Books Book Club of the Damned: I Will Fear No Evil, Part 1
posted by May 14 at 11:00 AMon
As I said last Friday, Brad bet me fifty bucks I couldn’t read I Will Fear No Evil, by Robert A. Heinlein. Brad and two of his former roommates couldn’t get their way through the book, and he called it unreadable.
Most of the dozens of commenters on Friday’s post say that Evil is a horrible, horrible book, but they claim that it is at least readable. A couple of readers even suggested that the book was their gateway to Samuel R. Delaney’s brilliant sci-fi novel Dhalgren.
I am now 122 pages into Evil, which was published in 1970. It has not been difficult, but it is very poorly written. I’ve read Stranger in a Strange Land and Starship Troopers, so Heinlein’s not a new experience for me, but this reads like atrophied Heinlein, as though he’s trying to write like a young man and failing miserably. This almost works with the ideas that the novel is trying to encompass, but I have a feeling it’s not going to seem appropriate for that much longer.
The story thus far: sometime after the turn of the twenty-first century, bajillionaire Johann Sebastian Bach Smith is getting very, very old. Because he fears death and he’s inordinately wealthy, he’s going to have surgery to implant his brain in a much younger body.
The catch—and of course there’s a catch—is that Smith has a super-rare blood type, AB Negative. Only one in a million people have this blood type, but one of these people, it turns out, is Eunice, Smith’s gorgeous secretary. Eunice, in the fashion of the early twenty-first century, eschews clothing for the most part, instead choosing to wear body paint and maybe a g-string and/or a pair of ruffly panties. Her husband, a painter, takes great pleasure in painting her body for work—and they both seem to creepily enjoy the pleasure that creepy old Smith gets in looking at Eunice’s body. Smith puts out a call to bring any young, AB-negative corpses that are freshly deceased to him.
More, including study questions, after the jump.
Soon, he wakes up in a new body, feeling detached. For many pages, Smith communicates with people by grunting. Finally, he gets back the power of speech and he realizes that—gasp—his brain is now in Eunice’s body! The healthy young Eunice, you see, was killed in a mugging. And then…another shocker…Eunice’s thoughts are still somehow in her body! She and Smith communicate mentally via unattributed, flirtatious dueling parentheses a la this passage:
“(Well, Eunice?) (So you want to hear about my little bastard? Boss, you’re a dirty old man.) (Sweetheart, I don’t want to hear anything you don’t want to tell. You could have quintuplets by a Barbary ape and it wouldn’t affect how I feel about you.) (Mealymouthed old hypocrite. You’re dying of curiosity.)”
I believe that the rest of the book is written just like this, which is why this is the Book Club of the Damned and not just Book Club of the Bad Sci-Fi Novel. It’s only going to get rougher from here.
Book Club of the Damned Study Questions:
1. Is all the talk about menstruation and birth control that’s been going on for the last few pages indicative of a highly sexual bent in the pages to come?
2. On page 103, as they lie in a hospital bed, Eunice mentally communicates the following message to Smith: “…don’t you dare let gentlemen in here to eat with us until we’re made pretty! Not a speck of makeup and our hair must be a mess. Horrid!” Question: What the fuck?
3. Eunice’s husband talks in future-speak shorthand, like the following quote: “Third one. Visitor’s-right. Mama’s wrong. Don’t read all, Tits. Just read and tell.” Is this going to get really really annoying?
4. And does he really refer to his wife as “Tits?”
5. Because everybody else talks about Eunice’s breasts a lot, but they at least use her real name.
6. Was that last question even a question?
Things are quickly degenerating into awfulness, and there’s another 400 pages to go. Book Club of the Damned will continue next Wednesday.