Harrison, Harry. Bill, the Galactic Hero.

Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1965.

The late Harry Harrison was a master of the tongue-in-cheek adventure-parody and this is one of his best, a wolfishly cynical satire of Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, which had appeared a few years before. (It was popular among disaffected Vietnam veterans for just that reason.)

Bill is a muscular young farm lad who finds himself shanghaied into the Imperial Troopers by Sgt. Deathwish Drang and his vat-grown tusks. After an appalling stint in boot camp, he finds himself assigned to the flagship Christine Keeler (a name few of today’s younger readers will recognize but which was much in the news when the book was written) to go and fight the fearsome seven-foot-tall reptilian Chingers. Who actually turn out to be seven inches tall, but the military keeps that under wraps for the purposes of morale. After a devastating attack, Bill becomes an official hero by accidentally leaning on a gun-control lever at the right moment and is sent off to collect his medal on the capital world of Helior. Being covered by city (the place bears some resemblance to Asimov’s Trantor), a floor plan is mandatory and loss of it is punishable by dire consequences. So, of course, Bill loses his, gets lost, ends up at the bottom of the planet, is rescued by the Garbage Department (the “G-men”), is dragooned into a revolution, is dragooned again as a spy by Imperial Security, and is finally relocated by the troopers — who, naturally, arrest him for desertion. It’s quite a life, but Bill is gradually learning how to fend for himself and how to think like the army.

This is a classic and it spawned a whole series (Harry was professional enough not to pass up a good thing), but this is the only one you really need to read.

Published in: on 15 July 2013 at 5:32 pm  Comments (1)  
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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Yeah, him, Sladek, Kornbltuh, and Sheckley were some of the better satirists of the day

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