That cover is both entirely accurate and grossly misleading.
ARE YOU A COWARD? This is not for you. We badly need a brave man. He must be 23 to 25 years old, in perfect health, at least six feet tall, weigh about 190 pounds, fluent English with some French, proficient with all weapons, some knowledge of engineering and mathematics essential, willing to travel, no family or emotional ties, indomitably courageous and handsome of face and figure. Permanent employment, very high pay, glorious adventure, great danger. You must apply in person...
Glory Road is a Science Fiction novel written by Robert A. Heinlein and published in 1963, originally in serial form. It is a Reconstruction of the standard pulp adventure novels of the era.The Hero, Oscar Gordon, is a dashing ne'er-do-well who gets through life mainly by figuring out creative ways to avoid any real responsibility, while practicing such esoteric arts as swordsmanship. The Distressed Damsel, Star, is in reality an Empress, who is seeking out Oscar because a very sophisticated computer analysis determined him to have precisely those qualities needed to rescue the Egg of the Phoenix, a device containing all the accumulated wisdom of millennia of Emperors and vital to ruling the Twenty Universes. She is accompanied by a shifty fellow by the name of Rufo who seemingly embodies all the dirty fighting tricks known to mankind.Together they embark on a swashbuckling romp to confront the thief, in which all of Oscar's qualities come into play. After an exceedingly narrow victory, the triumphant hero travels to Star's planet where he marries her and becomes her consort, with all the riches and knowledge of the Twenty Universes at his command. Then he discovers that he's completely unsuited to this life and is far happier out on the Glory Road having adventures.
Provides Examples Of:
Absurdly Youthful Mother: Grandmother actually, in an immortality (or something similar) take on the trope. Star is Rufo's grandmother, but looks much younger due to their both undergoing the "longevity treatment" but having differing preferences as to desired physical age.
Achievements in Ignorance: Oscar, knowing nothing of hypergeometry, somehow manages to feed Igli to himself, thereby killing the unkillable construct. He is complimented on this by Star and Rufo.
The Ageless: Star is described in this fashion when Oscar first sees her and finds it difficult to place her exact age. It actually turns out to be a pretty accurate assessment of her age and that of others from her culture.
Author Appeal: Casual nudism, a strong female protagonist, multiversal travel, a Free-Love Future, and a Libertarian utopia — all trademarks of Heinlein's writing.
Author Avatar: When asked by a fan which of his many characters was intended to represent himself, Heinlein jokingly claimed it was Igli.
Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: Count Cagliostro, an adventurer/con artist who claimed to be immortal is explained as being one of Star's relatives who underwent the same longevity treatment.
Big Labyrinthine Building: The Mile-High Tower, where the bad guys hid the Egg. It's so elaborate, in fact, that hundreds of Star's spies died figuring out the route to its hiding place.
Blue and Orange Morality: Star is shocked to find out that sex is a salable commodity in Oscar's reality. In her world, a woman's sexuality is considered an integral part of her spiritual existence and it can not be bought and sold, only partaken of as a gift of the woman. She's also upleasantly surprised to find out that Oscar turned down the sexual advances of their host's daughter and wife the night before. While he was perfectly willing to bed the wife, the Oscar deflated at the thought of bedding the daughter; she just looked too young for him and triggered his age taboo. Their host was so insulted that he turned down their gift that he expelled them from his home at first light. After the problem was explained, however, Oscar ended up with the host's wife and older daughter.
Bothering by the Book/Obstructive Bureaucrat: Oscar remarks "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."
Brain Uploading: Of a sort — the Egg contains the recorded memories of thousands of years of Emperors/Empresses, and part of each Emperor's job is to use the Egg to imprint himself with the memories of all his predecessors.
Clark's Third Law: Oscar reflects that the technology in use by Star's folks is so advanced that it might as well be magic.
Congruent Memory: Rufo learned to shave by doing it on corpses, so he can only shave Oscar while he's lying down. He claims to have learned this from his time as an undertaker. Star says she can't remember him ever being an undertaker, but since both of them lie as easily as they breathe, it's hard to tell who's being honest there.
Dagwood Sandwich: Oscar offers to create one for a girl he meets at a party on Center. Primitive Earth culture at least has this novelty to offer.
Death World: Karth-Hokesh. Humans can survive there for only a few hours. It may also count as Mordor, since the novel hasn't dropped all pretense of being a fantasy story by that point.
Democracy Is Flawed: A doctor of sociology of a highly advanced civilization mentions to the hero (who is from present day Earth) that Democracy is, "a good system for beginners", while stating that advanced civilizations have far better ways of government.
Doing in the Wizard : Up to and including the Mile-High Tower, the book is a fairly straightforward fantasy novel. Afterward, most of the "magic" is revealed as advanced technology from elsewhere in the Twenty Universes.
Draft Dodging: Oscar tries very hard to avoid getting into the unnamed conflict in Southeast Asia, but eventually resigns himself to it as there are no other viable options. Interestingly, the conflict seems to be in Vietnam, although the book was published in 1963, well before the period of major U.S. combat involvement there began.
Dueling Scar: Oscar considers attending Heidelberg so he can earn dueling scars. He thinks they'll be worth extra pay from a defense industry job.
Embarrassing First Name: Oscar was born "Evelyn Cyril". His nickname, "E. C.", or "Easy", isn't much better. He's quite pleased when Star dubs him Oscar.
Flynning: Discussed and averted — Oscar's final duel with the Eater of Souls is decidedly not play fighting.
Fountain of Youth: Longevity therapy is standard in Star's culture (very similar in principle to that discussed in Time Enough For Love). She herself has lived several centuries and has Oscar treated the same way, unknowingly.
Free-Love Future: Marriage in Star's society comes in infinite varieties and with infinite customs; the one rule she makes about it is that everyone has to respect everyone else's rules. In Center, the heart of the Empire, they work on a "toss your shoes" rule. Marriage is as simple as moving in, and if she wants you out, you'll find your shoes on the doorstep.
Good Scars, Evil Scars: Oscar is named by Star for the scar on his face, earned during a bayonet fight with an enemy soldier.
Heroes Prefer Swords: By Vietnam-era Earth history, swordsmanship is an obsolete art; the fact that Oscar knows it is one of the things that makes him attractive to Star as a potential Hero, and it turns out to be absolutely vital. Oscar remarks that all true heroes should have one.
Hyperspace Arsenal: Literally. The trunk that Rufo and Star bring with them is collapsible down to the size of a small pack but opens up into a massive armory. In a rare realistic treatment, the amount of energy required to accomplish this causes the thing to explode like a bomb when it's accidentally dropped into a swamp.
I Have Many Names: Star has truckloads. It comes with being the monarch of Twenty Universes.
In Harm's Way: Oscar's primary occupation. He calls it "being a Hero".
I Shall Taunt You: Used on the indestructible construct Igli to get him mad enough to disregard common sense tactics.
Magitek: From Oscar's point of view, all of Star's gadgetry and "witchcraft" is this. From her point of view, it's just science.
The Milky Way Is the Only Way: Although Star rules the Twenty Universes, it is unclear whether any of them managed to get out of their local version of the Milky Way — if they even have one, as the laws of physics are different in each one.
The Multiverse: Inter-universal as well as interstellar travel is part of Star's technology. At times the lines blur between whether a planet is in a different universe or merely a different solar system.
Mummies at the Dinner Table: Star relates a tale of a woman who had her deceased husbands stuffed and mounted and kept them in her house.
Naked First Impression: Oscar first meets Star on Īle du Levant, a Mediterranean island where casual nudity is accepted and indeed required.
Named Weapons: Oscar's sword, "Lady Vivamus". He named it from the motto etched onto it, "Dum vivimus, vivamus!" (While we live, let us live.)
Really 700 Years Old: Star's age is never nailed down; Oscar says she looks somewhere between 18 and 25, depending on what she's doing. After the Egg is recovered, she's revealed to be Rufo's grandmother. She admits that she deliberately makes herself look the age where "a woman has just stopped growing and started aging."
Waterfall Shower: Oscar and Star bathe under several waterfalls in the area called the Singing Waters (so named for the sounds the water makes falling over them).
What You Are in the Dark: Occurs almost literally to Oscar in the Mile-High Tower — crawling through a lightless tunnel with rats for company. The fact that it may have been an illusion created by the Eater of Souls makes him no less brave for overcoming it.
Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?: Oscar's father bestowed "Evelyn Cyril" on him out of respect for a deceased ancestor, but he remarks that it caused him to learn to fight before he learned to read.