Wilson & Alroy on High Fantasy Novels  

Robert Heinlein

Everyone's heard of Heinlein, one of the very most important mid-20th century science fiction authors outside of Asimov and Clarke. I have nothing insightful to say about his long career, other than to note that his one widely-discussed fantasy book, reviewed below, is really a pretty pathetic excuse for fantasy - not nearly on the level of (say) Jurgen (Heinlein much later titled a novel Job: A Comedy Of Justice, thereby stealing Jurgen's subtitle, and gave it a somewhat similar plotline).

Glory Road (1963)
I'm just the man for this job. If you're going to review a sci fi novel thinly disguised as fantasy, you've got to have guts. You've got to know that important judgments should be made by the elite, and democracy doesn't work in reviewing. You've got to be wowed by Heinlein's premise of a Vietnam vet recruited to teleport between planets so he can hack and slash his way through fantasy monsters, rescue his sexy goddess-like female employer, and carry out a Holy Grail-style quest. You've got to get a rise out of Heinlein's references to Burroughs and Cabell, and even a mention of hobbits, although he's more interested in wild-eyed science fiction speculation. You've got to think that cliché-ridden tough-guy dialogue is screamingly funny instead of ridiculous. You've got to be macho enough to write off the book's long hang-wringing "unhappily ever after" coda. You've got to realize that women are manipulative bitches, or you won't appreciate Heinlein's insightful misogyny and forthright obsession with sex. And seriously, you've got to be impressed with Heinlein's jaded view of the Vietnam war, way before that was fashionable, his ability to keep a plotline moving along, and the sheer Cabellian wackiness of the whole thing. But maybe I've got better things to do. (JA)