April 17, 2004

I will fear no evil

I finished reading Heinlein's I will fear no evil. Clearly one of his later books, it is not part of the Future History series, taking place in a rather different future US. It's an exploration of gender identity, yet another of his attempts to answer the question "If a woman was exactly like a certain man except for physical sex, what would she be like?" In this case, the mechanism is a brain transplant.

The book itself is fairly good, but it drags in the middle---that middle two hundred pages really needed to be about fifty. Other than that, it moved relatively well. It's clearly a product of the sexual revolution; Heinlein was never against sex even in his early books, but by 1970 (when IWFNE was written) he's definitely gotten freer about it. The book is also very gay-friendly for its time; written about the same time as the Stonewall riots, when most of the country was either denying or disgusted by the existence of homosexuality, he comes right out and says it's no big deal. Most of the characters have tried it, with no value judgement attached, and two of the characters are in a gay relationship. This is all the more surprising as it's a reversal of Heinlein's stated position in previous books: as recently as 1961, he had written of homosexuality as a disordered state, in Stranger in a Strange Land. The topic of transsexuality was curiously absent from IWFNE, though, considering that it was basically the main theme---no mention was made of any of the varieties of "trans", nor of SRS, although that was certainly not unknown at that time.

I don't think it was RAH's best work, but it was certainly a good book, and I recommend it.

"The senator doesn't have to come for a visit every time you have anal sex, folks." --Dan Savage

Posted by blahedo at 7:07pm on 17 Apr 2004
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