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I Will Fear No Evil - Robert A. Heinlein,  Anthony Heald ...Heinlein





what was this I don't even

I don't know where to begin.

Okay, I can forgive Heinlein a lot. I forgave him for Friday, in which the main character (another super-hot polysexual Heinleinian wet dream) marries her rapist. By the end of his career, the Old Man was pretty much just churning out whatever wank he felt like. But he gave us Starship Troopers and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and Podkayne of Mars (I know, that last one rarely makes anyone's list of Heinlein favorites, but I liked it), and a lot of other fantastic science fiction, much of which is actually teen-friendly and teen-accessible.

I had never read this abortion, though. This... appalling distillation of the very wankiest, skeeviest crevices of that dirty old man's oversexed id, dredged from the depths of early 20th century gender stereotypes and shellacked with the 1970s "free love" aesthetic Heinlein had going on. The result is I Will Fear No Evil, in which a 90-something-year-old man has his brain transplanted into the body of his hot secretary and promptly turns into the girliest girl who ever spent most of a novel running around tee-heeing that she's not wearing any panties.

yeah seriously did we take a left turn at Piers Anthony here?

And it's not like Heinlein didn't have the writing chops to make this interesting, or that he couldn't explore mind-bending ideas, including gender reification which when he wrote this in 1970 still was barely out of the realm of science fiction.

(But Ursula Le Guin wrote The Left Hand of Darkness in 1969 so Heinlein you have no excuse!)

So, I already told you the plot. Johann Sebastian Bach Smith is a billionaire, born long enough ago to remember the Great Depression, but the book is set in the early 21st century. Smith's ancient body is only being kept alive by life support, so he arranges to be the "donor" in the world's first brain transplant operation. By sheer coincidence, his gorgeous young secretary, Eunice Branca, is murdered a few days later, and Smith's brain is transplanted into her body.

So, a lifelong heterosexual male born almost a century ago exploring life in the body of a nubile young female. Could be interesting, right? Even if not handled precisely... ah... sensitively? It could still be a good story, especially in the hands of Robert Heinlein, who for all his faults (every single one of which oozes across the pages in this book) was a damn good storyteller.

But I Will Fear No Evil is not a good story. It's an endless series of conversations between Johann and Eunice (who somehow still "inhabits" Johann's mind even though her brain is gone) about sex. Johann, without even hesitating, embraces the role of becoming a male fantasy, giggling frequently to Eunice that being a girl is so much fun! As "Joan" he goes about kissing, fondling, and screwing pretty much anyone who holds still long enough. But mostly men. Always the men. She strips and flaunts and teases and seduces because that's what girls are for — always with Eunice's wholehearted psychic approval, because Eunice herself, as she describes repeatedly in wanky detail, was also fond of jumping anything with a pulse, especially if it had a penis.

Of course, all the men "Joan" is screwing around with know that it's actually their nonagenarian boss occupying that body, but none of them hesitate for a moment either. Just as Johann immediately accepts that he's now a girl, so does everyone else.

I haven't even gotten into the spanking and the lessons on how women must always be super-hot and sexually available but never forget to clean the toilet and the impregnating herself with his sperm and

yeah seriously

Everything — everything — you have ever heard about Heinlein's "problematic" gender issues and skeevy sex roles is spread in stark glossy airbrushed glory across this book. I Will Fear No Evil is a course in anti-Heinleinism: "Why Robert A. Heinlein was a Skeevy Old Man 101." Everything you need to know about why he has so many detractors. Minus the alleged fascism and libertarianism, because the minimal worldbuilding is just another representation of a crumbling overpopulated socialist-capitalist state. There's a bit of Heinlein's usual ruminating about individualism, but then Joan is off to flash her pantyless bum to some other dude, and we're back to the main plot of the novel, which is how many different conversations Joann can have about sex in between having sex. Threesomes, foursomes, fivesomes, girls, boys, at least she didn't get around to bestiality but there was serious contemplation of incest and a tempting little thirteen-year-old...

yeah seriously that is the plot

Honestly, I wouldn't have hated this book quite so much (though I'd still have mocked the hell out of it) if it had a plot.

For the love of Hugo Gernsback, do not read this novel if you've never read anything else by Heinlein, because I promise you'll never want to read anything else by him. I can't see how even the most ardent Heinlein fan could love this book. (I've read some of the 5-star reviews, trying to figure out what those readers saw in it, and... no, I still don't get it.)

Heinlein wrote some great books. Even some of his really problematic books (well, they were probably all problematic in some fashion) were great books. But this? It made my skin crawl. And worse, it bored me. It. Stank.

One. Star.