Saturday, March 23, 2013


Friday mixes some of Heinlein's early and late career style. It is a space travel adventure, but also a sociological critique. The eponymous Friday is an "artificial person". She was created by combining the best bits of DNA from different people to create a "super-human" embryo. She works as a courier, delivering special items (often in a secretive navel case). She knows little about the true purpose of her mission, and is thus not able to reveal much when tortured. She longs for a normal life (in one of those bizarre Heinlein familial relationships.) However, after joining the family, she is offended by the prejudice shown to other races and to artificial humans. (The New Zealand family is against a marriage to a primitive Tongan, however, they would have been ok with a Maori, because they are "normal") She gets booted, and goes back to other jobs before getting the big job as a courier for the seed of a ruler. However, she realizes she will be killed after delivering, and jumps ship with the help of her artificial human guards. She then goes on to live happily ever after on the "Botany Bay" planet colony.

So much for the plot. It is not bad, but the real power of the novel is in the world that is created. This near-future world has been balkanized in to many new states (like independent Texas and California.) Multi-nationals also play a strong role, often being more powerful than the states - in part because they don't have a distinct area that can be attacked. California is democracy and equality taken to the extreme. The referendums can be used to correct any "wrong". (People were upset that people with bachelor's degrees earned more than people without, so they legislated that everybody would receive a degree as soon as they graduated from high school - and then later grandfathered in people that graduated a long time before.) These places also have many laws that are not enforced, thereby degraded the remaining laws. Artificial people have a strange role here. They are often given false birth certificates, usually from places that have been destroyed (like Seattle). People expect them to be easily recognizable as artificial. However, in reality, they blend in with normal people. They however, become a vehicle for rhetoricians that need some foil to advance their cause.

He also describes a balmy planet, with near perfect weather, flora and fauna. It becomes an ideal retirement community. And in order to enforce that, voting is restricted to those property owners above the age of 70. Younger people serve long periods of indentured servitude, thus providing services at much lower wages than would otherwise be required. (Hmm... Many examples of similar situations could be pulled from the earth today.)

In the end, the lead character finds pleasure in the simple life of being a mother and a homemaker on a rather primitive colony. Perhaps this slow pace is a utopia from the modern, fast-paced world.

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