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I Will Fear No Evil (1970)

by Robert A. Heinlein

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3,215363,462 (3.39)44
Written at the dawn of the 1970s, this Heinlein novel concerns an extremely rich, fairly old tycoon who is trying to "take it all with him." His solution is to have his mind transplanted into the body of his recently deceased secretary. Once there, he finds that her mind remains active, and together they learn to share control of her body.… (more)

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English (33)  Italian (1)  French (1)  German (1)  All languages (36)
Showing 1-5 of 33 (next | show all)
Feb. 21, 2015: As promised, I have had some more thoughts about this book.

In general, people seem to choose one of two ways to handle Robert Heinlein’s I Will Fear No Evil: detest it in all its casually (and sometimes not so casually) misogynistic odiousness, or love it like an uncouth grandfather who “grew up in a different time.” As is often a case, I don’t think either extreme is quite right.

Full review at CurtisWeyant.com.


Feb. 14, 2015: This story will take awhile to process. There were some...interesting...things in it, but they are muddled by the incessant idleness (in a sense) of the characters. I'm not sure Heinlein needed as many pages as he took to get the result he did.

That said, I did like the ending. In a strange way, it has a similar feel as [b:A Canticle for Leibowitz|23999630|A Canticle For Leibowitz|Walter M. Miller Jr|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1423766327s/23999630.jpg|43599907], even though the implications of “A baby cried, a world began” are exactly opposite of "The shark...was very hungry that season." I feel like there's something I'm missing in the progression of the story that would be explain it better.

I think I shall have more to say about this – just not today. ( )
1 vote octoberdad | Dec 16, 2020 |
I haven't read this book in quite a few years. I remember liking this book a lot more when I was younger. ( )
  jenbooks | Oct 5, 2020 |
I "read" this again as an audiobook, and the performer was excellent. But what to say? Part of the book hasn't aged well, which is apt for the story – the forward thinking permissiveness of the sexual revolution comes across here as increased sexual availability of women in an ever more expanding patriarchy. Gender norms are reinforced despite the obvious playfullness meant by the "sex change" of the plot, and for 1970 is might be called progressive, but in a way that's troubling. The very things that probably made this a lot of fun when it was published (and even when I first read it in early 1990s) now seem to fall flat. I can't help but think this inspired Carl Reiner's film "All of Me," and that the same gender comedy that drives the film falls flat on today's audience.

The obviously "twig" for inspiring the story is Tiresias, and we get to see the protagonist as both the father and mother to "hir" child, and there are satires on contemporary society we're meant to take tongue in cheek, though these perhaps have aged the least well. I also can't help but feel fishy reading Heinlein's female protagonists with their casual sexism and light treatment of physical abuse. It's certainly well intentioned, but it's definitely uncomfortable today.

As a plot, I grew tired of the ripostes between the "twin" protagonists, and as is too often the case in later Heinlein, the continuous "winning" of the protagonist who outsmarts everyone at every turn. When there's no struggle and not work to exceed oneself, there's also no "bildung" for the bildungsroman, so no growth. Everyone just emerges fully formed, no one is shocked, and they always already knew what they were about to discover. So there they are in the opening, smuggly aware of superiority, and there they are at the end just the same. Not even the outward travels manifest and invisible transformation.

Apart from that, it's hard to think of another work from 1970 that did what this one did, and I listened to the performance the whole way through. I've been going through Heinlein's works on audiobook, and I read across much of him in the 80s and 90s, but so far the juvenile books seem the easiest for me as a reader, and I'm still not sure why – they're not uncomfortably sexual nor violent, but they feel like they're pressing on a political stance, the ends of which I can't conscience today and have difficulty rethinking in their historical context, yet at the same time I can't pin them down.

The performer was excellent with American accents and committed fully to the multi-vocal nature of the narrative. ( )
  james.d.gifford | Apr 4, 2020 |
As a teen, Heinlein's "Stranger in a Strange Land" was one of my all-time favorite high school reads. As an adult, I have to agree with some acerbic critics that "I Will Fear No Evil" is borderline dreadful. I say "borderline" because the premise is certainly intriguing. But I read one ancient review where the author himself is quoted as saying that the "novel is about 30,000 words too long." Sadly, Heinlein was under-estimating. I would place the number somewhere around 50,000 words. The dialogue goes on forever in so many spots. Character development is one thing, but Heinlein is simply undisciplined in this tome. I'm not sure I would go quite as far as the creative reviewer who suggested that this book would be available to "damned souls in Hell's lending library," because I do think the plot provided a few intriguing twists and some "food for thought." But I had to force myself to finish it -- and "force" is not an understatement. ( )
  brianinbuffalo | Jan 19, 2020 |
Heinlein was my number-one favorite author in the past, so I got this for completeness, but couldn't bring myself to read it - just not that interested in Heinlein's sexual fantasies.
  librisissimo | Feb 9, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 33 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Heinlein, Robert A.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Giancola, DonatoCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Warhola, JamesCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Ein Heyne-Buch (06/3358)
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The room was old-fashioned, 1980 baroque, but it was wide, long, high, and luxurious.
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Wenn die Frauen nicht als Ware angesehen werden wollen, sagte er immer, dann sollen sie sich auch nicht als Ware herausstellen.
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Written at the dawn of the 1970s, this Heinlein novel concerns an extremely rich, fairly old tycoon who is trying to "take it all with him." His solution is to have his mind transplanted into the body of his recently deceased secretary. Once there, he finds that her mind remains active, and together they learn to share control of her body.

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Johann Sebastian Bach Smith was immensely rich and very old. His mind was keen, but his body was worn out. So surgeons transplanted his brain into a new body. The operation was a great success - but the patient was no longer Johann Sebastian Bach Smith. He was now fused with the very vocal personality of his gorgeous secretary, Eunice - with mind-blowing results!
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