We are back to take a swing at literature. I have to admit that, as much as I have read in my life, most of it simply doesn’t qualify as art. I like what I like, and I’ve never been one to work on that “List of 100 Books Everyone Should Read Before They Die” sort of thing.
Looking at my bookshelves, you can roughly categorize things in the following general areas, in order of number of books (more or less):
- Science Fiction
- Ham radio
- Popular Fiction
This doesn’t give a guy a lot to work from, unless you want quarter-remembered works from various college lit classes. Yeah, didn’t think so. So you’re going to get something that is at least a classic in it’s area, science fiction. That book would be…
Friday by Robert Anson Heinlein. Friday is a test tube baby, or, more politely, and artificial person. With neither mother or father in the standard sense, she is subject to prejudices against the artificial folk, prejudices that exist because they are genetically engineered to be smarter, faster and more resilient than standard humans. However, not everyone sees her as some sort of part-human freak. Her employer, only know as “Boss”, who seems to run some sort of shadowy quasi-legal organization, doesn’t. He values Friday both for her abilities and for the skills he has trained her to have to facilitate her work for him. Through a series of plot devices designed to point out the illogic of prejudice and the necessity of our kind-as well as Friday’s kind-to love and be loved, Friday finds herself on the run. Living on rapidly dwindling resources, she gets a shot at a courier job that will allow her to visit several extra-Solar colonies, with the hope that one of them will be attractive enough to serve as her new home. I’ll stop there to avoid any spoliers for those who haven’t read this book.
Written in 1982, this book is what I think of as “latter Heinlein”, in which he explores the nature of being human, the concepts of love, loyalty and family and what a better society than our current one might look like. It’s a stand-alone book, unlike a lot of the latter Heinlein books that are more part of a long story arc. He does reference certain fictional characters and such from previous works, but not having read those works won’t diminish your enjoyment of this one.
Heinlein’s latter works do torque some people, given they deal with subjects that range from out-of-the-mainstream to borderline taboo at the time they were written. I don’t think the first Grand Master of science fiction gave a rip, given that he went on to write To Sail Beyond the Sunset, which deals with more sexual permutations than I can recall.
If you have read some Heinlein but don’t consider yourself to be a Heinlein fan, then Friday is a good book to introduce you to his latter works, as well as some that preceded it by a decade or so. If you’re a fan but just haven’t read it, grab a copy. If you’ve never read Heinlein, I wouldn’t start here, although you could. But I’d recommend it to pretty much anyone, no matter what.