Glory Road

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Glory Road is a fantasy novel by Robert A. Heinlein, originally serialized in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (July - September 1963) and published in hardcover later the same year. It was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1964, losing to Way Station.[1]

Contents

Plot summary

Evelyn Cyril "E.C." Gordon (also known as "Easy" and "Flash") has been recently discharged from an unnamed war in Southeast Asia. He is pondering what to do with his future and considers spending a year traveling in France. He is presented with a dilemma: follow up on a possible winning entry in the Irish Sweepstakes or respond to a newspaper ad which asks "Are you a coward?". He settles on the latter discovering it has been placed by Star, a stunningly gorgeous woman he had previously met on l'Île du Levant. Star informs him that he is the one to embark on a perilous quest to retrieve the Egg of the Phoenix. When she asks what to call him, he wants to suggest Scarface, referring to the scar on his face, but she stops him as he is saying "Oh, Scar..." and repeats this as "Oscar", and thus gives him his new name. Along with Rufo, her assistant, who appears to be a man in his fifties, they tread the "Glory Road" in swashbuckling style, slaying minotaurs, dragons, and other creatures.

Shortly before the final quest for the Egg itself, Oscar and Star get married. The team then proceeds to enter the tower in which the Egg has been hidden, navigating a maze of illusions and optical tricks. Oscar scouts ahead and finds himself crossing swords with a fearsome foe who resembles Cyrano de Bergerac. He then defeats the final guardian of the Egg, known only as the "Never-Born", in a mental fight, and the party escapes with the Egg. While they arrive in the universe of Star, Rufo informs Oscar that Star is actually the empress of many worlds—and Rufo's grandmother.

The Egg is a cybernetic device that contains the knowledge and experiences of most of her predecessors. Despite her youthful appearance, she is the mother of dozens of children, and has undergone special medical treatments that extend her life much longer than usual. She has Oscar unknowingly receive the same treatments.

Initially, Oscar enjoys his new-found prestige and luxurious life as the husband of the empress of worlds across the Twenty Universes. However, as time goes on, he grows bored and feels out of place and useless. When he demands Star's professional judgment, she tells him that he must leave; her world has no place or need for a hero of his stature. It will be decades before she can complete the transfer of the knowledge held in the Egg, so he must go alone. He returns to Earth, but has difficulty readjusting to his own world, despite having brought great wealth along with him. He begins to doubt his own sanity and whether the adventure even happened. The story ends as he is contacted by Rufo to set up another trip on the Glory Road, which is, by this point, revealed as an allegory for Life's Adventure.

Genre and setting

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