Aaron Bunce's Reviews > Glory Road

Glory Road by Robert A. Heinlein
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really liked it
Read 3 times. Last read February 16, 2017 to February 24, 2017.

Judging and reviewing "Glory Road" today is an interesting, and somewhat difficult, task. Written in 1964, the height of Heinlein's literary success, it becomes apparent very quickly that this story, and its characters, are from a different time, when gender roles were viewed differently, but also when politics and foreign military action were viewed and received differently. Just consider the themes: E.C is drafted and serves in a "foreign military policing action", as the west reacts to the "red scare" that former French colonial territory Indochina, afterwards known as Vietnam, would transition fully into a communist state and shift the balance of the post-WWII, cold war era world. Believe it or not, I considered most of this when I set out to read this book - and unlike some people, whom were insulted or offended by the overtly sexist bits, or Heinlein's more conservative views towards government and the military, I found them fascinating, as if not only looking back onto this masterfully crafted story, but also the time period and sociopolitical undercurrents that shaped it.

I didn't find E.C "Scar" as likable as most of Heinlein's protagonists, and yet, he wasn't entirely unlikable either. His confidence-sometimes bordering on arrogant demeanor made him less relatable for me. But then again, I must also make concessions. This is a young man taken from his home, shipped overseas, and thrust into a conflict people couldn't understand, or support. When considering this, his attitude starts making more sense. A person who looses control of their destiny, or more realistically, their short-term future (draftees) might come back and seek to not only retain some semblance of control over their lives, but also struggle reintegrating into a culture that they are either ill equipped for, or were never allowed to acclimate to before joining military service. This is a concept broached by many authors - and it is something that young men struggle with this very day.

Scar's relationships with Star and Rufo are interesting, and definitely drive the plot, especially when you mix in later twists. Scar's attitude towards women is a mix, as at times he comes off as a misogynist, threatening Star with spankings (not only the hand variety, but with her own sword), but also with how they interact. At other times, Scar slides towards the other end of the spectrum, noting his distaste for the idea of young Vietnamese women (or little sisters as he refers to them) who offer themselves to men at a price. This theme is confronted again while the trio is questing, as Scar is offered a small group of female bed mates by a local lord, as hospitality. Heinlein briefly confronts these issues of sexuality, even confronting legalized prostitution - noting that our earth is the only one in an expansive system of inhabited planets to engage in the barbaric tradition. For the most part, Scar functions as the "A" typical man, exerting control, and thus dominance, on the others in his party. The interesting question that continued to pop into my head is this: Is E.C this way, because that was the male gender role of the time - the strong, dominant, head-of-the-household type that makes women sub servant, or, is this the post military, combat veteran reestablishing himself in a world void of strict military discipline, rank, and chain of command? Was he trying to retake control of his life? Or was this ingrained or learned misogyny.

Story wise, Heinlein mixes equal parts fantasy and science fiction, which work very well together. The plot moves at a crisp pace - and I love that he didn't end the story at the cliched moment "quest complete/item retrieved, hero and heroine return to kingdom and live happily ever after." Yes, some people will fault the ending as weak, but I found it intriguing. It speaks to Scar's character, the relationships he builds with Star and Rufo along the way, as well as a natural, intrinsic wanderlust suffered by people whose lives have been altered by war or dramatic change. The Glory Road, much like the soldier's path tears down much, if not all, of what a person's knows or expects. It changes their views, their ideals, but mostly, what they will come to expect and demand out of the world, and the people around them. You don't simply live through something like that and expect to go unchanged - no, you will be a different person. I believe that is one of the central themes Heinlein was trying to confront in this book. How the conflict of the road for glory changes us, and thus, how and where we fit into society afterwards.

In the end, I found Glory Road a fun, engaging read well-worth my time.

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Reading Progress

February 16, 2017 – Started Reading
February 16, 2017 – Started Reading
February 16, 2017 – Started Reading
February 16, 2017 – Shelved
February 16, 2017 –
Finished Reading
February 21, 2017 –
February 23, 2017 – Finished Reading
February 24, 2017 – Finished Reading

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