Glory Road was an interesting novel, as it’s the first heroic fantasy I’ve read from Robert Heinlein. This review, as always, contains spoilers, so if you want to avoid having the plot spoiled, stop reading now.
E.C. Gordon has just gotten out of the military. He’s a veteran of the Vietnam War, and he spots a personal ad as he’s deciding what to do with his life. The personal ad describes him perfectly, and it’s advertising for a “hero”.
When he answers the ad, he meets a doctor, the most beautiful woman he’s ever met. She runs some tests on him. She and her assistant agree that he’s perfect, and before you know it, he and the doctor and her assistant are in an alternate universe.
The doctor, it turns out, is actually a sorceress (and more). Her assistant looks like an old man, but there are some surprises about his relationship with Star (the beautiful doctor/sorceress).
Gordon takes the name “Scar”, and he names the sorceress “Star”. Her assistant’s name is a dwarf named Rufo.
Together, they’re on a quest to find and get the Egg of the Phoenix.
In many ways, this book reminded me of Poul Anderson’s book Three Hearts and Three Lions. Both novels feature an ordinary person from our place and time transported to a fantasy world and accompanied by a beautiful woman and a non-competitive male dwarf. Anderson’s novel was published a couple of years before Heinlein’s, but I think some of these tropes are common enough that there’s no plagiarism going on here. Just a devotion to a certain kind of fantasy trope.
In fact, Scar alludes to various other heroic fantasy type novels throughout Glory Road, especially Burroughs’s Barsoom novels. He also alludes to one of the greatest lines in Sherlock Holmes:
Gregory: “Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”
Holmes: “To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”
Gregory: “The dog did nothing in the night-time.”
Holmes: “That was the curious incident.
The adventure part of the novel takes up the first 2/3 of the book, and it’s entertaining as hell. But once the quest is completed, and Scar goes to live with Star, the book slows down considerably.
It turns out that Star isn’t just a beautiful young woman. She’s the empress of 20 known universes. Scar is married to her, and he’s her consort, but he’s bored. Heinlein takes this opportunity to pontificate about relationships between men and women. I didn’t enjoy this part of the book nearly as much as the beginning and the middle.
Also, what’s the deal with Robert Heinlein and spankings? So far, in every book of his I’ve read, at least one of the major male characters threatens to spank one of the female characters. In fact, in Glory Road, Scar carries this out. It’s as if Heinlein thinks that a male asserting his dominance over a woman, especially via corporal punishment, is a natural and desirable thing.
I just think it’s kinda creepy.
So far, all of the Heinlein books I’ve read have earned three stars at Goodreads.com. I’m hoping to find one that deserves four stars soon. Glory Road wasn’t it, though, but it was more entertaining than Podkayne of Mars or Farnham’s Freehold.
What did other bloggers think of Glory Road?
- “Problems with the major female character; plotting issues in the second half; overbearing politics.” –SFSignal
- “Alas, “Glory Road” is a preview of the old, pervy and insane Heinlein to come.” – Nashville Book Worm
- “One nice feature about the story is that it follows what happens afterwards. Oscar goes from Hero to Poodle. This is real entertainment and Oscar is a very appealing protagonist. Defintely get this one. Even if you’re not a Fantasy fan, you’ll like it.” – Vintage45