Every so often I pick up a book by an author, and am forced to ask myself, “Why haven’t I read his stuff before now?” This has been the case for Robert A. Heinlein. I’ve always considered myself a Science-Fiction fan ever since I could consider myself a fan of anything. But for some reason I find myself as an adult just now discovering Heinlein, only within the last five years or so reading the stories from this classic sci-fi author. Better late than never.
Most of what I’ve read by Heinlein have been short stories that were aimed at the young adult reader. I have yet to tackle his major works such as; “Starship Troopers,” or “Stranger in a Strange Land,” but they are on my list. This collection of short stories looked to be very entertaining and when I saw they were read by another science-fiction author, Spider Robinson, I was intrigued. I thought it would be very interesting to hear how one sci-fi author interprets another’s work. Robinson not only did a great job bringing these stories to life through his narration, but he was also able to do some vocal acting bringing some of the characters to life. His voice was very pleasant to hear and kept me listening throughout the collection.
The five stories in this collection are:
The title story, “All You Zombies – ” tells of a time traveling bartender who creates one of the biggest time paradoxes ever conceived. The synopsis of this story weaves in and out and around itself so much that there is not one single section that doesn’t give away the surprise ending. It all starts with a bartender and a patron trying to outdo each other with the most unusual origin story, but they seem to be telling the same story. Recently a movie has been released titled, “Predestination,” which is supposed to be based on this story. I’m not sure how this could be portrayed in a movie, but just to see the story unfold on the big screen has me curious enough to go see this oddity.
The next story in the collection is “The Man Who Traveled in Elephants.” The title was out their for me that I kept seeing that scene from “Ace Ventura; Pet Detective,” where Jim Carrey emerges from inside a fake rhinoceros. But alas, that was not the case. Basically this title is from the vernacular of the time where traveling salesmen were identified by what they were selling, for example; if a salesman was selling Fuller brushes he would be known to be traveling in Fuller brushes. So, the man in this story is a traveling salesman selling elephants. That still is an odd thing to do. His wife and he were a couple who traveled in elephants before she died and he continued the business after she died. One day the man is traveling to the next city to sell elephants to a circus but after a bus accident finds himself along with the other passengers on a beautiful side venture that leads to one of the most happy endings I’ve seen, read or heard since the movie, “What Dreams May Come.”
Story number three is, “They.” The story is told from the point of view of a patient in a mental institution who seems to suffer from the solipsism, but not quite, he doesn’t think he’s the ONLY being in existence but one of the few who are real and that the other real entities have created the rest of the universe in a conspiracy to deceive him. With the perfect Heinlein twist, this story may have the reader/listener questioning reality.
Story number four is a humorous story about a parking attendant named “Pappy” who has a pet sentient whirlwind named Kitten. With the help of Pete, a reporter, all three team up to try and take down the corrupt city government.
Finally, to round out this collection is ” – And He Built a Crooked House.” This story is a nice short adventure through the fourth dimension which starts with a genius architect who, while studying a tesseract, an type of cubic prism, decides he could build a house with the same parameters that would have more room on the inside than appears on the outside. The problem is that the house cannot exist as such in a three dimensional world, so he has to unfold it to build it into a three dimensional world. His unfolded tesseract home is finished and on the day he goes to show the home to his friend an earthquake occurs throwing sections of the home into another dimension. The architect, the friend and the friends wife then go on an adventure trying to find all the rooms of the house and when another earthquake occurs they find themselves on an alien landscape. How will they ever make it back to Earth?
Some great sci-fi stories from a sci-fi master. I can’t wait to read or hear more.