First Edition cover of Friday
|Author||Robert A. Heinlein|
|Cover artist||Richard Powers|
|Publisher||Holt, Rinehart and Winston|
|Media type||Print (Hardback and Paperback)|
|ISBN||0-03-061516-X (first edition, hardback)|
|LC Class||PS3515.E288 F77 1982|
Friday is a 1982 science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein. It is the story of a female "artificial person", the eponymous Friday, genetically engineered to be stronger, faster, smarter, and generally better than normal humans. Artificial humans are widely resented, and much of the story deals with Friday's struggle both against prejudice and to conceal her enhanced attributes from other humans. The story is set in a Balkanized 21st century, in which the nations of the North American continent have been split up into a number of smaller states.
The book's narrator is Friday Jones (often going under cover name Marjorie Baldwin and using both surnames somewhat interchangeably). Friday is a genetically engineered human (known as an Artificial Person or AP) in many ways mentally and physically superior to ordinary humans. There is great prejudice against APs so Friday conceals her status.
Employed as a highly self-sufficient “combat courier in a quasi-military organization”, travelling across the globe and to some of the near-Earth space colonies. Friday is returning from her latest mission when she is captured, tortured, raped and interrogated by an enemy group. She is then rescued by her own people, who tell her that her highly critical mission was in fact successful as her captors failed to find the data she was carrying in her body.
After recovering from the ordeal, Friday takes a vacation to visit her group family, composed of several husbands and wives and many children. In an argument over racism, Friday reveals to her family that she is an AP, and they promptly divorce her.
On the way back to her company's headquarters, she meets and befriends the wealthy Tormey family. Friday is their house-guest when a worldwide civil emergency known as Red Thursday occurs. Various groups claim credit for the assassinations and sabotage, but Friday later learns that it is the result of a struggle between rival factions within the ultra-powerful Shipstone corporation. Her last mission was to carry information about the attacks before they occurred.
Facing detention under martial law, Friday kills a policeman who attempts to arrest her and Georges (a member of the Tormey family) as non-citizens. The two become fugitives, traveling across the various countries of a Balkanized North America as she attempts to return to her headquarters. After several adventures, she succeeds in rejoining her company, leaving Georges to rejoin his family. However, Friday's boss soon dies and the organization disbands, rendering her temporarily homeless and unemployed. She learns that her boss left her money in trust, to be used only for the purpose of relocating to an off-Earth colony of her choosing.
Friday eventually finds another courier job which will incidentally allow her to visit and evaluate several of the colonies she wishes to explore. However, after embarking on an interplanetary cruise ship for her mission, she learns that agents of her employers are watching her constantly, and that she is a virtual prisoner on the ship. Realizing the top-secret nature of her mission, she fears that her employers will kill her when it is over. While the ship is in orbit at a rustic colony world, she escapes with the Tormeys, who have been on the run since the policeman's death and happened to be fleeing Earth on the same ship. After evading the ship's authorities, they all join the colony and settle down to lead a quiet life.
Allusions/references to other works
Friday is loosely tied to the 1949 novella "Gulf", collected in Assignment in Eternity, since both works share characters—"Kettle Belly" Baldwin and "Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Greene". (The latter two do not appear in Friday, but are mentioned as two of the title character's genetic progenitors.) The motif of a secret superman society in "Gulf", however, is not mentioned in Friday, where the heroine is an artificial person and is not part of a secret society; the principal reason to be secret about her artificial nature is to avoid discrimination. However, at his death, Baldwin leaves Friday a subsidy to finance her emigration to any planet of her choice, except Olympia, where the "supermen" went at some indeterminate time in the past.
The Shipstone, the extrasolar colonies Fiddler's Green, Proxima and Botany Bay, and the start of the balkanization of North America are again mentioned in the 1985 The Cat Who Walks Through Walls. It is stated that Roger and Edith Stone from The Rolling Stones are now living in Fiddler's Green. Botany Bay is also featured in Heinlein's juvenile Time for the Stars, and another extrasolar colony, Halcyon, in Starman Jones.
Literary significance and reception
John Clute in the Science Fiction Encyclopedia says of it (and the following Job: A Comedy of Justice): “Two late novels […] were hailed with some relief by Heinlein admirers despite not equalling the drive and clarity of his best work.”
Jo Walton wrote of Friday in 2009 as “The worst book I love”: “It’s a book about passing, about what makes you human. […] What’s good about it now? The whole “passing” bit. The cloning, the attitudes to cloning, the worry about jobs. The economy. It has an interesting future world […] and as always with Heinlein it’s immersive. […] And it’s a fun read, even if it’s ultimately unsatisfying. What’s wrong with it is that it doesn’t have a plot. […] Heinlein’s ability to write a sentence that makes you want to read the next sentence remains unparalleled. But the book as a whole is almost like Dhalgren. Every sentence and every paragraph and page and chapter lead on to the next, but it’s just one thing after another, there’s no real connection going on. It has no plot, it’s a set of incidents that look as if they’re going somewhere and don’t ever resolve, just stop. […] It sets things up that it never invokes, most notably Olympia and the connections back to the novella “Gulf.””
Awards and nominations
Friday received nominations for the following awards
- 1982 Nebula Award for Best Novel
- 1983 Hugo Award for Best Novel
- 1983 Locus award for Science Fiction Novel
- 1983 Prometheus award for Best Novel
- "1982 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-07-27.
- "1983 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-07-27.
- "Friday (Book)". Library Journal. 107 (10): 1013. 1982-05-15. ISSN 0363-0277.
- "Entry : SFE : Science Fiction Encyclopedia". www.sf-encyclopedia.com.
- "Interview - Charlie's Diary". Antipope.org. August 27, 2010. Retrieved January 4, 2015.
- "Saturn's Children by Charles Stross". Bookmarks. November 2008. Retrieved January 4, 2015.
- Willis, Jesse (April 26, 2010). "Review of Saturn's Children by Charles Stross". SFFaudio.com. Retrieved January 6, 2015.
- "The worst book I love: Robert Heinlein's Friday". 14 June 2009.
- "The Locus Index to SF Awards: 1983 Locus Awards". Archived from the original on 2012-07-15. Retrieved 2008-05-15.
- "Prometheus Award for Best Novel -- Nominees". Retrieved 2008-05-15.
- "Robert Heinlein:The Novels". The Robert A. Heinlein Page. Retrieved August 31, 2009.
- "Friday". Robert A. Heinlein: Dean of Science Fiction Writers. Archived from the original on 2013-05-14. Retrieved August 31, 2009.
- "Robert A. & Virginia G. Heinlein Papers" (PDF). Online Archive of California. 2007. p. 2. Retrieved August 31, 2009.
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