“Friday” is a 1982 science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein. It is the story of a female “artificial person”, the titular character, genetically engineered to be stronger, faster, smarter, and generally better than normal humans. Artificial humans are widely resented, and much of the story deals with Friday’s struggle both against prejudice and to conceal her enhanced attributes from other humans. The story is set in a balkanized world in which the nations of North American have been split up into a number of smaller nations.

“Friday” was nominated for the Nebula Award for Nebula Award for Best Novel in 1982, and the Hugo Award for Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1983.

Plot summaryEdit

The book deals with Friday, an artificial person superior in many ways to an ordinary human, but subject to great prejudice when she is discovered. Employed as a courier who is highly self-sufficient in a complex, Balkanized world, she is forced to journey all over North America where she is caught up in several civil disturbances. She reaches safety, but is soon displaced by her boss’ death. Sent on a space journey as a courier, she realizes that the journey is likely to end with her death, and evades the ship’s authorities to settle on a pioneer world with friends made earlier in the narrative.

A New Future HistoryEdit

  • Friday’s world appears (as noted below) to be derived from the short-story “Gulf”, and the world of “Gulf” itself appears to have split away from the history of Heinlein’s own Future History series shortly after “The Black Pits of Luna”, so that Luna City founded by Harriman, Strong and Dixon rather than the USAF and NASA is the point of departure. Through the novel, a number of salient features of recent history are introduced.
  • The Second Atlantic Rebellion - concluded on July 4, 2076, under the assumption that the American Revolution was the First Atlantic Rebellion. During this time, the United States ceased to exist as a single coherent entity, and balkanised into regionally coherent territories under different forms of government. the effects of the rebellion were widespread, as other North American countries also underwent upheaval at this time, to change their political forms and relationships. NATO is dissolved by this action, which results in a long-standing grudge to be finished between:
  • The Russian-Prussian War - Russia is attacked by a Prussian-dominated German state a decade after the Second Atlantic Rebellion, so ca 2086-2087. Presumably the dissolution of NATO paved the way for both German reunification and the collapse of the Soviet Union. Friday remarks that the Prussians “got their hides nailed to the wall” even though conventional wisdom had assumed that they would win. Dr. Baldwin uses this war as an example of how judicious assassination can change the course of history.
  • The Seattle Earthquake - At some point between the time of Friday’s birth and the events of the story, the city of Seattle is completely destroyed by what seems to have been one of the most powerful earthquakes in recorded history. Many people who wish to conceal their true identities in Friday’s time claim to have been born in Seattle.
  • The Invention of the Shipstone - Daniel Shipstone is supposed to have invented his “improved power battery”, which might be more accurately likened to a direct-conversion system whose action potential is set-up by accumulation of solar quanta. Shipstone is supposed to have invented it before the Second Atlantic Rebellion, and it is highly probable given events in the novel that the wealth inherent in his discovery may even have been a motivating factor. By Friday’s time, the Shipstone Complex is extremely massive and powerful.
  • The Imprisonment of Dr. Hartley Baldwin - In “Gulf” Dr. Baldwin and the Greenes successfully prevent the launch of nuclear weapons by a group of politically motivated would-be tyrants from the moon. While the Greenes’ actions are successful, and they die in the attempt, Dr. Baldwin is held accountable by the Lunar Government, who have him serve sentence on Earth. The ensuing Rebellion frees Baldwin, but by which time Friday is several years old, and cannot be rescued from her Creche.
  • The Fall of the Quito Skyhook - In the decade after star-travel and system space travel, Clarke-Space Elevators become a common method of commerce and motion of material have become a lifeline between Earth and the Interstellar Colonies. 5 years before the novel begins, “terrorist” activity results in the fall of the Quito Skyhook in Ecuador, resulting in much loss of life and destruction as the monofilament diamond cable fell to earth.
  • Red Thursday - a set of assassinations which Friday is a peripheral witness to, in her travels. The first strike, ostensibly by a group calling themselves “the Stimulators” sees the assassination or attempted assassination of most of the major territorial leaders of Earth (in commercially important locations) on one night in 2093. There is a second wave 10 days later, but the assassinations end with leaders surviving, and assassins killed. This is an interesting method of political hierarchy change, but Heinlein depends (some reviewers have felt too strongly) on the reader’s intelligence to work out the meaning behind the attacks. Results include Friday’s later river excursions, and thwarting an assassination in the California Confederacy
  • The Bombay Plague - a planetary re-occurrence of the Black Plague, beginning in a highly overpopulated India at the end of the book, and predicted by Friday after a change of career objective.

The Dominions of North AmericaEdit

  • North America is the setting for the majority of actions on Earth, and the following Balkanised states exist, whose interactions with others vary.
  • The Chicago Imperium - encompassing the Northern Midwest, as far as Colorado, Illinois, and surrounding states. Economically prosperous, and ruled from Chicago by a Chairman. The Imperium is a corporate state in the style of Italian Fascism, and equally riddled with corruption. The Chairman’s ruling style may be likened to a combination of Benito Mussolini and Al Capone. The Imperial Police, or “Greenies” (for the color of their uniform), are reputed to be quite merciless when capturing suspects, and to “Burn out a victim’s brain”. After the events of Red Thursday, the Imperium’s government rounds up and executes suspected “Democrats”.
  • The California Confederacy - Includes the former American states of California, Oregon, and Washington. Its form of government is a democracy taken to its illogical extreme. Instead of having a fixed constitution, all law in California seems to be subject to change by a majority plebiscite vote (a fictional version of the initiative process of the real-life California). The tendency of voters is to pass laws that encourage “democracy” and “equality” on a superficial level. For example, when it was noted that Californians with college degrees earned more than those with high school diplomas alone, the California voters passed a law granting all citizens a bachelor’s degree upon graduation from high school. California’s head of state, styled the “Chief Confederate”, is John “Warwhoop” Tumbril, whom Friday saves from assassination in one of the follow-ups to Red Thursday. A later, successful assassination is noted in the news. Law is all important in California - the Chief depends on his legal aides more than anything else, though “The Law” is all too fluid given Californians’ litigious and democratic nature.
  • The Atlantic Union - not much mention is made of these states, but it can be presumed these are Eastern Seaboard of the USA (and possibly Atlantic Canada as well).
  • Delaware Free State - mentioned only once, as the place in which Dr. Baldwin’s organization is incorporated. Presumably this state serves as an address of convenience and tax haven for many large North American corporations, as the state of Delaware does in the modern United States.
  • Las Vegas Free State - Independent city with extremely libertarian laws. It is noted that the currency of Las Vegas, the “Buck”, is the only currency in North America backed by the gold standard.
  • Republic of Texas - An independent country. Vicksburg is a central part of events - Vicksburg Old Town and Low Town are the two parts of the city, including the Civil War Battlefields “Forgotten to Everybody - but not to Vicksburg! these fields are sacred and nothing may be built on them”. Vicksburg Low Town is described by Friday as “Being by the river, and reachable with a funicular car system. In daylight cops patrol in pairs, at night they leave the place alone.... All in all, Vicksburg low town is the liveliest, most exciting and dangerous place you can visit, and be sure to get a blood test afterwards!”
  • Alaska Free State - Autonomous territory.
  • Hawaii is presumably independent, as is Puerto Rico. Hawaii has a spaceport and Semi-Ballistic Field.
  • The Kingdom of Mexico/Mexican Revolutionary Kingdom - Now no longer a republic, possibly ruled from Spain, or by expatriate Spanish Royalty, but either possibility is conjecture. The ruler has the title “The Montezuma”, but is assisted by a “Revolutionary Council”, hinting at nativism as one possible ideology.


  • British Canada - This territory appears includes the English language provinces of Canada from Ontario west through to British Columbia. Sporting Mounties, and other features of traditional Canadian culture. No mention is made of the Atlantic Provinces; they may have become part of the Atlantic Union.
  • Quebec - the Quebec province has finally achieved its Quebec independence. Montreal is its most important city and possibly its capital. Political parties include “revanchiste” (dedicated to conquering the rest of the former Canadian provinces) and “reunioniste” (dedicated to a peaceful reunion of Quebec with British Canada). The current Prime Minister is “revanchiste”.
  • Prince Edward Island is mentioned as independent, but no details are given.

Rest of EarthEdit

  • Prussia - a unified Germany, possibly encompassing Czechoslovakia and Austria in a renewed Anschluss after the conclusion of the Russian-Prussian War of 2086 AD.
  • Great Russia - the USSR after the defeat of the Communists by the Germans, a large independent state.
  • Canton - a province of Great China.
  • Great China - During the dissolution of NATO, it may be possible that the territorial sovereignty of Taiwan would no longer be guaranteed, resulting in China conquering Formosa at last.
  • India - appears to have absorbed Pakistan, but even more overpopulated than today.
  • New Zealand - New Zealand appears to be similar to its modern form, though the author assumes that Bank of New Zealand would remain the dominant player in the world of finance, which is no longer true in this country. Technological level is similar to that of other First-world countries. Auckland International Airport is now a Semi-Ballistic field.
  • South Africa - the commercial location of Ceres & South Africa Acceptances. Presumably still an Apartheid state.
  • Swaziland - Mentioned in passing, most likely still supported by being a tax haven and legal gambling location (which implies that Heinlein assumed that the Republic of South Africa in its old Apartheid form would still have political cohesiveness at this time)

Solar System LocalesEdit

  • L3, L4 and L5 - Ell Three, Ell Four and Ell Five are giant space stations, acting as way stations at the Lagrange points in Earth orbit. Centres of commerce and known for wild feminine fashion.
  • Luna City - As described in other Heinlein novels, particularly “The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress”.
  • Ceres - Neutral planetoid. Home, together with Luna City, of Ceres and South Africa Acceptances Ltd. (Ceres and Johannesburg), also known as C and S.A.A. Ltd.
  • Mars - New colony
  • Venus - New Colony, scientific terraforming.

Interstellar ColoniesEdit

  • Botany Bay
  • The Realm
  • Proxima
  • Forest
  • Fiddler’s Green
  • Midway
  • Halcyon
  • Sol

Planets are rated on a T scale, Earth being a T-8. some planets are very difficult, for instance “T-13 is an exotic route to suicide”, other like the plutocracy retirement planets like Halcyon being T-2.

On Halcyon, the young wait on the old hand and foot - the planet has a lower gravity than Earth, higher oxygen content in the air, and gentle temperature changes as well as longer year. Landowners have to be over 50, and wealthy.

Fiddler’s Green is restricted, as the colonists have reverted to polyamorous nudist hedonism in a safe environment, which is rich in natural foods.

Outpost is cold and scrabbling, and the home to many involuntary transportees.

Midway is a Baptist Fundamentalist colony, where every day is a Sunday. The planet is ruled by Theocracy. Not much else is known about it - it is not a suitable planet for an AP like Friday, for this reason.

The Realm is controlled by System Enterprises and Interworld corporations, through proxies in the form of the First Citizen and his wife, the Dauphiness, implying Bourbon royalty and excesses are the form of regime there.

Botany Bay is a British Colonial possession, ruled from England by the King. Colonization requirements include the English Language, and scientific skills are prized, allowing a colonist to enter without fee.


  • The Shipstone - The cornerstone of energy distribution, the Shipstone power cell stores energy gathered by photovoltaic panels, at an order of magnitude and efficiency previously unheard of. An estimate of its capabilities is that “To call a Shipstone an “improved storage battery” is to call a nuclear warhead an “improved firecracker”.” Though cheaply and freely available, the secret of their construction is known only to a select few within the parent company; a secret that has endured for decades. Centerpiece of an enormous terrestrial, interplanetary and interstellar power structure.
  • Anti-grav - practical antigravity was achieved sometime in the late 20th or early 21st century, when “Robert L. Forward showed us how”. Antigravity generators small enough to fit in vehicles the size of cars and trucks are mass-produced, but their use seems to be strictly regulated, since antigravity vehicles are referred to as “Authorized Power Vehicles” or APV’s. Antigravity is used in space travel within the Solar system, as well as interstellar travel.
  • Semi-Ballistic - SB’s are commercial trans-atmospheric passenger flights with vehicles resembling the Rockwell X-30 and HOTOL, able to cross the Pacific Ocean in 45 minutes.
  • Beanstalk/Skyhook - Diamond monofilament Clarke Space Elevators dotted around the world for system and inerstellar mass transfer and commerce. Subject of terrorism.
  • Horse and Traps - with the demise of fossil fuels, car manufacturers have taken to building horsed rather than horseless carriages. Manufacturers like Honda, Chevrolet and Buick are mentioned as being carriage manufacturers.

The Shipstone ComplexEdit

Ubiquitous technology, the Shipstone has applications from the very mundane (e.g. emergency torches/flashlights) through to the very sublime (e.g. Interstellar Starships). As a technology, the Shipstone is unmatched in its density of energy, safe delivery, and non-polluting nature.

The growth of the Shipstone Complex started with the family of the original inventor, and has grown in the century since its deployment as an energy storage medium. Shipstone as a company owns many others - within the Solar System it crops the world’s major deserts for solar energy (the Gobi, and the Karoo). Shipstone has expanded its operations into the worlds of Finance - Friday makes note that all four of the financial companies she has had dealings with, such as Mastercharge (the former name of Mastercard), Visa Inc., C & SAA, and American Express are all part of Shipstone at some level. Similar observations are made about virtually all parts of the Solar System, and even interstellar businesses.

The Shipstone Complex, after due consideration by Friday (at the behest of one of its directors, no less than Dr. Baldwin himself), is one complex, and one company. Its scale and scope make it a system wide equivalent of Government. “When one pauses for a Coke, the deal is with Shipstone!”

The Events of Red Thursday have an ulterior Corporate Motive within the Shipstone Complex - lesser companies such as IBM may field armies, but not on the scale of Shipstone. Shipstone also owns Hyperspace Lines, and thus controls interstellar transport and trade.

The magnitude and scale of the Shipstone Complex naturally unnerves Friday, but Dr. Baldwin assures her that she will never learn the full scale of the Shipstone Complex, possibly because it has itself passed a point of no-return in terms of comprehensibility, and having assumed the scope of system-wide government, is as susceptible to the forces of human affairs as a government, i.e. the the Events of Red Thursday, and therefore its fall is ultimately assured.

The natural tendencies of the Shipstone Complex have come to fruition on their private stellar system, the “fabulously wealthy Realm”. The government there is in the form of a Laissez-faire Monarchy in the style of the Bourbon Dynasty immediately before the French Revolution, and Friday’s assessment of the political situation (both before and after her interstellar adventure) summarize the power induced corruption of the Shipstone Complex is going to result in its ultimate demise as a coherent entity.

Genetic technologyEdit

  • With mastery of the genetic language, life science companies, produce 2 classes of new beings.
    • The University of Berkeley, Davis
    • McGill University (Dept. of Teratology)
    • The University of Auckland, School of Medicine (Dept. Teratology)
    • The University of Sydney, School of Medicine (Dept. Teratology)
    • Mendelian Associates, Zurich
  • Living Artifacts - modified animals and humans able to help men, e.g. Kobolds for mining (who resemble dwarves), and talking super-dogs, such as one in New Zealand called Lord Nelson.
  • Artificial People - Friday (Marjorie Friday Baldwin) is one - enhanced superhumans with strength, speed, stamina, and sense far superior to normal humans. Present in society in small numbers, often slaves to free people (indenture), and shunned by ordinary human beings both for their acknowledged superiority and their artificial origins. Most of the World religions and laws label APs as non-human, not subject to human laws, and unable to marry, own property, and without souls. Friday is often sorrowful about her status as an AP, despite having a high status in her own organization and much respect, love and awe from her human colleagues.

Religious referencesEdit

The Roman Catholic Church has apparently gone underground (possibly as a result of its stand on contraception), and, in the novel’s future, is apparently illegal. One of the characters, Jim Prufit, is alleged (incorrectly) to be a Catholic Priest, though in secret, also demonstrating the discredited and illegal nature of the Catholic church at this time in history. However, there is still a Pope-in-Exile, who apparently lives in the hope of the second coming of Christ. There is reference to a planet where the Catholic Mass can be performed openly, and this is regarded as a novelty.

The Southern Baptist Fundamentalists have a planet of their own, Midway, where every day is a Sunday.

Biblical arguments are raised to support the suggestion that Artificial Persons and Living Artifacts cannot have souls.

Friday recollects her marriage to her S-group husbands and sisters in a “side chapel of the cathedral” in Christ Church, New Zealand. This cathedral is likely to be Christ Church Cathedral, an Anglican church, but no details are provided. The cathedral’s sole “side chapel” is the Pacific Chapel and is the most likely site of Friday’s fictional wedding. The chapel was originally located in the cathedral’s north porch in 1971 to mark the centenary of the martyrdom of John Patteson, first Anglican bishop of Melanesia; it now faces the Pacific Ocean. The cathedral’s partner Diocese of Polynesia provided the chapel’s overall design including tapa cloth, mats, carving and kava bowl altar. Based on Friday’s account of her cathedral wedding, a liberalized Anglican-Christian community not only survives into Friday’s time, but it officially “blesses” multiple-partner marriages as well (similar to the modern-day Anglican Church’s performance of same-sex marriage ceremonies).

Awards and nominationsEdit

“Friday” received nominations for the following awards

  • 1982 Nebula Award for Best Novel
  • 1983 Hugo Award for Best Novel
  • 1983 Locus award for Science Fiction Novel
  • 1983 Prometheus award for Best Novel

Literary significance and receptionEdit

The 1982 Library Journal review said that Heinlein “returns to an earlier style of brisk adventure mixed with polemic in the saga of special courier Friday Jones.”

Allusions/references to other worksEdit

“Friday” is loosely tied to the novelette “Gulf”, which appeared in “Assignment in Eternity”, since both works share characters - “Kettle Belly” Baldwin and “Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Greene”. (The latter two do not appear in “Friday”, but are mentioned as two of the title character’s genetic progenitors.) The motif of a secret superman society in the latter work, however, is not mentioned in “Friday”, where the heroine is an artificial person, and is not part of a secret society (the principal reason to be secret about her artificialness is to avoid discrimination). However, at his death, Baldwin leaves Friday a subsidy to finance her emigration to any planet of her choice, except Olympia, where the “supermen” went at some indeterminate point in the past.

The Shipstone, the extra-solar colonies Fiddler’s Green, Proxima and Botany Bay, and the start of the balkanization of North America are mentioned in “The Cat Who Walks Through Walls”. It is stated that Roger and Edith Stone from “The Rolling Stones” are now living in Fiddler’s Green.

Homages/references from other worksEdit

In Charles Stross’ “Saturn’s Children”, the courier Freya uses the pseudonym “Friday Baldwin” as she smuggles an item to Mars.

External linksEdit