My mother was a test tube Friday
My father was a knife...
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 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
in that book's timeline, but the connection is not necessary.
Not to be confused with other things called "Friday"
Provides Examples Of:
- Arc Words: The couplet, "My mother was a test tube, my father was a knife," is adopted by Artificial Persons as a rallying cry and means of self-identification, and comes up several times.
- Artificial Human: Friday is an Artificial Person, so designated because they are lab-created rather than "natural born" humans, with plenty of prejudice against them.
- Apocalypse How: Friday's Boss asks her to predict the next coming of the Black Plague. Much to her chagrin, he takes that prediction seriously, and the epilogue reveals that it does, in fact, happen.
- 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. This causes her a great deal of confusion because she hasn't ever been attracted to a woman before and rejects (frequent) propositions from them. 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." Friday later has no qualms about shacking up with Goldie and Tilly/Shizuko.
- But I Can't Be Pregnant!: 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 Übermensch eventually settled.
- 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 being much darker skinned.
- Day of the Week Name: Friday is the protagonist's créche-name, although she has other legal (and illegal) aliases. It is not clear whether the "Jones" surname is legal or assumed.
- 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 schism of the countries along cultural lines.
- Exotic Extended Marriage: Starts with the protagonist in a group marriage in New Zealand, although they divorce her after she exposes their racist hypocrisy. She later joins a much healthier group marriage.
- 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. There is also plain old-fashioned racism (in New Zealand, against Tongans) to help drive in the Stock Aesop.
- Fictional Currency: Each of the various Balkanized countries in North America has its own currency. Everyone seems to prefer Las Vegas "crowns" because they are backed by gold, and Friday is advised to always carry gold or gold-convertible currency because of its near-universal acceptance.
- 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: Fully trained in sexuality from her time in créche, Friday is enthusiastically horny and unrestrained by most cultural taboos. However, she is very picky about her partners and is uncomfortable with lesbians (until she meets Janet).
- 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 also 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.
- Looks Like She Is Enjoying It: Friday's method of dealing with torture-by-rape is to pretend that she "just can't help herself", in order to frustrate and confuse her assailants.
- Loophole Abuse: There is no rule that the winner of the Golden State lottery has to be a resident. It's less "abuse" in this case as it is them being so culturally myopic that the idea never occurs to them.
- Marry Them All: Friday ends up marrying all her paramours, unofficially at least. Legally, she's Percival's wife, but in fact it's a big polyamory.
- Medical Rape and Impregnate: How Friday ends up pregnant. She thinks she'll be carrying the embryo as a package, not as a bun in the oven.
- Mega Corp.: The Shipstone corporation, which has expanded its de-facto monopoly over high-capacity power storage technology note 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 was designed with the genes of Dr. Baldwin and many of his friends and fellow agents.
- Morning Sickness: Friday never gets sea- or space-sick, so the fact that she suddenly starts heaving her guts out aboard the H.S. Forward is what causes her unexpected pregnancy to be revealed.
- N.G.O. Superpower: Pretty much all the major corporations, with the Shipstone corporation being the apotheosis. A traditional nation gets mocked by a character for being so stupid as to go to war with DuPont. The nation quickly loses. Some major events turn out to be the result of political infighting within Shipstone all by itself.
- 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.
- One Riot, One Ranger: Referenced following an attack by a violent cult on a number of Scientologists and Hari Krishnas in an airport. Friday says it took nearly as many Mounties as there were cultists to stop them, as opposed to the usual ratio of One Mountie: One Riot.
- 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".
- Race Lift: The novel cover paints Friday as Caucasian when her actual coloration is more American Indian.
- Secret Passage: When Friday's "farm" comes under attack early in the novel, the personnel escape through underground tunnels; they also use the tunnels to stage her rescue.
- A Simple Plan: Friday employs a number of "simple plans" in an effort to reach her Boss, as she is trained that simplest is best. These fail mainly because she underestimates the complexity of the situations she's dealing with.
- Signature Style: The opening of the novel is classic Heinlein in that it starts In Media Res and reveals the protagonist's occupation and personality through first-person narration while she's killing people and evading capture.
- Some of My Best Friends Are X: Friday's response when Georges Perreault mentions that he's a genetic engineer, involved in the creation of Artificial Persons. Georges politely disagrees; while he can honestly say this, as his job involves working with such people, it's extremely unlikely that Friday would have any friends who'd even admit they were AP's, due to Fantastic Racism. The irony being that (unknown to Georges at the time) Friday is an AP herself, posing as a normal human.
- Space Elevator: Friday doesn't like riding "beanstalks": "A cable that goes up into the sky with nothing to hold it up smells too much of magic." It's presented as an irrational fear, as space elevators are stated to be safer than ships; the only loss of one in history was through sabotage.
- Space Opera: A new reader to Heinlein's works could be forgiven for thinking this novel is a political thriller in a futuristic setting, until Friday decides to emigrate off-planet.
- 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 carries a pocket laser that she uses to burn them out and damage their memory.
- Torture Always Works: Discussed Trope. Friday tells everything when she's tortured, both to preserve her sanity 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 belly button pouch — subverted, as her enemies have found out about it, and so it's used as a decoy instead.
- Trial Balloon Question:
- Friday floats a question to one of her husbands in Christchurch to find out how he feels about Artificial Persons. Having gotten an unsatisfactory response, she escalates the issue by unmistakably proving herself to be one, which promptly gets her kicked out.
- Later in her travels, Friday encounters a fellow AP, but neither knows that the other is one and so both play out the expected dance of Fantastic Racism in their society. This results in him getting cold feet and her crying herself to sleep.
- Trust Password: The "test tube/knife" couplet is adopted by APs as a code of mutual recognition.
- 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.
- 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 - and Friday agrees.
- 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.