I just re-read Glory Road,
Heinlein's only true fantasy, and in the reading I realized that it was the first of his books that I read. I was fourteen, and Jack Anderson (a friend who lived next door, not the columnist) suggested it. Jack's taste ran to Matt Helm and The Enforcer and Modesty Blaise--Heinlein was a benign, almost feminist selection, comparatively. I liked the humor and the energy of Glory Road
, the fencing and the invention. I didn't see the misogyny (which was sort of a feature of a lot of SF and adventure fiction at the time); the sexual politics didn't horrify me, though I dimly recall that I thought them rather old hat. The politics-politics either went over my head or seemed utterly dismissable at the time (I don't think I connected the war that Oscar fought in with Vietnam--I think I connected it to Korea, despite the evidence of the text) and the odd spanking fetish did too. Whatever I took from the book when I was fourteen, it was enough so that I went out and found his other books and read them all, over a two or three year period.
As I remember the chronology, Glory Road
came out right after Stranger in a Strange Land
, a book as freewheeling in its way as Glory Road
. Then came Farnum's Freehold,
which is a deeply problematic book--not so much because of the sexual politics which made Heinlein's later few books so troublesome, but because it sets up a situation in which the protagonist can do every unpleasant thing it occurs to him to do because the situation "requires" it. It's a fish-shoot: put the fish in the barrel and take your best shot, you can't miss. But then, after the weird nastiness of Farnum
comes my favorite Heinlein novel, The Moon's a Harsh Mistress
. So everyone is entitled to an off day, or an off book. But I'm sure glad I started out with Glory Road,
for all its flaws, and not with Farnum's Freehold.