Hoo boy. I’ll preface this book review by saying that Robert Heinlein is one of my favorite authors. And I think it’s the fact that he’s usually so good that has left me so disappointed with Friday. Here I am, excited to finally read a Heinlein book with a female protagonist, and I get this sex-crazed, obedient, objectified (to the point of ridiculousness) anti-role-model.
Heinlein has written strong female characters before, and that’s what Friday Baldwin is supposed to be. She’s an artificial person, stronger and smarter than her human counterparts, “[her] mother was a test tube and [her] father was a knife.” A highly trained courier for a shadowy organization, Friday’s boss is only known as “Boss,” and the nature and purpose of her missions are often unknown to her. Friday’s missions take her across the globe, and even into outer space. It’s not a bad idea for a novel, but the execution…the execution…
As an adventure novel, Friday does work. Friday’s job takes her on a grand trek across the globe. She gets married and later divorced to a communal family (the most convenient living situation in this particular distant future). Political upheaval prevents Friday from getting back to her organization’s base, creating plenty of opportunity for Friday to show off her physical and mental abilities. Heinlein plays with some interesting ideas about the idea of artificial humans, and whether or not they would be considered “fully human.” However, that’s where the good aspects of Friday end.
Then there’s the BURN-IT-WITH-FIRE-OH-GOD aspects of Friday. Heinlein mishandles the rape of Friday so horribly that I question my love of the rest of his work. Early in the novel, Friday is captured by another, equally shady, organization. Her captors rape her, and she decides to neutralize this form of torture by, “enjoying it.” Later she happens across one of her rapists, and does she kill him? Cut his balls off? Report him to authorities? No, he apologizes, and everything’s chill because he let her go to the bathroom instead of making her PEE HER PANTS:
No. Just no. I can’t with this book. I’m not even mentioning the part where Friday considers her rescuers from her own organization to then be “kissing friends” because they rescued her. THAT’S THEIR JOB. THAT’S WHAT THEY DO. THEY WERE ON A MISSION. You owe them NOTHING, Friday.
This was a book I had assumed was going to be 5 stars. I love Heinlein, I love strong female leads, what could go wrong? Oh right, just about everything. Two stars may be generous, but I’ll give Heinlein some credit for a decent story line, and an attempt at a bold, forward-thinking female action hero. He failed pretty miserably, but I’ll credit him for the attempt. Hopefully my next Heinlein novel puts me back in his corner.