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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)

What members say

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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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Archaic

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

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Lisa
  • 06-05-11

Not Heinlein's best - but still good

I am an admitted Heinlein fan. I own the entire canon in paper, everything available in e-book format, and everything Audible carries in audio. But this is not his best novel. He wrote it at a low point in his career. The story is still entertaining, but the characters are not his most compelling. So why purchase this book?

Heinlein, as always, provides interesting commentary on our culture. Many of his ideas are coming to pass today. There are creditable observations on how America is moving to a fractured society run by corporate interests and political thugs. Remember that his ideas about the relation of medicine to law were written over 30 years ago. His vision is impressive and thought provoking.

The performance and recording are superb. I was unfamiliar with Anthony Heald until this work. I will seek out his other performances - he's outstanding.

And it's a fun listen. Look, the sex scenes will seem silly. The metaphysical ideas are really out there. But it's still an enjoyable way to spend hours. You won't be bored.

Thank you Blackstone Audio and Audible for adding this masterwork to your collection.

24 of 31 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • C. A. Kyrias
  • 04-04-16

Soft-core porn gets boring

If I wanted sexist soft-core porn, I'd buy some. And like most porn, chapter after chapter gets boring. Hardly qualifies as science fiction. As in all his later books, Heinlein's women are all the same, defined by their biology. They're all stunningly brilliant and equally beautiful but they all want to have sex and babies as their major, if not only, fulfillment. Almost the only action in the story is an adolescent boy's wet dream. Only a couple of scientifically interesting ideas alternate with his retro-conservative politics and judgmental opinions straight out of 18th century myths about "John Wayne" men and compliant women who are hot to trot and just want to get laid.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Simon Fraser
  • 12-06-14

I feel so sorry for the narrator of this one.

I've been working my way through all the Heinlein I can over the last few years. Early period, late period, middle period. The sexual politics of it have always been troublesome, but I'm willing to make some allowances for a 'historical' or idiosyncratic point of view. Heinlein at his best wrote some of the best Science Fiction written.

I Will Fear No Evil is sadly quite a long way from that. I haven't finished it yet and I'm struggling with whether I can get through it at all. It's making my skin crawl frankly. Heinlein was often guilty of projecting a kind of perfect woman/sex doll/fantasy archetype on his lead female characters. I've kind of skipped over it in the past with a wince. It's impossible to do that here as this is the WHOLE BOOK! The plot is summarised elsewhere so you can work out for yourself whether that is interesting enough as a curiosity to read yourself. I'm not recommending that you do that.

Anthony Heald is normally a superb narrator. He handles the male voices with great skill and gravitas. Sadly the female voices are more of a challenge and as they dominate the second half of the book that can become quite....difficult to listen to. Imagine an old transvestite telling you about his sexual fantasies and that's pretty much what this sounds like. I mean no disrespect to Heald in saying this, the book does him few favours. He's normally a narrator that I seek out.

I may take a rest from Heinlein for a while.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • David
  • 12-11-12

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.

23 of 32 people found this review helpful

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  • Jim "The Impatient"
  • 17-02-13

Shorter Verison of David's Review

David's review of run, don't read is a great review, only a little long.

I am a Heinlein fan. I loved The Green Hills of Earth, Starship Troopers, Starman Jones, Have Spacesuit Will Travel and Double Star. This book is crap.

I did not like Friday or Stranger in A Strange Land. This book is in that category.

This 90 year old man gets his brain transplanted into a 20 something hot chick's body. As a man he was a man's man and loved women. Once he is in a female body, he becomes a airhead. He wants to sleep with everybody including his best friend. He is so pretty he makes gay men want to go straight. I am pretty sure that if tomorrow my best friend's brain ends up in Beyonce's body, I am going to be too weirded out to have sex with him/she. Heinlein believes that a change in body will change our gender, yet studies show that it is the brain that determines the sex.

The worst part is that this is 19 hours long. I could handle eight to ten hours of it, but not 19. After the surgery is over, the book reads like a cheap romance. Lots and lots of girl talk. Hours of girl talk. Mind numbing middle school girl talk with adult situations thrown in.

Please do not let this be your first Heinlein.

25 of 35 people found this review helpful

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  • Sean Smith
  • 15-03-18

Disappointed.

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

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Barry
  • 24-09-12

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.

7 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Noora
  • 27-04-14

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.

4 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • William R. Slater
  • 09-07-17

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.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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  • joan
  • 19-11-16

too slow for my taste

Heinlein is one of the GODS of sci fi and I read some of his work when I was a kid - many years ago. I don't think I read this one and for me "now" it's just too slow - two people talking most of the first 5 hours and then I gave up. An interesting plot but if I were editing it, I would take a blue pencil to a whole lot.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful