I Will Fear No Evil

Narrated by: Anthony Heald
Length: 18 hrs and 49 mins
3.5 out of 5 stars (653 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

As startling and provocative as his famous Stranger in a Strange Land, here is Heinlein’s grand masterpiece about a man supremely talented, immensely old, and obscenely wealthy who discovers that money can buy everything.

Johann Sebastian Bach Smith was immensely rich—and very old. Though his mind was still keen, his body was worn out. His solution was to have surgeons transplant 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, recently deceased secretary, Eunice—with mind-blowing results! Together they must learn to share control of her body.

Once again, master storyteller Robert A. Heinlein delivers a wild and intriguing classic of science fiction. Written at the dawn of the 1970s, this novel is the brilliantly shocking story of the ultimate transplant.

©1970 Robert A. Heinlein (P)2011 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

Critic Reviews

“Magnificent. A science fiction masterpiece.” ( Galaxy)

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Disappointing Heinlein

This Heinlein book started out good, but about one third of the way through, it changed into a really bad book. I make it a point to try to finish every book I start, and it was very difficult to grind on to the end. Usually I finish a book in a few days, but this one took a month.

109 people found this helpful

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More Sex Than Scifi

I really like Heinlein, but this is far from his OK work and even further from his good work. Read it if you must.

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If you're a Heinlein fan, don't ruin it, run away!

...Heinlein

what were you thinking?

I don't even know where to begin.


Okay, I can forgive Heinlein a lot. I forgave him for "Friday." By the end of his career, the Old Man was pretty much just churning out whatever 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 abomination, though. This... appalling distillation of the very skeeviest crevices of that dirty old man's id, dredged from the depths of early 20th century gender stereotypes and glossed 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 darn 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 doing 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 was male.

Of course, all the men "Joan" is fooling 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 seed 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 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 heck 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.

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My first return

Very disappointing, It was hard to finish the book, and it felt more like a cheap paper back sex story than science fiction.

16 people found this helpful

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Quickly grew disconcerting

The book started off great and I liked the premise of the story, however, the character development stagnated and grew repetitive and more than a little off-putting

2 people found this helpful

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Not one of Heinlein's best

Interesting plot and his view of the future from his 1950s perspective is genius, but this story gets bogged down as the characters carry on endless dialog examining and contrasting the future and past social and sexual attitudes. Weak ending. It was as if he finally tired of discussing sex and just abruptly ended it.

8 people found this helpful

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Horrible. I should have read the reviews.

The author's views on gender and sexuality are so out of date that it makes me sick. Sure, the book is old, but it's not nearly old enough to be forgiven.

This story is rather like a late night fantasy of some hormonal teenager who simply doesn't know yet how people work (or doesn't care, for the sake of the fantasy). Such manuscripts should be buried at the bottom of the drawer, found 15 years later by the author, read with great agony and embarrassment, and then burned.

I picked this up at a sale, otherwise I might have noticed the earlier reviews. I thought I couldn't go wrong with picking a Heinlein. I was wrong.

14 people found this helpful

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Not Heinlein's Best, Not Even Close

I was bored with this book. Not a lot happens once the transplant occurs. There's a mildly interesting court hearing and a ton of mildly interesting sex. Unlike most of Heinlein 's work, the future society is not particularly interesting and there aren't any entertaining philosophical diatribes or characters (other than the protagonist).

11 people found this helpful

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Disappointed.

Having read and loved nearly all Heinlein's books, I found this one hands down the most disappointing one of the collection.

13 people found this helpful

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Did Heinlein Really Write This Tripe?

I truly love Heinlein - which is why I was floored by this meandering stringing-together of male adolescent fantasies. I'm no prude and I've read racier scenes than these in much better novels. It's just that these were awkward, uncomfortable and unapologetically misogynistic.

Yes, Heinlein was a product of his times and I've forgiven him on numerous occasions for (mostly) mild misogynistic behavior in his characters. And I could even put up with a little of his sermonizing on the evils of Victorian ethics and the beauty of free love. (The book was originally published in 1970.) But in this novel, it never ends...

The biggest shame here is that the plot had all kinds of potential: brain transplant, being suddenly young and "doing it all over again" and especially the different ways men and women think about sex. Although I think Heinlein thought he was doing the latter, he simply projected his male fantasies into the mind of a woman and made her the two dimensional mirror image - a sex object that lives only to make men hot and happy.

It's truly staggering to me that the same mind that produced Stranger in a Strange Land (one his best) and dozens of other sophisticated, thoughtful novels wrote this. As others have said, if you're new to Heinlein please don't start here. In fact, fan or not, just skip this one entirely. Let's all just pretend he never wrote it!

13 people found this helpful

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  • Nukapai
  • 11-05-15

Inside the mind of a dirty, old flasher

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

A pseudo-philosophical study into identity and sexuality, told with the emotional intelligence of Twilight, subtlety of Benny Hill and plotting finesse of a telephone directory; imagined by a dirty old man, gleefully rubbing his thighs.

This book has done for Heinlein what Cop Out did for Bruce Willis - it's so bad, it has cast its miasmic cloud over all other associated works and ruined them a little bit for me. Avoid (also avoid Cop Out).

The premise could have worked and at the very beginning, I had hope. An elderly, dying businessman wants to find a way to escape his hospital existence and since he's also filthy rich, decides to have a bit of fun and puts out an outrageous demand: find a healthy, young body for me to put my brain into.

When his secretary conveniently dies shortly after, his brain is put in her body and the Benny Hill theme tune comes on. It doesn't stop until the very end, by which time we've had hours of internal dialogue between 'the boss' and his secretary (yes, her consciousness somehow survived in her body without her brain in it), sex, talk about sex, 1950s sexist attitudes, competitive promiscuity and worse. There's also an assumption that now that the boss is inside a woman's body, his sexual orientation is automatically female. The topics aren't the problem. It's the way in which they are handled. I suppose you might enjoy reading this if you've always wanted to know what it's like to be inside the head of that man in the park, wearing nothing but an anorak and hoping to expose himself to children at an opportune moment.

What does Anthony Heald bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

The performance was great, considering the quality of the book. Having this as an audiobook meant I suffered it through to the end (had it been a physical book, I'd have given up a few chapters in). I don't know whether having spent 19 hours of my life listening to this counts as a bonus, alas.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 03-14-16

Archaic

Some books I can accept were written in less enlightened times but this sexist twaddle is simply awful. Couldn't finish it.

1 person found this helpful

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  • LC
  • 02-21-20

Unusual and entertaining but not that great

I found it to be a nice story. Quite unusual and explored some interesting situations, as is often the case with Heinlein. But it was a bit repetitive and diluted in some ways, so I didn't enjoy it as much as many of his other books.
I guess there were some things to learn from it, e.g. about valuing the time you have and making the most of each day, and valuing each person.

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  • Peter
  • 09-15-16

Father and Son with Mum

A well woven tapastry of conceptually intreaging threads by a serious author with a comedic disregard for society and what is plausible...