“Artificial humans are widely resented, and much of the story deals with Friday’s struggle both against prejudice and to conceal her enhanced attributes from other humans.”

NO MAJOR SPOILERS

By 1980 I had read just about everything Heinlein had published.  At that point, I had got married and lost track of what all my favourite writers were producing. Friday was published in 1982, so I had no knowledge of it. When I saw it in the Ten Bob Barn at Astley Book Farm, I quickly snaffled it before anyone else got hold of it.

It’s a sci-fi story, told mainly here on Earth, but as with most sci-fi, it’s not an Earth we would recognise. There are 400 nations on the planet for starters, nations like British Canada, Chicago Imperium, California Confederacy; and what about Las Vegas being a nation too, not just a city. We are not told what had caused this to happen other than there being a break down in society.

Our heroine is an ‘artificial person’, or as we might think of it, a test tube baby, but no ordinary baby. She is made up of an egg from an unknown woman and a mixture of the better parts of a large number of men. APs say of their birth/creation, ‘My mother was a test tube – my was a knife!’ That made her an enhanced AP, something that was intensified during her upbringing. To add to the distrust between the nations, there was an active hatred of APs. She found that the bigotry of the haters was something that just wasn’t logical in any way, something that Friday became aware of and slowly began to slowly fight against. Friday is what is termed as a combat courier and was proud of her record of completing each mission she took on … until that is, her last job.

My notebook is never far from me, for which I am pleased about with this book. The first note I made was a term of on was on page 45, ‘trained forgettery’; not bad eh? I like it anyway. The second note is related to energy supplies. Let’s face it, these days the cost of energy seems to be climbing nearly daily. Well, in Friday’s time, energy is provided by cheap Shipstones, a source of unlimited cheap power that put the big energy companies into a fight for survival. Shipstones are everywhere. Does that remind you of anything? No? Think of Windows pcs. How many of us have half a dozen different versions of Windows close to hand? I’m using one here, Jan’s pc is about ten feet from me; or am I reading too much into the story? The whole Shipstone empire is run by one man, Daniel Shipstone. Heinlein’s prediction of Bill Gates perhaps?

Sci-fi asks a lot of questions, and one direct question asked here was this; what are the signs of a dying culture? Friday is set to find out the answer by her employer. The answer given, you might even recognise; personal rudeness; bad manners; lack of consideration; a loss of gentleness. Well; does it sound familiar? Is our culture dying? So, what do I think of this book …

It’s sci-fi, it’s by one of my favourite writers, one of the fathers of modern sci-fi, one I hadn’t even known about, so yes, of course I enjoyed it. It’s well written and well thought out, but there again, with his experience is should be, and anyway, I’m biased eh?  So go on then folks, find it, read it and love it.

 

Reviewed by:

Ron Clark

Added 6th May 2017

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Ron Clark