This may be the easiest day of the 30 day book meme for me. As soon as I saw this prompt, I knew exactly which book I wanted to write about.
Glory Road is Robert Heinlein’s one true foray into the fantasy genre, and he pulls it off admirably in a fun Swashbuckling-Musketeers meets Young-Galahad meets Hero-for-Hire plot in a whimsical and humorous set of worlds (yes, that’s meant to be plural) of Heinlein’s creation.
Oscar Gordon (as the protagonist is soon nicknamed) is a veteran of the unWar in Vietnam, and suffers from a bureaucratic Catch-22 of the unWar – namely, he is ineligible to have his much-deserved university education paid for by the G.I. Bill. In a fit of desperation, he answers an intriguing advertisement he discovers in the Personals section of a newspaper:
ARE YOU A COWARD? This is not for you. We badly need a brave man [...] proficient with all weapons, some knowledge of engineering and mathematics essential, willing to travel, no family or emotional ties, indomitably courageous and handsome of face and figure. Permanent employment, very high pay, glorious adventure, great danger.
(What young man HASN’T daydreamed about answering just such an advertisement at one time or another?)
Along with a beautiful woman (nicknamed Star) and sarcastic but trusty sidekick Rufo, our hapless hero fumbles his way through dangerous foes and hazardous obstacles on the way to retrieve the Egg of the Phoenix from the labyrinthine Dark Tower where it is guarded by the dreaded Soul Eater.
Yes, the above plot sounds like standard fantasy-fare, but you don’t need a completely original plot to develop a fun story. Especially when Heinlein puts his own special twist on the fantasy genre and does more than just permit the Hero to achieve his quest and win the girl – he explores what happens to the Hero after the quest is over and done, and the Glory Road has dead-ended with no further goal in sight.
As he does in most of his works, Heinlein also works in quite a bit of commentary about society, cultural morals, sexuality, government, and the quality of life. Many of the more critical reviews of the book harp unceasingly on his heavy-handed references to free sexual societies and the implication that the monogamous norms of present-day humanity are outmoded and unjustified. While I too find his arguments hard to accept at face value, they in no way caused me to devalue the fun I had every time I joined Oscar, Star, and Rufo on their foray along the Glory Road. (After all, sometimes a good debate won’t change your mind, but it will make you think, and become more confident in the reasoning behind your own opinion.)
This book exudes some special sort of aura that makes me happy when I pick it up – I can’t explain it but I certainly can recognize it, and that is why this is the perfect book for me to write about in today’s book prompt.