enough gravity.  It reads more like a noir or hardboiled crime fiction/ fantasy crossover.  Ok, there were a couple of instances which I found a little disturbing – the necessity for the Sons of the Bird to cover their faces with their hands upon mention of the Bird – was an unusual example.  But with Heinlein’s trademark easy style and dry wit always present, there is a disconnect between the subject matter and the way it is delivered.  Don’t get me wrong, the title story is a good read (an excellent read in a couple of ways I’ll talk about later), but it doesn’t read the way it is, I think, meant to.  Some of the elements in the story also brought to mind a couple of examples of contemporary horror: the recent movie Mirrors and to a lesser extent, Stephen King’s The Mist.

The remaining stories are a mixed bag.

The next – The Man Who Traveled in Elephants –  is a strange story about an elderly man passing into the afterlife.  In that story the main character makes a passing reference to the book  And to Think I Saw It on Mulberry Street first published in 1937 by Dr Seuss, and there are obvious similarities between the two tales.

After that we have a time-travel tale with a twist in the mold of By His Bootstraps, a paranoid questioning reality, another bizarre story that I can only surmise is some sort of political commentary (I didn’t enjoy that one very much), and finally another reality warping play on time and space in the form of a tesseract-shaped house.

As much as I did or didn’t enjoy the stories in this book, there are some things about Heinlein’s writing I always appreciate.  the first are the puzzles or paradoxes he bases some of his short work around.  In this volume, All You Zombies— (the time-travel one) and —And He Built a Crooked House— are fine examples of this kind of work.

The other thing that I enjoy so much in Heinlein’s work are his characters.  Or more precisely, the insight he has into relationships – especially between men and women – that comes through in his writing.  The protagonists in the title story are a husband and wife team of private investigators, and I got as much (if not more) enjoyment from their interplay – both spoken and unspoken – than from the actual story itself.

Another thing I love about Heinlein’s characters from this period (his early work and the juveniles) is that they are spiritually rooted in the 1940s and ’50s.  This comes through so clearly in the vernacular they use, they attitudes they have and many of the social customs they display.

Randall had been married too long and too comfortably not to respect danger signals.  He got up, went to [his wife], and put an arm around her.  “Look kid,” he said seriously and gently, “I’m not pulling your leg.  We’ve got our wires crossed somehow, but I’m giving it to you as straight as I can, the way I remember it.”

If that isn’t pure ’40s or ’50s, I don’t know what is.

I mentioned a mixed bag earlier.  This collection is certainly that.  I suggest this is equal parts classic short Heinlein, fantasy and something from left field.  I think most everyone will find something to their liking contained within, but I think not many will like everything.

All You Zombies— and —And He Built a Crooked House— can be read online via Best Science Fiction Stories.


Finally on their way…

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 24, 2009 by Aaron

Jean, the very kind and patient person off whom I got The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag, finally received a cheque the other day that I had sent from NZ.  It took 3 weeks to arrive!!  No wonder they call it snail mail…  So, posted to me yesterday were Sixth Column by Robert Heinlein, Tom Godwin‘s The Survivors and Children of the Atom by Wilmar Shiras.  I’m especially looking forward to another Heinlein 1st edition.

Also yesterday I won The Complete Book of Outer Space, a collection of non-fiction edited by one Jeffrey Logan.  I think this is about the only thing he ever did.

Finished Starman’s Quest yesterday too.  I’ll have the Close Up posted soon and the Review probably by the weekend.

Close Up: The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag

Posted in 1959, Close Up with tags , , on February 5, 2009 by Aaron

closeupRobert Heinlein

As I mentioned, I received this book earlier this week.  I kind of intimated that there were a couple of things bugging me about it.  And there are.  I guess I was unfair to introduce it as “The Unpleasant Impression of Jonathan Hoag” in that post.  This is a Heinlein 1st edition and it is in great condition.  That’s my layman’s description.  In terms of grading I am not sure how to place this, my first impression was Fine, but I think perhaps the couple of issues I’ll highlight might send it down to Near Fine.  Lets step through and check it out.

All good so far, what a lovely clean cover.  Beautiful.  Well protected by a Brodart dust jacket cover too…  But wait what’s that??  Lets have a closer inspection.


A nasty little patch worn on the cover.  Thankfully it hasn’t made it all the way through.  So, if we open it what do we see??  Oh, my goodness…


Price-clipped.  After the initial impression (I hadn’t noticed the small wear point on the cover then) I was somewhat deflated to see it had been chopped.  The seller, Jean, didn’t mention this little point in the auction.  In all fairness I didn’t ask any questions either.  Small lesson learned: Always ask pertinent questions such as “Has it been price-clipped?”  You will also notice a bit of what looks like foxing down the inner edge there too.  The other thing that jumped out at me at this point was this:


Mr Bruce B. Tinkel has stamped his name nicely into the book.  Well, at least he didn’t scrawl it in there with a magic marker or something.  I’ll add this to the list of questions to remember to ask in an auction.  OK, so if we look a little closer at the spine what do we see.


Nice.  Sits nice and square and the top and bottom of the spine look great.  You can see the dust jacket is superb here, so often focal points for wear and tearing.


I love the boards on this book, nicely embossed in three colours.  Cool.  The back of the dust jacket is nice and clean also.


Remember I mentioned that I have irrefutable evidence that this book has never been read??  How can I know this??  Check this out:


Between pages 18 and 19 the bottom edges are still attached to each other!!  Either the trimming process was  a little inaccurate or more likely the binding process was.  Now, I don’t know about you, but I think it would certainly be a major inconvenience to read this book and maintain this situation.  Especially over a 50 year period.  You can also see the text block is darkened as is typical for the later GP books.

Actually, after consideration I wasn’t too concerned about the price-clipping.  As far as I know, Gnome never released a BCE edition of this book.  I’m pretty sure the Gnome Press book club (called the Fantasy Book Club) was dead by the time this book was published.

I’ve been in regular contact lately with Jean whom I bought this off – there are a couple more Gnome Press books winging my way.  Many thanks Jean, I certainly appreciate this Heinlein, it’s the star of my collection thus far.

Year: 1959
Paid: $210
Art: W.I. Van der Poel
Quantity: 5000
Binding: Tan-olive cloth with three-color title embossing.
GP Edition Notes: 1st edition so stated on the copyright page.
Comments: Great shape. I think this would be Fine if not for the flaws I’ve highlighted. I would appreciate input from anyone who might advise me otherwise or have any comments about this book.
Expand Upon:, Internet Speculative Fiction Database


The Unpleasant Impression of Jonathan Hoag

Posted in New Arrivals with tags , , on February 1, 2009 by Aaron

I arrived here at work today, first day of the week, first official day of the school year (no classes yet, they come at the end of February – this is graduation week for last years third graders), and I was an hour an a half late.  Actually the traffic was really bad this morning so I spent longer that usual on the bus.  The fact that I was very tired and hung over after retiring at about 4am this morning was also a contributing factor. Still, it was a bright start to my day when I saw a nice box addressed to me.  I knew what was in it because the name of the sender clued me.  I delayed opening it for about a half hour or so.  You know, just to build the anticipation and excitement.  Within lay The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag by Robert Heinlein.  A Heinlein first edition was actually in my hands!!  I don’t know about you, but this gets me excited.  Beautiful condition too… but I’m getting carried away here.  To cut a long story short, there were a couple of unfortunate surprises.  I’m going to do a photo review of this book in the next day or so, so keep this channel of the hyper-spatial relay open, as you might in the Foundation universe. Oh, The Crotchety Old Fan gave me a nice little mention in his blog.  Thanks Steve.