Book Review – Friday

I had this book sitting in a box for a long time and had meant to read it, but having it as the pick for one of my book clubs finally forced me to get to it. Friday by Robert A. Heinlein is one of the author’s later works and seems to produce strong responses from readers.

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Here is the blurb:

Friday is a secret courier. She is employed by a man known to her only as “Boss.” Operating from and over a near-future Earth, in which North America has become Balkanized into dozens of independent states, where culture has become bizarrely vulgarized and chaos is the happy norm, she finds herself on shuttlecock assignment at Boss’ seemingly whimsical behest. From New Zealand to Canada, from one to another of the new states of America’s disunion, she keeps her balance nimbly with quick, expeditious solutions to one calamity and scrape after another.

I had thought this book would have more of a spy-thriller type of plot from that blurb. And while there are moments of that, it is more of a series of smaller capers and misadventures. The main story is about Friday’s struggle to belong, both to a family and to humankind. She is an artificial person – created from a test tube and a conglomeration of genetic material from which she cannot trace any particular parentage.

In the society of this world, artificial persons do not have the same rights as normal people, but also cannot be identified through any testing or experiences. Friday chooses to reveal her real nature to others at particular points in this book and faces the repercussions of that decision.

The opening of this book is also hard to read, featuring a gang rape. While it isn’t particularly graphic, Friday’s reaction to her rape is unusual and may be off-putting to many readers. I think that Heinlein was probably using this device to show how Friday truly isn’t human and can rationalize her way through the situation.

Heinlein’s portrayal of women is both innovative and problematic in this book. At the time of its publication, there weren’t many strong female protagonists in science fiction. So while I appreciate Heinlein trying to put a woman at the forefront of his story, in other ways he doesn’t quite get past the stereotypes of the time.

There is a lot to think about in this book and while I didn’t love it, I’m glad I read it. Have you read Friday or other novels by Heinlein? Let me know in the comments above.

Find more of my reviews here.

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