The Fantasies of Robert A. Heinlein

The Fantasies of Robert A. Heinlein gives newer SF readers and fans a
less-known side of his work and opportunity to savor crisp sentences filled with telling detail,
sardonic observations of character, and engrossing tales.

The stories, originally published in the 1940s and ’50s, showcase Heinlein’s science-fictional
approach to fantasy. Though magic works and the supernatural underlies ordinary life, the reader is
always firmly anchored in a lawful reality. The setting is the USA, sometimes in the mid-20th
century, sometimes in a near future, always featuring very American characters. It’s just that the
salesman sells elephants and encounters fictional characters and ghosts (“The Man Who Traveled in
Elephants”), the reporter covers a sentient whirlwind that collects old newspaper (“Our Fair City”),
and the bartender is a time-traveling recruiter (“All You Zombies”). The ambitious, young California
architect builds a house where doors and windows open on many places–but not to the outside he
came in from (“And He Built a Crooked House”). And the paranoid patient’s reality is saner than
you think (“They”). The three novellas: “Magic, Inc.,” “Waldo,” and “The Unpleasant Profession of
Jonathan Hoag” are vintage Heinlein; the last is a Lovecraftian tale of an amnesiac who hires PIs to
find out what he does all day–what they uncover isn’t illegal but is supernaturally evil, and Hoag is
neither perpetrator nor victim.

These stories feel a bit old-fashioned, but no one ignited the sense of wonder in readers better than Heinlein. This collection offers a golden opportunity to sample a master at his best. —Nona Vero