Robert Heinlein’s 1982 novel, “FRIDAY,” is a big, fat mess. A meandering plot, stuffed with (sometimes very amusing) political diatribes and polyamorous sexual fantasies, it nevertheless fascinates. The world-building is interesting for what he imagines (an elevator to space, called The Beanstalk), for what he gets right (accurate forecast of the role and importance of the Internet), as well as for what he gets horribly wrong (they’re still using cassette tapes!)
But despite its many problems I LOVE this book. Why? Her name is Friday Jones.
She is, of course, the main character. But she’s not human. She is an “AP” – an artificial person. She was genetically engineered, using genetic material from a variety of people. She was raised and trained in a corporate laboratory. As she describes it: “My mother was a test tube; my father was a knife.”
With her superior speed, reflexes, strength and intelligence, Friday works as a courier for an elite organization, and answers to the mysterious individual she only knows as “Boss.” It’s a dangerous job in a very dangerous world. Friday can kill quickly and efficiently whenever she needs to, and it takes all her enhanced skills to survive her job. So far she sounds like a typical kick-butt heroine, doesn’t she?
Ah, but not quite. In typical Heinlein fashion, Friday is really a lover not a fighter. In her search for love, acceptance and the family she never had, she falls oh so easily into bed with just about every half-way pleasant character in the book (and not some so pleasant characters, too).
Every time someone is kind to her she reacts like a puppy being petted. And it takes just the slightest bit of kindness to get her tail wagging. She is a free woman from an enslaved population (the artificial people). And for much of the book, she doesn’t believe she deserves what the humans take for granted—love.
Friday is such a lovely complicated amalgam of characteristics. Her impressive skills, her self-deprecating humor, her sheer neediness, her generous sexuality and her dogged loyalty to those she loves adds up to a fictional character that jumps off the page and straight into the readers heart, where she resides contentedly, happy to be loved at last. She makes me want to write fan fiction. (And boy, oh boy, I’d give this gal the happiest ever after in the annals of the glorious HEA.)
What do you think of the covers? Like ‘em? Hate ‘em? I have a major gripe with the publishers of them. You see, Heinlein’s FRIDAY is, among other, things, an allegory on racism. At one point he specifically details her genetic racial ancestry; Friday looks and self-identifies as Amerindian. Do any of the ladies on the covers look Native American to you? It’s particularly annoying to me, because Heinlein, unusual for his time, went out of his way to include a multi-ethnic cast of characters in his writing. The book is twenty-six years old. You’d think that at least one of the publishers would have actually read the book by now. (OK. Rant over. Thanks for listening!)
We all have fictional characters that reside in out hearts, don’t we? Who are yours?
(Warning: If anyone is tempted to pick up and read FRIDAY, please be aware that the more tender-hearted might be traumatized by the early scenes, in which Friday is captured, beaten, gang-raped and brutally tortured. Some Amazon reviewers were equally horrified that Friday later enters into a relationship with one of her rapists. Hey—I said she was complicated!)
Be seeing you!