Thursday, August 4, 2011
I Will Fear no Evil by Robert A. Heinlein
I will Fear no Evil is another one of the later novels by Heinlein, written in 1970, after his breakout success with Stranger in a Strange Land. It perhaps is an indicator of the
quality he was to turn out for the rest of his life which, in my opinion, was not nearly as good, in general, as his earlier works.
Enter the character of Johann Sebastian Bach Smith, grouchy old multimillionaire, who is so similar to many of Heinlein's cranky old man characters in his later books that I very nearly suspect a conspiracy. Smith's angelic yet spunky secretary, Eunice Branca, and a sharp Jewis lawyer, Jake Salomon, seem to be the only people closest to friends in his world. He is suffering the ravages of advanced old age, and only the life support systems of modern medicine are keeping his many relatives from swooping down like vultures to plunder his business empire.
The dialogs between Smith and Salomon and Branca sound like a rehash in flavor, tone and content, from Jubal Harshaw, Ben and Jill in Stranger, and Lazarus, Ira and Minerva in Time Enough For Love. Nothing new here, move right along folks.
Smith concocts a scheme to stay alive and outwit his heirs, having his brain transplanted into a new body. When by an amazing coincidence it turns out that Eunice has the exact rare blood type as Jonathan, and she is killed in a random mugging, her brain goes in the oubliette and Smith rides again.
However, it seems that the seat of consciousness doesn't reside alone in the brain, but in the body as well, and Smith finds Eunice's "soul" very comforting as he learns to live again in a female body. From this point on, there's not much plot action, aside from some legal wrangling by his heirs, which Jake, the newly minted "Joan Eunice", and their merry band of men of good will thwart quite handily. The bulk of the book consists of internal dialogues between Joan and Eunice, primarily about sex and sexuality, and how everyone but RAH has it all horribly wrong. This was very amusing when I first read it as a teenager, but it wears a little thin these days, when we can plainly see the results of many of his fellow travelers' libertine social attitudes.
Possibly my least favorite Heinlein novel. One probably must read it to complete the Heinlein canon, but don't rush out to buy a copy.