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Publisher's Summary

Jonathan Hoag has a curious problem. Every evening, he finds a mysterious reddish substance under his fingernails, with no memory what he was doing during the day to get it there. Jonathan hires the husband and wife detective team of Ted and Cynthia Randall to follow him during the day and find out. But Ted and Cynthia find themselves instantly out of their depth. Jonathan leaves no fingerprints. His few memories about his profession turn out to be false. Even stranger, Ted and Cynthia's own memories of what happens during their investigation do not match. There is a thirteenth floor to Jonathan's building that does not exist, there are mysterious and threatening beings living inside mirrors, and all of reality is not what they thought it was. Part supernatural thriller, part noir detective story, Heinlein's trip down the rabbit hole leads where you never expected.
©2003 the Robert A. & Virginia Heinlein Prize Trust (P)2009 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

Critic Reviews

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)

What listeners say about The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Brilliant Sci-Fi Detective Action!

Any additional comments?

This is truly such a unique story that I believe it would translate into an excellent film. It's not often that you see the cross between detective mystery fiction and sci-fi, but it honestly REALLY works. The book is only around a 4 hour listen but TOTALLY worth the price of a credit. You won't be sorry you listened to this one.

9.5 / 10

9 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

1950's Detective Sci Fi at it finest!

If you could sum up The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag in three words, what would they be?

Three word summation: Smoke and mirrors...Maybe that's what "reality" actually is.

What other book might you compare The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag to and why?

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!

Which scene was your favorite?

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.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

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.

Any additional comments?

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!

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

Interesting :)

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 :)

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars

Flat, unflattering narator ruins the experience.

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.

1 person found this helpful

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I like the story but it didn't age too well

the idea is amazing. The performance was really wonderful. I do feel that the sexism is pretty blatant, which I found distracting.

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Memorable

I read this as a teenager. Now in my seventies, this has held up as a classic.

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Unusual Example of Early Heinlein

This is a fun little Robert A. Heinlein novella. Jonathan Hoag doesn’t know what he does for a living. He has no recollection of his days. All he knows is he gets paid every week and has a weird red substance under his fingernails after work. So he hires some private detectives to follow him and things really get strange.

In this short work, Heinlein explores what one of his typically rational and hard-science based heroes would do if he appeared to run into the supernatural. As you would expect from Heinlein, this tension leads to one heck of a ride and a very exciting (if not totally satisfactory) conclusion. Great for the serious fan of Heinlein’s fiction, but not a great choice if you’re just wondering what all the fuss regarding Heinlein is all about.

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Pleasantly surprised by this one

I enjoy Heinlein occasionally, but was surprised when reading this that it really felt like a Philip K Dick story.

I recommend going in with as little foreknowledge as possible and just enjoy the ride. The payoff at the end is exceptional

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good / weird

I'd never read this story by Robert Heinlein. It's been a while since I'd read anything by him. Imaginative and as well written as I remembered.

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Not Heinlein's best but still very good

This isn't as much science fiction as 30s Detective meets supernatural. As long as you don't mind the genre shift from his primary work, it is enjoyable and if course well written.

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Profile Image for Darren P Ramsden
  • Darren P Ramsden
  • 05-11-19

great little read

great little read.
a little weak on the ending.
all in all ideal for a long commute