I Will Fear No Evil

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I Will Fear No Evil is a science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein, originally serialised in Galaxy (July, August/September, October/November, December 1970) and published in hardcover in 1970. The title is taken from Psalm 23:4.


Plot summary

The story takes place about 2015 AD, against a background of an overpopulated Earth, whose dysfunctional society is clearly an attempt to extrapolate into the future the rapid social changes taking place in the U.S. during the 1960s. Ancient billionaire Johann Sebastian Bach Smith is dying, and wants to have his brain transplanted into a new body. Smith advertises an offer of a million dollars for the donation of a body from a brain-dead patient. Coincidentally, his beautiful young female secretary, Eunice Branca, is murdered, so her body is used, since Smith never thought to place any restriction on the sex of the donor. He is rechristened Joan Eunice Smith.

For reasons never made clear, Eunice's personality continues to co-inhabit the body. (Whether Eunice's personality is real or a figment of Johann's imagination is addressed but never fully resolved in the novel.) Joan and Eunice agree never to reveal her continued existence, fearing that they would be judged insane and locked up. The two of them speculate that it may have something to do with the supposed ability of animals to remember things using RNA rather than the nervous system. (At the time the book was published, biologist J.V. McConnell had done a series of experiments in which he taught a behavior to flatworms, ground them up, and fed them to other flatworms, which supposedly exhibited the same behavior. McConnell's experiments were later discredited, but they were used in science fiction by several authors, including Heinlein, Larry Niven, Joe Haldeman and Dean Koontz.) However, Joan and Eunice decide that this possible explanation is irrelevant, and near the end of the book, a third personality, that of Joan's new husband, joins them by means that can only be explained via delusion, religion or mysticism, not science.


The events of the novel are mentioned in one line of Time Enough for Love,[1] but there is little connection to the Future History series. Heinlein suffered from life-threatening peritonitis while working on this novel, and it is generally believed that his wife Virginia handled much of the editing[citation needed]. Detractors of this novel sometimes invoke Heinlein's overall ill health as a reason for its perceived poor quality[citation needed]. Much of the book is devoted to a description of Joan's exploration of emotional and sexual love from the point of view of her new gender. A typical episode in this long series of escapades involves Joan having an experience that is new to her from the female point of view, with internal dialog between Joan and Eunice to the effect that there is nothing new under the sun, and all of this was going on a hundred years ago when Johann was young and male. These dialogs form the bulk of the book, and it is often hard to believe that they could happen during the gaps in the exterior scene being described[original research?]. The book deals with many of Heinlein's favorite themes, such as radical individualism, immortality, free love, and the relationship between sexual and emotional love.

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