I read this book about 4-May-2006. I've read this book before. The book is copyright 1970. This note was last modified Wednesday, 10-May-2006 00:51:55 PDT.
This note contains spoilers for the book.
The first of the really clearly past-his-prime Heinlein novels. Has the obssessive concern with sex and younger women, coupled with the long-standing obssessive concern with babies. Also has the serious concern with ghosts / souls / a non-material universe.
Still, like all the late books, even the very worst (that would be The Number of the Beast), it's still compulsively readable, and still contains lots of interesting thinking.
In this one, for example, his vision of the near-future US (right around now, actually) includes lots of illiterate people, and "abandoned areas" that the cops have admitted they don't control and that have special legal status (among other things, they appear to be functioning as "enterprise zones" for untaxed businesses). And the rich have armored limousines and armed guards. And the police and guards are mostly convicted felons. Oh, and 90,000 traffic fatalaties a year (p.25), even though apparently far fewer people drive then.
The basic plot is about a brain transplant. The issue of getting the spinal cord and optic nerves to regrow is simply hand-waved, no hint of the actual method is given. The brain transplant was partly a way to escape extreme life-support; and after all, the horse might learn to sing.
However, the mind of the previous occupant of the body is still there. And then the mind of a friend who dies nearby is pulled in. Johann Sebastian Bach Smith must be a really relaxed agnostic, since this doesn't seem to bother him at all. I think they all move into their baby in the end, though it isn't explicit.
There's weird sex-role stuff all over the place, and there's Heinlein's typical exposition on how the women need to manage the men. And in between accepting homosexuality (very shortly after his complete rejection of it in Stranger In A Strange Land) and showing lots of ordinary sexual interest plus an interest in spanking, he manages to completely ignore masturbation. When a 95-year-old guy ends up transplanted into a female body, and he's wondering how the equipment works, and he never thinks of that? And the young healthy ghost from a generation allegedly without taboos never thinks of that either? Yeah, right. Quite a failure of nerve on the author's part, it seems to me.