Illustration for article titled Heinleins Creepiest Novella Gets The I, Robot Treatment

We may never get to see the long-mooted movie of The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, but one of Robert Heinlein's slightly more obscure works is due to become a major motion picture from director Alex Proyas. The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag, a disturbing novella about a man who can't remember what he does during the day, will become a psychological thriller, with a love story. Proyas says he loves the Heinlein story... but he also plans to make some changes to it. Since Proyas helmed I, Robot, which took a few slight liberties with the Isaac Asimov source material, you can expect a certain amount of creative license with Jonathan Hoag, which Heinlein wrote in 1942 under a pseudonym, John Riverside. But Proyas expresses reverence for the source material, in a Hollywood Reporter article:

"I read this story as a kid, and it really stayed with me," Proyas said. "It's part of my creative DNA."


Here's how someone on Amazon summarizes it:

Mr. Hoag has a problem: in the evenings he finds a curious reddish residue under his fingernails, and no memory of what he was doing during the day to get that residue. So he hires a husband-and-wife team of detectives to follow him around and find out what is really going on. The trail leads to non-existent 13th floors, some very shadowy characters who are part of the Order of the Bird, and a conclusion that reality really isn't what we think it is. Some good suspense, reasonable characterization, but the final answer that Heinlein presents may leave you feeling a little let down, and I had difficulty believing in the scenario.


The novella appears to be out of print, but copies of a collected edition are available on Amazon for as little as 14 cents, plus shipping. According to blogger Chris Perridas, Heinlein wrote the story in a hurry to raise money for his wife's gall bladder operation. [Hollywood Reporter]

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