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Literature / I Will Fear No Evil

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I Will Fear No Evil is a novel by Robert A. Heinlein, originally published in 1970.

Johann Smith was obscenely old and extremely rich. In a gambit to cheat death, he forms a plan to have his brain transplanted into a new, young body. Against all odds, a successful transplant is performed and Johann now begins a new life... as Joan. Learning how the other half lives is a tough order, and Joan may or may not be hearing the soul of her deceased donor inside her head.

This novel provides examples of:

  • AB Negative: Johann has a rare blood type, so the search for a compatible donor is tough.
  • Abandoned Area / The City Narrows: The future United States is filled with "AA's," i.e. Abandoned Areas, which are lawless no-man's lands that one doesn't travel through except in an armored vehicle.
  • Birth-Death Juxtaposition: Joan's final act on this earth is to give birth.
  • Body Paint: Eunice's husband was an artist. He would very often paint her body. Fridge Logic compels the reader to wonder how paint getting on furniture is dealt with, and just how long an "outfit" will be wearable before the paint comes off.
    • She wore an entertaining paint job to work one day that was intended to confuse her boss as to whether it was skintight clothing or paint.
  • Brain Transplant
  • Complete-the-Quote Title: Even though there is plenty of evil in the world of this story, it (and lack of fear thereof) isn't really important to the plot. However, the other part of the quote "Though I walk through the valley of death", is a perfect title for the story.
  • Death Seeker: Johann's act of getting a brain transplant was an attempt to free himself from his decaying body that, thanks to the law (this being written in an era before physician assisted suicide was a thing) wasn't allowed to die. Either the transplant would work and he would again be young and healthy or he would finally be allowed to die.
  • Different for Girls: The novel is an extended exploration of this trope.
  • Everyone Is Bisexual: As is common for Heinlein works, but it is most interesting in the case of Johann/Joan. With the body of a woman and the brain of a man, is his attraction towards women or men the gay one?
  • First Law of Gender Bending: Seeing as how his surviving the first transplant was a miracle, his situation is pretty permanent.
  • Gone Horribly Right: Johann eventually admits that his idea for a brain transplant into a new, young body was really just a legal way for him to die. He never expected it to work and figured he would die on the table and not have to linger as a shell of an old man on life support. When he awoke to find that it had worked he had the added horror of knowing his donor and had to grieve for the young woman from inside her own body.
  • Grand Theft Me: Johann's transplant into a new body.
  • Hideous Hangover Cure: hangovers are cured by a thermos of coffee with a Danish pastry and by a Silver Fizz made with vodka instead of gin.
  • I Want My Jetpack: Set in 2015, a successful brain transplant takes place, but the hero-heroine has to wait several days for the result of her pregnancy test.
  • Immortality Seeker: Johann's experiment is a way to cheat death and gain at least one extra lifetime.
  • Kinky Spanking: Joan gets turned over a knee.
  • Literary Allusion Title: Psalm 23:4
  • Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: Johann knows his three putative children are not in fact his biological offspring (all three had blood type O, Johann is AB). He loved all three anyway.
  • No Heterosexual Sex Allowed: The government doesn't quite go so far as to forbid heterosexual sex, but they strongly encourage homosexuality as a form of population control.
  • No-Paper Future: While the use of paper money has declined to the point that many stores aren't set up to handle it, cash hasn't disappeared because it's hard for politicians to take bribes paid with credit cards.
  • Once for Yes, Twice for No: A doctor uses the alphabet system (with vocal noises by a patient with a mouth full of medical equipment) to communicate with the protagonist immediately post-surgery.
  • Population Control: Each person gets licensed for a set number of children when he/she turns eighteen. Eunice mentions at one point her marriage is considered a "second class contract", since she's licensed for children and her husband is not, implying that if he were, their marriage would be in a different category.
  • Posthumous Character: After Eunice Branca is killed and Johann's brain is transplanted into her body, he finds her mind still present. It is left ambiguous whether she is actually still there or whether Johann is hallucinating her continued existence.
  • Precision F-Strike: At the end of the book, Johann, under anesthesia for her delivery, tells one of her lovers who is in the delivery room, how glad she had the chance to fuck, to make love with him. This is the only time Heinlein ever used the f-word in any of his stories.
  • Prefers Going Barefoot: While holding a business meeting outdoors in a public park, Joan enjoys the feel of grass on her bare feet and encourages her staffers to, in her own words, "Give your feet a treat," and take off their shoes as well.
  • Science Marches On: Transplant rejection is a thing, but it would have manifested itself sooner and in other ways. A better explanation would be senile dementia in a brain that was, after all, more than 90 years old regardless of the age of the body carrying it.
  • Seashell Bra: Eunice and her husband are discussing the mermaid body paint she'll be wearing to work the next day. (Office dress codes having gotten really casual in the future.) They make a bet over whether a literally painted-on Seashell Bra will fool her employer into thinking it's real. (It does.)
  • Secret Handshake: Johann proves his/her identity to the judge with a secret fraternity handshake.
  • Self-Made Man: Johann gained his fortune this way.
  • Sharing a Body: Johann/Joan continues to hear Eunice in his/her head. It gets even more crowded later on.
  • Showing Off the New Body: Joan spends some time admiring her new body in front of the mirror. She then embraces the skimpy fashion of the future and starts wearing see through clothes and body paint.
  • Space Clothes: Heinlein creates a fashion trend consisting of see through clothes and body paint.
  • Spirit Advisor: Eunice sticks around inside Joan's head to help her out.
  • Stigmatic Pregnancy Euphemism: Eunice's high school "rheumatic fever", which involved an extended visit to a relative in another area.
  • Symbiotic Possession: Between Joan and Eunice Branca, the former owner of the body. It gets more complicated late in the book.
  • 20 Minutes in the Future: Johann's transplant takes place in 2015.
  • Used Future
  • Xanatos Gambit: Johann admits he had no intention of surviving the transplant. The entire idea was a legal way to die. He figured if it worked, he would be in a young, mobile body so life would be worth living again (or he would at least be physically capable of ending it himself).
  • You Are Worth Hell: The spirits of two main characters desperately cling to the mind of a third, still living, person. At the end, with the death of the final person, all three spirits willfully cross over together.