First published in 1982|
Latest edition: 1998
Publisher: Del Rey
Mass Market Paperback
Reviews A few decades into the next century, the world's superpowers, including the United States, will have balkanized into a number of smaller states, and the real world powers-multinational corporations--will have territory no broader than the lots their headquarters occupy. At least on paper, for their boardroom squabbles take on mammoth proportions--chess matches with the globe as the board. One contender loses a pawn and Acapulco vanishes in a nuclear fireball. Amid this capitalist/nationalist brawl, a few intelligence agencies sell their services to the highest bidder, and in order to act effectively, these agencies need strong, swift, intelligent operatives.
Enter Friday, a genetically engineered woman who can outfight, outrun and outwit any normal human. She works as a courier for one of the mercenary agencies, and we follow her exploits as she dispatches her assignments. But all is not well with this superwoman, for she has been conditioned from earliest childhood to think of herself as an "Artificial Person," which is nothing more than her brave new world's designation for "slave." Worse, every time Friday feels as though she has attained a measure of love and belonging (which she never got in the corporate lab that raised her), something happens to upend her world. Follow along on her quest for love--and watch out for assassins.
Heinlein penned this proto-cyberpunk novel in 1982, a few years before Gibson fired what is arguably the first shot in the cyberpunk revolution: Neuromancer. (One wonders how much Neuromancer's megalopolis "The Sprawl" owes to Friday's vivid and chilling backdrop.) And we find in Friday what is a normal feat for him but amazing for most any other septuagenarian novelist: Heinlein clearly and seemingly accurately extrapolates trends which still unfurl around us today. For example, he predicts an internet complete with multimedia and search engines long before it existed, and describes a leviathan called Shipstone, Inc., an indispensable and manipulative megacorporation highly suggestive of the Microsoft of today. He speaks of a world tendency for large states to splinter into many smaller ones a full decade before the dissolution of the Soviet Union. And Heinlein also riffs on the darker undercurrents threatening mankind, among them organized crime, pestilence and famine, and various forms of know-nothingism--including religious terrorism.
Friday is loosely tied to the novelette "Gulf," which appeared in Assignment in Eternity; the two works share a character, "Kettle Belly" Baldwin, and the motif of a secret society of supermen. There are enough big ideas and rousing action in Friday to satisfy any reader. ~~Beth Ager & Carlos Angelo
Excerpts "I want to mention one of the obvious symptoms [of a sick culture]: Violence. Muggings. Sniping. Arson. Bombing. Terrorism of any sort. Riots of course--but I suspect that little incidents of violence, pecking away at people day after day, damage a culture even more than riots that flare up and then die down. I guess that's all for now. Oh, conscription and slavery and arbitrary compulsion of all sorts and imprisonment without bail and without speedy trial--but those things are obvious; all the histories list them."
"Friday, I think you have missed the most alarming symptom of all."
"I have? Are you going to tell me? Or am I going to have to grope around in the dark for it?"
"Mmm. This once I shall tell you. But go back and search for it. Examine it. Sick cultures show a complex of symptoms such as you have named... but a dying culture invariable exhibits personal rudness. Bad manners. Lack of consideration for others in minor matters. A loss of politeness, of gentle manners, is more significant than is a riot."
"Pfui. I should have forced you to dig it out yourself; then you would know it. This symptom is especially serious in that an individual displaying it never thinks of it as a sign of ill health but as proof of his/her strength."