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Book Note: Robert A. Heinlein, Glory Road

I read this book about 20-Nov-2001. I've read this book before. The book is copyright 1963. This note was last modified Thursday, 19-Dec-2002 16:25:41 PST.

This note contains spoilers for the book.


Another old, old, favorite. A paperback my mother brought home for me when I was sick, if I remember correctly (3rd Avon printing, March 1966).

What a great opening. "I could go back. I could—"

"I was twenty-one, but couldn't figure out which party to vote against." (p. 11) This may be the first place I encountered that model, but boy do I make a lot of use of it.

I really wonder how much Heinlein intended the on-Earth parts to be the real world, and how much was science-fictional projection. The war that Oscar gets drafted into is clearly Vietnam (his father was in WWII and Korea; the second being the war the soldiers weren't allowed to win; the book was first published in 1963, which was well before big involvement in Vietnam, but the war there was perking along; the location is given as "Southeast Asia" on page 15), but the description of "his generation" (which is, in fact, my generation) seems completely off the mark both to me personally and from what I've read about the rest of us. "Nevertheless, I love my country. Yes, I do, despite propaganda all through school about how patriotism is obsolete." That wasn't my experience; I went to school during the "pledge of allegiance" days, when patriotism was hammered home constantly. He then argues that after conditioning people against patriotism, they'll react badly to a draft notice, and I can see how that would be true; I just don't see it as what happened. "We were worse; we were the 'Safe Generation'." Very much not what I saw happening in the 60s. Actually, seems to describe the 50s perfectly.

"Major Ian Hay, back in the 'War to End War,' described the structure of military organizations: Regardless of T.O., all military bureaucracies consist of a Surprise Party Department, a Practical Joke Department, and a Fairy Godmother department. The first two process most matters, as the third is very small; the Fairy Godmother Department is one elderly female GS-5 clerk usually out on sick leave." A classic, and describes many organizations very usefully. And full points for crediting the source, of course.

And on p. 19, "I don't gamble, if you will concede that poker is a game of skill." Also one I've used a lot.

I never did buy the diatribe against Logic on p. 60, though. "Logic is a way of saying anything that didn't happen yesterday won't happen tomorrow." Well, no. Logic is no such thing. Logic is used to make all sorts of astounding predictions, and some of them even come true.

P. 69, "...a habit worse than marijuana though not as expensive as heroin." He's talking about reading. Well, given the company he's put them with, I guess I can't legitemately complain that this is a confused anti-drug message, eh?

Yep, this is definitely an old friend; so many things I remember well that I want to call out as they go by. I'm trying to limit it to the ones that might conceivably mean something to somebody else; sorry if they don't.

"I didn't tell him that the American Eagle eats carrion, never tackles anything its own size, and will soon be extinct—it does stand for those ideals. A symbol means what you put into it." (p. 152) I'd forgotten that came from this book, and about the meeting with Lerdki 't Pug Easy. I'm still doubtful that Congressman's lies, and prayer, do no harm, however.

And in the end they actually make it through. The scene with Rufo late in the book, where he points out to Oscar that Star is in many senses completely out of his class (at thinking, and manipulating Heros) is very finely done. And after all, the Empress of the 20 Universes must be a pretty special person, eh?

At the end, he seems to have decided to give up his plan to run his own engineering company, and to go back on the Glory Road. Feels almost like Modesty Blaise and Willy Garvin—addicted to the adrenaline, roughly speaking.

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David Dyer-Bennet