Review – Glory Road by Robert Heinlein

It may be unfair to judge Glory Road, Robert Heinlein’s 1963 fantasy novel, fifty years later, but screw it. At the beginning of the book, disenchanted soldier Oscar Gordon is on the last leg of a postwar trip, low on prospects and ogling French women at nude beaches. On a lark, he answers a newspaper ad for a hero and is teleported away to a fantasy world to assist a beautiful princess. He proves adept at killing things, but slower to pick up on the local customs.

While spending the night at a regent’s estate, he refuses the advances of the man’s wife and two daughters. This threatens to cause an international incident and the princess gets very upset about it. Oscar responds to her rebuke as any worldly man would.

                “SHUT UP!!!”

                The blast blew her hair back. I started in before she could rev up again. “Don’t ever again speak to me that way, Star. Never.”

                “But–“

                “Hold your tongue, you bad-tempered brat! You have not earned the right to speak to me that way. Nor will any girl ever earn the right. You will always– always!– address me politely and with respect. One more word of your nasty rudeness and I’ll spank you until the tears fly.”

                “You wouldn’t dare!”

                “Get your hand away from that sword or I’ll take it away from you, down your pants right here on the road, and spank you with it. Til your arse is red and you beg for mercy. Star, I do not fight females– but I do punish naughty children. Ladies I treat as ladies. Spoiled brats I treat as spoiled brats. Star, you could be the Queen of England and the Galactic Overlord all rolled into one– but ONE MORE WORD out of line from you, and down come your tights and you won’t be able to sit for a week. Understand me?”

After his temper dies down, Oscar endures the first of many lectures on the superiority of sexual attitudes in Star’s homeland to our own. As she explains it, sex is given so freely in her kingdom that the oldest profession has never existed. In fact, out of all twenty universes, Earth is the only planet where people have ever commoditized sex at all.

Over the course of his adventure, which involves slaying beasts as well as performing impromptu poetry recitals, Oscar is gradually indoctrinated into Star’s way of life. His continued threats to pull down her pants become less violent and more akin playful banter. It’s eventually revealed that Star is indeed a galactic overlord of sorts, a position she’s able to hold thanks to unspecified scientific advances.

                By endocrine control of some sort, Star was left free of Eve’s rhythm but in all ways young– not pills or hormone injections; this was permanent. She was simply a healthy woman who never had “bad days”. This was not for her convenience but to insure that her judgment as the Great Judge would never be whipsawed by her glands.

His quest complete, Oscar finds himself with nothing to do but get into arguments about whether he’s a gigolo or not. Star begs him to take his leave and come back in three hundred years after she’s had time to upload all her wisdom into a cybernetic computer. So Oscar skips out on the next Pan Am flight to Earth. But the women of our planet prove too inhibited for him. It’s then suggested that the only way we’ll ever solve this dilemma is by training girls properly from before the age of 12.

This book was nominated for a Hugo in 1964. If I lived at time when that could happen, I’d want off the planet, too.

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