The best kinds of stories are the kind that broaden your horizons, give you new things to consider, and leave you thinking about them for days, weeks, or months after you finish reading them. Robert A. Heinlein, one of the most prolific and beloved science fiction writers in history, rarely fails to meet that criteria. But his 1970 novel, “I Will Fear No Evil,” goes above-and-beyond even his high standard.
If you don’t like well-written, deep, thought-provoking stories, do not pick up this novel. Johann Smith is old man who’s body is failing him, while his mind remains as vibrant as it has ever been. He also happens to be one of the richest men in the world.
As his body disintegrates, Smith has his associates initiate a standing search for a compatible donor—of an entire body. The donor must have the correct blood type, and must have been killed in a crime or accident that rendered their brain unsalvageable but left the body in near-pristine condition.
Now all Smith has to do is wait.
One day he wakes up—after a long, timeless period of dreams—in the body of his own beautiful secretary (he never specified sex when he ordered the donor search). But the legal identity of this new person—the body of Eunice Branca with the brain of Johann Smith—is in question, and “Joan Eunice Smith” finds herself in a battle between the set attitudes of an old man and being a young woman.
The future that Heinlein envisions in this book is one of societal decay, where lawlessness rules in “abandoned areas” and law-abiding citizens are afraid to travel in anything but heavily armored cars. It is a fascinating book even only considering the portrait of where our twisted world may be headed, and only gets deeper and more relevant when considering the internal conflicts between the established and the new, the young and the old.
“I Will Fear No Evil” is a pure joy for an intelligent reader, and if you’re not a fan of science fiction you will still probably enjoy this book. The psychological and sociological grasp of Heinlein’s writing makes it just as compelling for fans of those genres as for fans of sci-fi.
5 out of 5 stars.