Book reviews, art, gaming, Objectivism and thoughts on other topics as they occur.

Jan 5, 2006

Glory Road

I pulled this Heinlein novel off my shelf because the first time I tried to read it I didn't finish, a rarity for me. It's a decent book, but I think I was suffering from a surfeit of Heinlein at the time and halfway was as far as I got.

For anyone familiar with Heinlein's writing the characters are completely expected, almost featureless, a trait exacerbated by the fact that they don't seem to have any permanent names of their own, but an endless string of somewhat-related nicknames. I think this is Heinlein's way of indicating that they have no permanent ties to anything, not even their own identity, which they pick up and put away whenever it suits them.

I, personally, am rather attached to my name, so much so that I even use it publicly online, which is supposedly a big no-no. I respect people who feel a need to have several discrete identities for different purposes, but it's not for me.

The cheerfully self-interested, practical, matter-of-fact tale about the Hero Quest for the Great Woojum to prevent the Disaster Terrible Beyond Naming is fun to read, and like all Heinlein contains frequent snippets of real-life wisdom such as:

"It is the incidence of Heroes that counts, not the pattern of zeros."

"Men are shy, whereas females simply have customs."

The really interesting thing about this book is Heinlein's version of an appropriate happy ending: the princess, the universe, wealth, prestige, power . . . not enough. Excitement, danger, your mind and your skills pitted against the whole of the universe . . . that's a happy ending. It's not the having that makes you happy . . . it's the getting.

1 comment:

Robert W. Franson said...

Interesting points about names.

I suspect Heinlein in Glory Road deliberately deals with plot and characters which are more abstract than he usually provides, and the nicknames suggest attributes rather than individuals of substance.

The use of pseudonyms on the Net grew out of early user-names / login-names which were necessarily short and tended to be single names, nicknames, or odd words. Hence the tendency to role-play in real discussions online; to alphabetize lists of real names by their first names; and some other quirks of the Net.