Utopias in Science Fiction Robert A. Heinlein's Glory Road

About the science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein and history of his envisioned utopia written about in the novel Glory Road.



His Utopia: GLORY ROAD (1963)

"Scar" Gordon, a GI veteran from Southeast Asia, is recruited by a stunningly beautiful blond for a dangerous mission to an unknown country. After being transported across dimensions into a primitive land where rifles simply won't work, Gordon is given his first test, Igli, a creature which can't be killed (since, like the Golem, it has never really been alive). In the course of their fight, Scar forces the thing's foot into its mouth and makes it literally consume itself until it disappears. Later, on this same planet, Scar and the girl (Star) are hosted by Doral on his large estate. Doral lives the good life of the overlord, the strong ruler who runs his life without interference from government, law, or officials. He takes what he wants, does as he pleases, considers honor an essential part of his code, fights, brawls, drinks, and makes love in gargantuan proportions, and looks after his people (numbering several hundred, including his many offspring) in a patronizing manner. To Heinlein, this is evidently a good thing. Scar and Star must leave this paradise, however, to fight battles elsewhere. Star, it seems, is actually the ruler of a multidimensional empire, and one of the key elements of her rule, a device storing the memories and experiences of her 203 predecessors in office, has been stolen. The recovery of the "egg" is vital to the security of the empire. Without the knowledge stored in the cybernetic device, Star would be unable to hold the fabric of society together for very long.

The battle is won, of course, as it always is in Heinlein, and Scar becomes an onlooker. The empress is not really an empress, we are told; rather, she solves problems brought to her by her subjects. The guiding principle is "Don't do anything" unless absolutely necessary. "Above all, don't put serious problems to a popular vote. Oh, there is no rule against local democracy, just in imperial matters .... An Emperor had no power. Yet, if Star decided that a certain planet should be removed, people would get busy and there would be a nova in that sky. The Emperor is sole source of imperial law, sole judge, sole executive--and does very little and has no way to enforce his rulings." Heinlein's utopia stresses individualism; his is a Calvinistic world, where a small, predestined elect rule over great flocks of sheeplike humanity. The world of the empress has been remade by man into a never-never land of pleasure. But Scar finds it dull, because man must also have challenges to add spice to life. So he splits from Star, returns to Earth, abandons it also, and then returns once again to the life of the wandering adventurer, the free fighting man without responsibilities. Heinlein's universe is more a utopia of spirit than of place.

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