Friday (novel)

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Written by: Robert A. Heinlein
Central Theme:
Genre(s): Science fiction
First published: April 1982
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My mother was a test tube
My father was a knife...

Friday is a novel by Robert A. Heinlein about an artificial human called Friday "Jones", a.k.a. "Marjorie Baldwin". When the novel starts, she is working as a spy/courier for a mysterious organization based in a nation-state centered around Chicago. It gets messy; she reflexively kills someone who might have been a tail and evades other pursuit that involves blowing up an entire hotel she just left. She finally reaches her home base -- and immediately gets captured by enemy agents and tortured for the information she was carrying, which is not in her head. After finally being freed from that escapade, it is near time for her to consider retiring.

So she flies to her home in New Zealand, where she is one of about eight spouses in a group marriage. She isn't there often, but she wanted a place to call home. One of her adoptive children scandalizes the family by starting a relation with a minority. Friday tries to make it better by admitting that she's an artificial human, since these are also prejudiced against. Then she finds out, the hard way, that being a married artificial human in New Zealand is illegal, and virtually the next thing she knows, she's thrown out of the group marriage, crashing with a handsome Quebecois airline/spacecraft pilot she met and his significant others. And that's when a massive wave of terrorist attacks, "Red Thursday", plunges the world into chaos.

From there, Friday has to survive the chaos of the patchwork of states on the North American continent in order to both stay free, make contact with her organization, and figure out what's happening. This proves extremely difficult...

In the Canon Welding, this would come sometime after The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress[please verify] in that book's timeline, but the connection is not necessary.

Tropes used in Friday (novel) include:
  • Arc Words: The couplet listed at the beginning of the article.
  • Artificial Human: Friday is one.
  • Apocalypse How: Predicted class 3.
  • Author Appeal: Although less prominent than with Heinlein's other later novels, this one still contains significant helpings of Polyamory and nudism, plus it continues to make his case for a Libertarian utopia.
  • Awesomeness By Analysis: Friday is able to accurately predict the second coming of the Black Plague while half asleep, after a week-long Archive Binge.
  • Babies Ever After: Although Friday's left on a colony world without the technology to make her fertile, she bears the designer royal baby she was hired to deliver and raises it as her own child alongside the other members of her group marriage.
  • Bi the Way: Friday, while enthusiastically heterosexual, falls in Love At First Sight with Janet when she meets Ian Tormey's family in Canada. This causes her a great deal of confusion because she hasn't ever been attracted to a woman before. When she quizzes her Boss about it, he replies that "all humans have soi-disant mixed-up genes; there are two kinds of people: those who know this, and those who don't." Nevertheless, Friday's feelings remain strongly in the If It's You It's Okay camp. Very few other main characters are so inhibited, however.
  • But I Can't Be Pregnant: Indeed, Friday is very surprised to find out that she's expecting, given that her sterility is permanent without specialized lab equipment. Turns out that her employer put one over on her and implanted her with the embryo she was supposed to be transporting.
  • The Chase: Friday spends significant parts of the novel either pursued by or in pursuit of a variety of people.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Among other weapons, the secret hiding places built into Friday. Her trick belly button is a subverted Chekhov's Gun, as she's tricked into thinking she's transporting an embryo in a stasis capsule, when it's in fact inside her uterus.
  • Continuity Nod: Although it's not apparent unless you look closely, this novel is set in the same continuity as The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress -- Friday speaks with representatives of Free Luna on several occasions. It also contains nods to an earlier novella -- Friday's boss is Hartley "Kettle Belly" Baldwin from Gulf, he has her read a document about the exploits of the protagonists of that work (who were some of her gene donors), and explicitly forbids her to emigrate to the planet where his society of Ubermensch eventually settled.
    • On the other hand, the actions of Dr. Baldwin in regard to Friday do not make sense if he is presumed to be the same man as in "Gulf", particularly in not teaching her Speedtalk. Spider Robinson's article "Rah, Rah, R.A.H!" contains a criticism of this. Another fan theory is that 'Friday' is an alternate timeline to 'Gulf', one where the semantic breakthrough that founded the New Men was never achieved and Dr. Baldwin and his group were restricted to more conventional means.
  • Conveniently Unverifiable Cover Story: Done by Friday and many other runaway or liberated "artificial persons" who need cover stories. Her "birthplace" is Seattle (destroyed in an earthquake) and Friday cynically comments that the recent destruction of Acapulco in a corporate war means that a lot of artificial persons will end up being "born" there as well.
  • Covers Always Lie: On the paperback cover, Friday looks practically Aryan -- blond hair, fair skin -- but the text describes her as having much darker skinned.
  • Day of the Week Name: Friday.
  • Designer Babies: Humanity has learned to grow custom-tailored humans and other creatures; these are known as "Artificial Persons" if they are superficially human and "Living Artifacts" if they are clearly not human. Both are subject to a great deal of Fantastic Racism; Friday's an AP, and suffers from a crushing inferiority neurosis because of it.
  • Divided States of America: And Canada, portrayed as the result of sociopolitical collapse and the schisming of the countries along cultural lines.
  • Expy: "Kettle Belly" Baldwin, of Jubal Harshaw. The two strongly share the "Wise Man" mentor archetype, while also being gruff old coots who are nevertheless fawned over by their female employees.
  • Fantastic Racism: Not without reason. Since artificial humans can be and often are superior physically and mentally to normal humans, the normal humans fight back with social stigmas and laws against them.
  • Free-Love Future: Friday's Boss advances the notion that intelligent, mentally healthy human beings may couple in any manner and with anyone they choose. For her part, Friday goes through several polygamous arrangements before finding one that suits her.
  • Good Bad Girl: Friday is this. Fully trained in sexuality from her time in créche, she is enthusiastically horny and unrestrained by most cultural taboos, including girls. However, she is very picky about her partners.
  • Heel Face Turn: Percival, Tilly/"Shizuko" -- both due to being artificial persons and thus feeling solidarity with Friday.
  • If It's You It's Okay: Friday feels this way toward Janet; near the end of the novel she falls in love with Tilly/"Shizuko".
  • Inverse Law of Fertility: Friday is reversibly sterile but in the end wants nothing more than to raise a family.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters
  • Looks Like She Is Enjoying It: Friday's method of dealing with torture-by-rape is to intentionally invoke this.
  • Loophole Abuse: There is no rule that the winner of the Golden State lottery has to be a resident.
  • Marry Them All: Friday ends up marrying all her paramours.
  • Mega Corp: The Shipstone corporation, which has expanded its monopoly over high-capacity power storage technology into effective control over the entire planet. Red Thursday and many other incidents turn out to be proxy warfare between factions within the company.
  • Mix-and-Match Man: Friday -- she was designed with the genes of Dr. Baldwin and many of his friends and fellow agents.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: In spades and everywhere; Friday's boss is of the opinion that the bureaucratic mentality is one of the cancers eating at society.
  • Omniscient Morality License: Friday's boss seems to have one. His "black" organization, in addition to its nominal courier activities, carries out targeted assassinations of individuals whom he feels would benefit humanity by their absence.
  • Polyamory: Friday is a member of a group marriage as the story begins, gets kicked out of it because of Fantastic Racism, and enters another at the end.
  • Public Secret Message: In Vancouver, Friday is reading the personal ads in a newspaper and sees an ad that says "W.K.-Make your will. You have only a week to live. A.C.B." More than a week later she sees another ad in a Vicksburg, Mississippi newspaper that says "W.K.-Make your will. You have only ten days to live. A.C.B." Her traveling companion Georges realizes that the messages are a code - the first message meant "number seven" (1 week = 7 days), while the second message meant "number ten".
  • Secret Passage: Beneath "Boss" Baldwin's hideout.
  • A Simple Plan: More than once.
  • Signature Style
  • Space Elevator: Friday doesn't like riding "beanstalks"; they give her nausea.
  • Space Opera: Turns into one at the end, after Friday decides to emigrate offplanet.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: Near the beginning, a hotel blows up shortly after Friday has left it. She thinks it's a coincidence, but her Boss tells her that she very strongly underestimated the value of the material she was carrying.
  • Surveillance Drone: The Public Eyes; Friday's an old hand at dealing with them.
  • Torture Always Works: Discussed Trope. Friday tells everything when she's tortured early in the book, both to preserve her mind and because she doesn't know what they want to know. The torturers' boss doesn't believe her and escalates the torture anyway -- and so Friday writes him off as an amateur.
  • Treasure Chest Cavity: Friday's pouch.
  • Trial Balloon Question
  • Trust Password: Again, the couplet at the top of this page.
  • Truth Serum: When Friday is captured by Boss' enemies, they use a truth drug on her to make her spill the beans about her mission. This annoys her because she's already told them everything she knows, so their continued refusal to accept this causes her to write them off as amateurs.
  • Victim Falls For Rapist: One of the most controversial aspects of the novel -- Friday eventually marries (among other people) Percival, one of the agents who raped her at the beginning of the novel. Despite Percy admitting that he enjoyed it, Friday decides that he was a Punch Clock Villain and that it was Nothing Personal. Also, he was considerate to her in some respects and did not participate in her subsequent torture. Friday also discusses using this trope as a means to subvert torturers attempting to break an agent.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Effectively discussed when Ian Tormey (the ballistic shuttle pilot) discusses proposals to engineer Living Artifact pilots to replace humans. The conclusion he reaches is that the risk of obviously non-human beings becoming too alienated from humanity to be responsible for the lives of humans is too high.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Friday deduces that, since her employers tricked her into being implanted with an embryo rather than transporting it in stasis in her belly-button compartment, she will be conveniently killed at the conclusion of her mission. Nor can she spill the beans because the ship's captain would already be in on the scam, and she can't bring herself to abort the baby. So she decides to Take a Third Option by jumping ship.