I have never liked riding the Beanstalk. My distaste was full blown even before the disaster to the Quito Skyhook. A cable that goes up into the sky with nothing to hold it up smells too much of magic. But the only other way to reach Ell-Five takes too long and costs too much; my orders and expense account did not cover it.
So begins the first person narration of Robert Heinlein’s Friday,a novel that deeply divided critics when it was published. Part of that was the gender and race politics of a male author writing a female character that got raped, part of it was the usual kvetching about every novel Heinlein wrote from Stranger in a Strange Land to the end of his writing career.
Friday is an Artificial Person (a clone) who works as a courier for a company or agency that she knows next nothing about; the Head of this really shadowy organization’s simply The Boss. It’s one of her two families, the other being an apparently Maori family in New Zealand.
The best part of this novel is the travelogue of Earth probably a century or so in the future which means you get a political map that includes the Alaska Free State, the Illinois Province of the Chicago Imperium, ‘the first territorial nation, the California Confederacy’ and a Vegas Free State. If you’ve any of the later novels by Heinlein, you already know this is a recurring theme he uses.
Setting aside the fascinating politics, we have the novel-long obsession as Friday figures out what family means and if there’s a meaningful difference between her as an AP and naturally created people. It’s actually well-worth discovering how Heinlein reconciles the various story threads involving Friday and her quest which he does well.
Hilary Huber who narrates the audiobook does a pretty spot on the difficulties of bringing life to Friday. The only thing that’s slightly disconcerting is Huber either has the BBC British accent, or she or someone at Blackstone Audio felt that Friday should have one. Maybe they figured since she had a family of sorts in New Zealand that meant she had their sort of British accent.
(Blackstone Audio, 2008)