Saturday, February 23, 2019

Review: Friday by Robert A. Heinlein

Friday by Robert A. Heinlein
Published: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1982
Awards Nominated: Nebula, Hugo, Locus SF, and Prometheus Awards

The Book:

Friday is her name... She is as thoroughly resourceful as she is strikingly beautiful. She is one of the best interplanetary agents in the business. And she is an Artificial Person... the ultimate glory of genetic engineering.

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's 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. Desperate for human identity and relationships, she is never sure whether she is one step ahead of, or one step behind, the ultimate fate of the human race.”

Heinlein is always kind of hit and miss for me, and I have to say this book was kind of both.  My husband and I listened to this one together as an audiobook. There are some spoilers in the review below.

My Rating: 2 /5

Friday has a lot of the social quirks I expect from a Heinlein novel, and it ended up being a weird combination of things I enjoyed and things that annoyed the crap out of me. It was fun following Friday as she skips from one exciting spy situation to the next, and it seemed for a while that her story was going to be about uncovering some events that are causing upheaval in the fractured future US.  I was really getting into this plot arc, but it was dropped without resolution later in the book. On a character level, I initially liked reading about Friday’s efforts to find a place for herself in the world. I especially enjoyed the subplot about her New Zealand family, which addressed both her desire to belong and the unpleasantness of finding out loved ones hold bigoted beliefs.

The parts I didn’t enjoy include a gang rape scene (which Friday was weirdly blasé about) and some occasional bizarre gender stereotypes that were presented as if they were commonplace. It wasn’t so much misogynistic stereotypes, as it was stuff that just seemed nonsensical.  For example, “there is no stronger aphrodisiac than a woman’s tears.” Was that actually a thing in the 80s? I’m not even offended, just confused. The plot also didn’t flow like a traditional narrative, and not in a way that felt well planned. I guess was expecting the smaller parts to build into a coherent story, but instead it was just a collection of slice-of-life short stories about Friday.  This means that a lot of subplots are randomly dropped, and some short stories are much more interesting than others. On a last note, I am also not a fan of Heinlein’s “all women desperately want to have kids and fulfill traditional gender roles” kick, which is on display by the end of the book.