Follow TV Tropes


Literature / Friday

Go To
My mother was a test tube
My father was a knife...

Friday 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. It is a sequel to an earlier book, Gulf.

Friday provides examples of:

  • Android Identifier: Artificial People, genetically engineered lab-created humans, have lesser rights than "natural-born" humans and are required to have identifying tattoos. Friday herself, being a covert agent, had hers removed.
  • 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. Thanks to her advice, humanity is able to keep the Plague from spreading offworld.
  • Asshole Victim: Lieutenant Dickey is described as someone who had repeatedly tried to sleep with Friday's friend Janet despite being repeatedly told no, as "slimy", and as having "a size-twelve ego in a size-four soul". About a minute later, Friday kills him as he's trying to arrest one of her friends at gunpoint.
  • 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 and their children.
  • Betrayal by Inaction: "Uncle" Jim Prufit shows up to take Friday to Boss' farm. When they arrive she's attacked by an enemy ambush and Prufit doesn't warn her, he simply watches while they take her. She learns later that Prufit is The Mole.
  • 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. Word of God said Friday was partly inspired by Nichelle Nichols.
  • Credit Card Destruction: When a person inserts an expired/cancelled credit card into a slot to pay for something, the device will destroy the card using a "destruction bolt" accompanied by the smell of burning plastic.
  • "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.
  • Deliberate Under-Performance: The title character is a genetically engineered woman with supergenius intelligence. She says that in school, she was taught to answer questions on IQ tests to hit a pre-determined score in order to not show off her intelligence.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Friday's reaction to being gang-raped as an interrogation technique is simple annoyance at the idea that she could be traumatized. As an artificial human she's been raised not to have any sexual hang-ups, and has even been trained to pretend to enjoy it in order to manipulate her captors.
  • 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.
  • Human Subspecies: Living Artifacts are artificial organisms that are obviously non-human in form. None play a visible role in the story, but they are frequently discussed and mentioned: for example, Ian mentions the dwarven "kobold" artifacts displacing miners while talking about his pilot's union's negotiations.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Multiple Identity IDs: In the beginning, Friday kills a man who was following her, then finds several identity documents and credit cards for one "Adolf Belsen", along with other credit cards for "Albert Beaumont", "Arthur Bookman" and "Archibald Buchanan". Friday improvises a plan to make it look like "Beaumont-Bookman-Buchanan" ambushed "Belsen" and hid the body, and then proceeds to have the four identities pay for tickets to different destinations before paying cash to escape the general area.
  • 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.
  • Power Source: The Shipstones are a humdinger of one; where most sci-fi of the time was obsessed with anything "atomic", Heinlein proposed super-batteries.
    Daniel Shipstone saw at once that the problem was not a shortage of energy but lay in the transporting of energy. Energy is everywhere in sunlight, in wind, in mountain streams, in temperature gradients of all sorts wherever found, in coal, in fossil oil, in radioactive ores, in green growing things. Especially in ocean depths and in outer space energy is free for the taking in amounts lavish beyond all human comprehension.
    Those who spoke of "energy scarcity" and of "conserving energy" simply did not understand the situation. The sky was "raining soup"; what was needed was a bucket in which to carry it.
    To call it an "improved storage battery" (as some early accounts did) is like calling an H-bomb an "improved firecracker." What he had achieved was the utter destruction of the biggest industry (aside from organized religion) of the western world.
  • 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". What the various numbers signify is known only to the sender and recipient, making the code unbreakable.
  • Race Lift: The novel cover paints Friday as Caucasian when her actual coloration is more American Indian. At least one version of the cover painting makes a much better attempt to get the colouring right., last picture.
  • Rich Genius: Daniel Shipstone is the inventor of an "improved power battery" before the Second Atlantic Rebellion and later used the funds gained by his invention to create the Mega-Corp Shipstone.
  • 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.
    • When Janet takes Friday on a tour of her panic room on Red Thursday, she makes a point of showing her where the back door is — and that there are Death Traps waiting for anyone who discovers the passage and can't find the off switch. Much later, Friday's life depends on figuring out where they would have placed the switch when she returns to British Canada and finds the Tormeys gone. (There's also a long, narrow, underwater tunnel leading from the house to the shelter.)
  • 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 Medias 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's organization works on the rule of "If they grab you, sing!" Because the supposition is that with enough time, torture and modern Truth Serums will break anyone, so information is carefully compartmentalized so that someone who's likely to be captured (like Friday) doesn't know anything worth telling. Thus, Friday lays out everything she knows about her organization before they can torture her (but after they gangrape her as a warm-up), to prevent being tortured and thus preserve her physical and mental health. The torturers' boss doesn't believe her, even after she says the same thing under the influence of Truth Serums, and has her tortured 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, and because they are so amateurish that they might kill her with an improper dosage.
  • 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.
  • Who Shot JFK?: A Discussed Trope - anyone who looks at it knows something is up, but it's academic because there's no way to confirm any of it.
    Friday: Killed in front of hundreds of witnesses and every aspect, before, during, and after, heavily documented. All that mountain of evidence adds up to is this: Nobody knows who shot him, how many shot him, how many times he was shot, who did it, why it was done, and who was involved in the conspiracy if there was a conspiracy. It isn't even possible to say whether the murder plot was foreign or domestic. Boss, if it is impossible to untangle one that recent and that thoroughly investigated, what chance is there of figuring out the details of the conspiracy that did in Gaius Julius Caesar? Or Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot? All that can truthfully be said is that the people who come out on top write the official versions found in the history books, history that is no more honest than is autobiography.
  • 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.