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The Fantasies of Robert A. Heinlein

Reviewed by James M. Palmer

(originally published in Revolution SF August 25, 2001)

 

Unless you’re a Heinlein scholar, you’re probably thinking the same thing I thought when I read the title of this book: Robert A. Heinlein wrote fantasy? Indeed he did, but if you’re expecting elves and dragons, you’re in for a shock. In fact, the closest he comes to pure fantasy is Magic, Inc., but there are other stories as well that, while they don’t contain magic as such, are still considered fantasy of the Unknown variety. I am even more surprised by the title now that I have read the stories, because a couple of them are pure science fiction. For the Heinlein fanatic, there are no surprises here. This collection brings together eight of his most popular stories: 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, and –All You Zombies–.

Magic, Inc. is Heinlein’s one pure fantasy story. Though it takes place in a modern setting, it deals heavily with magic and its use in the real world. I was impressed by the depths of Heinlein’s occult knowledge in this story. Undines, gnomes, and crooked businessmen combine in a story that’s pure Heinlein.

In –And He Built A Crooked House, revolutionary architect Quintus Teal creates what he thinks is the perfect house, built in an unfolded tesseract, a structure with four dimensions. But when an earthquake causes the house to fold in on itself, it causes all kinds of trouble for Teal and his two clients, the Bailey’s, as they enter the house and find that they cannot get out. What’s interesting about this story for me was its treatment of fourth-dimensional geometry. It’s a typical idea story of the kind writers like Asimov and Heinlein made famous, so if you’re looking for something with more depth, you’re wasting your time. What made this one fun for me was its humor.

The other stories here are great fun as well. They– is a paranoid tale about conspiracy theories.

Our Fair City is a lighthearted urban fantasy about a conscientious reporter writing about a corrupt government, and a whirlwind named Kitten. A cute story, but not one of his best. The others are all excellent, especially –All You Zombies–, and rank among the author’s all time best works.

The Fantasies Of Robert A. Heinlein is a treasure trove of some of the author’s best and most well-known stories. The diehard fan and newcomer alike will love having all of these stories in one volume. If, like me, you’ve always wanted to read these stories but couldn’t find them, now is your chance.

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