A couple of weeks ago I visited at Star Cat Books (as remarked upon below). This is a used/new book store concentrating on science fiction and children’s literature (though they have a lot of other things).
I was there for two days, and during some down time I started re-reading Friday by R. A. Heinlein. I’d started it back in 1982 when it came out, but bogged down in Chapter VI, during the interminable discussion of a group-marriage’s finances.
One of my character flaws is that I’m unable to not-finish a novel once I’ve started. So, despite the 30+ year gap, there I went. This time around I soldiered on and finished it. So: a few observations.
First, the protagonist, Friday, despite the light-skinned blonde seen in some of the cover paintings, is a person of color: she speaks about “this built-in suntan of mine.” She explicitly compares her skin tone to a Maori or a Tongan.
Second, when asked to define a “sick culture” she says, “Dominance of males over females seems to be one of the symptoms.”
Later the “Old Man” character (seen in so many Heinlein novels under a number of names), says, “a dying culture invariably exhibits personal rudeness. Bad manners. Lack of consideration for others in minor matters. A loss of politeness, of gentle manners, is more significant than is a riot.”
Beyond that, while in 1982 I wouldn’t have known this, now I can say that Mr. Heinlein had never been to Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape school, and didn’t run this book by anyone who had. The number of bone-headed SERE blunders that the protagonist (and all of her friends) make is purely mind-boggling.
The overall message of this book seems to be that civil disruption can be a lot of fun provided you’re fabulously wealthy, gorgeously beautiful, brilliantly intelligent, young, healthy, athletic, and swimming in a sea of casual sex. Alas, the interesting novel set in this world would be the one in which the protagonist was none of those things.
Very late, very minor Heinlein.