Author: Robert A Heinlein
One of Master Heinlein’s last, this novel takes place on a not-quite-dystopian earth. The United States, like the U.S.S.R. in 1991, has fractured into a group of states ranging from rabid democracy in California (Heinlein would not have been surprised by Arnold as Govenor) to a repressive and violent oligarchy in the mid-west. And through it all voyages Friday Jones, combat courier extra-ordinaire.
In this individual we find one of Heilein’s all time most interesting characters, and absolutely his strongest female character. I’ve been recently reminded* of Holly, the charming 15 year old hoyden from the title piece in “Manace from Earth.” She and Jones are among the very few well conceived, subtlly executed, and three dimensional female characters written by Heinlein. In “Friday”, her very femaleness not only adds to the story, it saves the story.
Imagine the novel with a male protagonist. He has super human strength, speed, and intelligence. Battling through corporate and political warfare and intrigue, he takes on (and usually kills) every oponent with his bare hands. Charming men and women alike, he travels through the galexy, guns and pearly whites blazing. Think James Bond meets Buck Rogers. It’s a bit nauseating.
Heinlein took this testosterone ridden stereotype and turned him into a her, gave her some serious self-esteem issues and an almost neurotic need to be loved and belong. And it worked. Really well.
Likely many readers, especially major Heinlein fans, have issues with this novel. It lacks the political and social depth of much of his earlier work and the science of it, while good, isn’t particularly cutting edge. What he did create was a character far more multi-deminsional than any previously. Instead of addressing planet-wide conflicts or the univeral human condition, Heinlein created a much smaller universe in the shape of Ms. Jones and took the time to explore this individual.
While it may not be among the greatest science fiction novels ever written, it is certainly a very good one. Not Heinlein at his most Heinlein-y, it’s a refreshing, fun, action/adventure set in the future with a great female protagonist, a rarity for Heinlein and science fiction generally.
Lisa K. Jan. 5, 2013
* Shout out to the Robert Heinlein community on Google+!