Books Book Club of the Damned: I Will Fear No Evil, Part 3
posted by May 28 at 12:31 PMon
For those of you playing catch-up, Brad bet me fifty bucks I couldn’t read I Will Fear No Evil, a late Heinlein sci-fi novel, from cover to cover. Although I’d read Heinlein before, this book, about Johann Sebastian Bach Smith, a dying wealthy old man who has his brain transplanted into the nubile young body of his secretary, quickly proved to be atrocious. For reasons unexplained, the secretary still lives inside the brain of Johann—who now answers to Joan—and the remainder of the novel consists of Joan making out with old friends from his/her past life.
Over Memorial Day Weekend, I made a solemn vow that I would finish reading I Will Fear No Evil that weekend—I’d taken too many breaks to read other books for, you know, the books section of the paper. So I sat down and read. And read. And read. And I kept falling asleep. I took four naps over Memorial Day weekend, and each of those naps is directly attributable to being bored by I Will Fear No Evil’s long passages about legal issues and stretches of the book where Joan sat quietly and posed for one painting after another. The parenthetical mental sparring of Johann and his secretary Eunice continued:
(…But, Boss, you’re a devious little slut—you can’t be truthful even to yourself.) (Wench, if I could get my hands on you, I’d spank you!) (And if you could, I’d let you. Kind o’ fun to be spanked, isn’t it, dear? Gets the action moving like a rocket.) (Oh, stuff it!) (Where, twin? What? And how big is it?)
The action continues exactly in the manner I described in Part 2. I can’t figure out one goddamned reason why this book is five hundred pages long, except that, as earlier commenters have pointed out, Heinlein was probably dying when he wrote it and didn’t have time nor inclination to edit. Finally, at the conclusion of the book—after a plot ‘twist’ which makes absolutely no sense—a child is born. This is the end. And I won the goddamned fifty bucks.
There were passages that I liked, but those passages, tellingly, had nothing to do with the actual story. After about halfway through, each chapter began with a few scattershot paragraphs explaining how the future was barreling forward into itself, maybe toward Armageddon:
The Postmaster General died from an overdose of barbiturates; the career Assistant Postmaster General declined an interim appointment and put in for retirement. A woman in Albany gave birth to a ‘faun’ which was baptized, dead, and cremated in eighty-seven minutes. No flowers. No photographs. No interviews—but the priest wrote a letter to his seminary roommate.
I can see teenagers plowing through this book for the illicit sex talk, or diehard Heinlein fans adoring it for its, um, full expression of his weird anti-feminism feminism. But to the layman, this is a completely useless book. It is not Heinlein’s Showgirls. It is not so bad it’s good. It is just a bad book that should be forgotten.
Would an in-his-prime Heinlein actually want this book to be read?
Are there people who call themselves feminists in this day and age who would actually call this book feminist?
What the hell is the point of the title?
Will I spend all my fifty dollar winnings on gin drinks tonight in order to forget this book?