Glory Road by Robert A. Heinlein
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Re-reading my least favorite of Heinlein's works, because who knows? Maybe an older eye can shed some light upon this most shameful of tales rife with sexism, unabashed fantastical thinking (that works because this is a fantasy), or the fact that there *might* be a good reason why Heinlein only wrote one fantasy novel.
Results of my analysis are pretty much the same as when I was a kid. Odd, that. I mean, sure, there's the fighting of dragons and lots of really cool swordplay, geometrical magical symbols and magic flying everywhere, and adventure, adventure, adventure, and while none of that is particularly noteworthy in a world literally overwhelmed with such things, there is a certain odd quirk to this novel that at once feels way out of place for a fantasy novel and later how it becomes almost the entire focus.
It's a book about relationships.
Not heroism, guts, luck, or doing one's manly duty.
It's about getting in the girl's pants, discovering that she's playing him for the same reason, marrying her because of a sense of "that's what men do", learning she's a galactic empress in a high-tech interstellar kingdom, learning he's filthy rich, and then, even though he's "wildly in love" with her, gets bored within months and drops her to go back to earth and act like a screwed-up war vet, all the while obsessing over her, the fact that he'd just given up high-tech immortality and endless wealth, and he dropped her all because she's freaking old, too, and it doesn't even matter if she looks like she's in her early 20's and she's an empress that has been ruling for a long time. He's upset because she went out to sow her wild oats, and he was the result.
Wild sexism is rampant throughout this novel. Absolutely. All on his part. He's pretty much the perfect example of "do as I say not as I do" idiocy that men tell each other about the women in their lives, and because this is a poor fantasy because it is just as fantastical to see this dipshit as a lady's man that all the chicks flock to, it IS a condemnation of such thinking, too.
I mean, I think I'd have preferred to have read the book from Star's PoV, not Scar's. After all, she's out there playing the game and even offering this dipshit not just the world but her wonderful self, endless wealth, immortality, and the respect of a whole empire for the heroic deeds that he (and she) accomplished. She played the game as only a smart and sexy woman of 1964 could play it, hamming it up for the benefit of the idiot male and giving him what he expected at every turn. All she really wanted was fun and companionship and a bit of love. She'd already had three children and 50 born ex-vitro. She has experience, she's smart, and she's bored.
It's just a shame that we had to follow along with this asshole, instead. If the novel had been written the way that Heinlein had written Maureen from Sail Beyond the Sunset, this novel would probably be a long-enduring classic. But it wasn't.
I did like the full synthesis of other-universal conditions that changed the laws where certain tech isn't feasible but magic is. This makes the novel Science-Fantasy rather than standard SF, but I have no problems with it. It was nominated for the Hugo in '64 and Way Station won instead. That was a smart move. Way Station was awesome. :)
I knocked off a star from my original review for all the reasons listed. It may be unfair to judge a work that is of its times this way, kind of like judging the men in Mad Men in the early 60's for their behavior by our standards, but it is what it is. *shrug*
Let's see how some of my better-beloved Heinleins will hold up! :)
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