Glorious Glory Road!

Monday August 9, 2021 | By Hieronymus Hawkes | book review

I read Heinlein for the first time many moons ago. 1981 I believe, and it was Stranger in a Strange Land. I can’t remember anything about it other than the main character having special powers. (I am rereading it now and loving it) I wanted to give it another try as these books were popping up on my feed. I had never even heard of this book before a few weeks ago. Turns out Glory Road was Heinlein’s one foray into fantasy and was originally serialized in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction back in 1963, and was then released in Hard Cover later that same year. Glory Road was nominated for the Hugo, losing to Way Station by Clifford Simak.

Heinlein graduated from the US Naval Academy in 1929 with a degree in Engineering and ranked 5th in his class academically. He was a brilliant man and it shows in his writing. I was familiar with a lot of his work and had read several books but I was not well-educated on the craft of writing at the time. Heinlein was the first Science Fiction Writers Grand Master in 1974 and is highly regarded among the elites of the genre. Heinlein is definitely the best writer of his genre from that era. He won four Hugo Awards outright and 7 more Retro-Hugos for works that were published before the Hugo Award existed. Something else I didn’t know was that he wrote under multiple pen names: Anson MacDonald, Lyle Monroe, John Riverside, Caleb Saunders, and Simon York.

Glory road is a romp in every sense of the word. It is a portal story where a war veteran is charmed into taking on a job to help a beautiful damsel. Several things set it apart. First and foremost is the writing. He is versatile and gifted with the turn of phrase. He can write poetry as well as create a mouthy swashbuckling hero with equal measure of skill. I was blown away by how good his prose are.

Another thing that sets this particular story apart from other heroic tales is that he keeps going after the journey is over, where most would end with the victory. We find our hero with everything he could possibly want and yet he is bored and unhappy. He determines to find a solution and ends up back on the Glory Road when all is said and done.

This book was written in 1963 and the mores of his generation are very present. He is well known for going against the grain in a lot of subjects. He is big on social responsibility and self-reliance and wrote a lot about politics and religion. I honesty think if he were alive today he would be a progressive, but he was shaped by his military experience, as am I. But his glaring viewpoints on gender stood out. Although he believed in a lot of women’s rights, it’s pretty clear that the heterosexual paradigm was something ingrained in him. I think it holds up pretty well, simply because his characterizations and prose are so damned good.

I really enjoyed the book and highly recommend it!

4 Responses

  1. Heinlein is great. He’s one of those writers who has some out-there political opinions (but who doesn’t?) and they bleed through in his writing but only to serve the story. His belief that military service should be mandatory for citizenship motivates the dreams and goals of his characters in Starship Troopers (or does so in part, at least). I’ll need to check this one out. Thanks.

    1. I haven’t actually read Starship Troopers, just watched the quasi-wretched movie. I may do a read through of all his novels, so far they are quite enjoyable despite the age. Thanks for stopping by Victor! Always good to see your face!

  2. I had a similar experience with Stranger In A Strange Land. First read it in high school because it was considered “hip” in the late 1960s, but didn’t get much out of it. Reread it recently and enjoyed it much more.

    1. I am reading it right now and although the same heteronormative issues are obviously deeply ingrained in him, at least it is germane to the story. The writing and philosophical meanderings are off the chart. Thanks for commenting!

Leave a Reply to Hieronymus Hawkes Cancel reply