By the first decade of the twenty-first century, billionaire Johann Smith, nearly a century old, has become so sickly that he is a prisoner of the life-support technology and constant medical attention that sustain him. He tells his trusted friend and lawyer Jake Salomon, and well as his devoted young secretary Eunice Branca, that he wants to escape existence by a risky, untried method: transplanting his brain into another body.
Jake and Eunice use Johanns wealth to obtain the services of a gifted maverick surgeon and organize a pool of young people willing to donate their bodies after death. Because Johann has a rare blood type, the number of acceptable donors is small. By an extraordinary coincidence, Johann’s brain is transplanted into the body of Eunice after she is killed in a mugging. The shocked and grieving Johann, who loved Eunice, is surprised and pleased to discover that Eunice somehow lives on inside her body and that he is able to communicate with her. Johann initially wonders if she is only a figment of his imagination and tries to determine how she could have survived, but eventually he simply accepts her. Eunice seems equally pleased to have survived and is content to live passively, sharing experiences and offering affectionate advice and support. Fearing questions about Johann’s sanity, they agree to keep Eunice’s existence secret.
With surprising ease, Johann adjusts to life as a woman. He approaches the experience as appealing new territory to explore. At Eunices urging, he learns to act “like a lady.” Johann eventually adopts the name Joan (pronounced Jo-anne) for his new persona. Sex is on Joan’s mind almost from the beginning, although at first she is confused and uncertain. Eunice tells Johann about the wide range and high frequency of sexual activity among young people of the time, and Johann reflects that it was much the same when he was young, except not as openly practiced. Joan finds herself especially drawn to seventy-one-year-old Jake, with whom Eunice had been having an affair. When she eventually loses her “virginity” to Jake, Johann finds it to be far more intensely pleasurable than anything he ever experienced as a man.
When Eunice tells Johann that she always wanted to have his baby, he wholeheartedly endorses the idea and arranges to be secretly impregnated with his own cryogenically preserved sperm. Joan tells Jake that she is pregnant but says that the identity of the father is her business. He agrees to marry her anyway.
Joan finds adjustment to life in the twenty-first century to be more difficult. As a result of excessive population, civilization has decayed and can no longer educate its youngsters or protect its citizens. A fortunate few work in secure enclaves, travel in armored vehicles, and are protected by well-armed bodyguards. Even the wealthy, however, can do little about the rapidly deteriorating environment.
Joan and Jake eventually embark on an idyllic existence aboard a yacht with a select group of those who had known and worked for Johann and loved Eunice, including her husband, Joe, an unworldly artist. The group enjoys a warm, close-knit, communal lifestyle in which discreet extramarital sexual activity is tolerated. Jake’s sudden death by stroke brings the idyll to an end. Jake’s spirit joins Eunice and Johann in Eunice’s body.
(The entire section is 811 words.)