Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Friday by Robert A. Heinlein

Friday falls into the category of "late" Heinlein, written in 1982. Heinlein had left his juvenile fiction behind, gained some acclaim for works like Stranger in a Strange Land, and begun to expound on his social philosophy, based a great deal on free love and plural marriages. These themes continue showing up in his stories until his passing in 1988, sometimes overpowering the story.

Friday is an Artificial Person, or Living Artifact, genetically engineered from the best of human stock to be a genius and to display physical strength and speed far greater than ordinary humans. Her fellow APs are discriminated against, and must jump through a number of bureacratic hoops before they can be regarded as human, legally, though they are often not regarded as human by just plain folks, no matter what they do. Friday works as a courier for a secret organization, run by Dr. "Kettle Belly" Baldwin, whom we encountered in Gulf, a short story in the collection, Assignment in Eternity. Just in case we don't remember, Heinlein posts a clue midway through Friday about a monument which stands in a crater on the Moon to Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Green, the heroes of Gulf.

Friday's adventures, hopping about between the Moon and the L5 stations, various nation states on Earth - the U.S. has fragmented into a handful of separate states in Heinlein's future - sets the backdrop for Heinlein to pontificate on politics, morals and society.

Some choice quotes:
"I have been assured that the typical California legislator will withdraw a bill if you can prove to her that pi can't equal three no matter how many votes make it so. But grassroots legislation ('the initiative') has no such limitation. For example three years ago a grassroots economist noticed that college graduates earned, on the average, about 30 percent more than their fellow citizens who lacked bachelor's degrees. Such an undemocratic condition is anathema to the California Dream, so, with great speed, an initiative was qualified for the next election, the measure passed, and all California high-school graduates and/or California citizens attaining eighteen years were henceforth awared bachelor's degrees."

Marks of a sick culture:

  • When the people of a country stop identifying themselves with a country and begin identifying themselves with a group. A racial group. A language. A religion.
  • The population must lose faith with the police and the courts (OJ and Casey Anthony?)
  • High taxation
  • Inflation of the currency
  • The ratio of the productive to those on the public payroll
  • Violence
  • Muggings
  • Snipers
  • Arson
  • Bombing
  • Terrorism of any sort
  • A dying culture demonstrates personal rudeness
Some days, Heinlein really nailed the future.

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