I Will Fear No Evil

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I found myself imagining a conversation between Robert Heinlein and his publisher:

"Hi, Bob! What do you have in the pipeline? It's been four years since we saw The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, which won the Best Novel Hugo."

"I have something even better! Set in the near future of an anarchistic and violent America. The main character is Johann Sebastian Bach Smith…"

"Bob, it seems you name a lot of your characters 'Smith'. Valentine Michael Smith, Woodrow Wilson Smith…"

"Yeah, maybe. Well, Johann is a billionaire, very old and sick, kept miserably alive. He gets a bright idea: to escape the prison of his malfunctioning body, he'll have his brain transplanted into a healthy host."

"Is that something like the 'Spock's Brain' episode on Star Trek last week? Wild. 'Brain and brain! What is brain?'"

[Pregnant pause] "No, it's not like that at all. Anyway, by sheer coincidence, Smith's loyal secretary, Eunice, is killed by a mugger, and her body is used as a host for Johann's brain. And it works. Unexpectedly, even though Eunice is dead, and her brain has been excised to make room for Johann's, there's still something left of her personality, and Johann can converse with it."

"Uh huh."

"There are legal issues. Does Johann's vast fortune follow his brain, or his body? But mostly there are sexual issues. And Buddhism. And…"

"Wait, Bob, tell me more about the sex stuff."

"OK. Since Johann's brain is in the young, beautiful body of Eunice, he/she immediately wants to get laid. There's a lot of internal conversation between Johann and Eunice about how best to go about that. Go after girls or boys? Ah, why discriminate? Both."

"Bob, it seems kind of thin. Can you keep this going for your contractually obligated 500 pages?"

"Sure! I'll just make sure everybody talks a lot about whatever comes to mind. Mostly sex."

"And the ending?"

"I'm not sure yet, but I'll wrap it up in the last five pages or so."

Ahem. I see from the Wikipedia page that Heinlein had lengthy life-threatening health issues after finishing the first draft. More info (and more detail on plot/theme) here.

I reread my $1.25 paperback copy, purchased back in 1971. I read it then, when I probably should have been concentrating more on electromagnetism. (Physics 2a at Caltech was not easy.) I hadn't been tempted to check it out in the intervening years, but it's part of my "Reread Heinlein" project, so…

I found it kind of a slog. Although there are flashes of brilliance: Heinlein adopts the John dos Passos trick of interweaving snippets of news stories. (Actual ones, for dos Passos, imaginary for Heinlein.) That's amusing, but maybe I was just glad to escape the endless Heinleininan character chitchat.