- Series: Sf Stainless Steel Rat Series
- Hardcover: 208 pages
- Publisher: I Books (May 22, 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0743423763
- ISBN-13: 978-0743423762
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 8.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 56 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,187,381 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Bill the Galactic Hero (Sf Stainless Steel Rat Series) Hardcover – May 22, 2001
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Alas, at some point in the last couple of years my dog-eared copy was transported to the center of the nearest sun after I lent it to another soul in need of neural recollimation, so I needed to procure an alternate copy. Happily, not only did I find a reprint of this classic, but I was also able to procure this copy, complete with Harry Harrison's signature. This little treasure is now happily ensconced (in protective plastic) on my bookshelf with many other Harry Harrison books.
A double-handed salute to the late, great master!
I've heard about "Bill" for years, and for some reason never got my hands on a copy. I've read all of Harrison's Stainless Steel Rat books (the first few were the best) and Deathworld trilogy (all were excellent). Then I found this while wandering around the Kindle store and decided to give it a try.
It really doesn't make any sense, except as a parody. You never really get to care about Bill or relate to him, or the very peculiar universe he lives in, or its perpetual state of bureaucratic incompetence, and its never-ending war.
Once you accept the fact that nothing makes sense and just roll with it, the book is a quick read. There aren't many characters, the plots are very one-dimensional (straight line), and the dialog is minimal.
Consider this a quick read for a Harry Harrison fan, and you'll be good. It didn't suck. It never made me laugh either. A lot of people say this is the SciFi version of "Catch-22." Yeah. But it's very thin as a parody. "Bored of the Rings," this ain't. "Catch-22," this ain't. To be honest, Harrison has done better.
This book is made up of several short stories, by the way. There are other books about Bill, but I don't intend to read any more of them.
Oh: In 2014 some college film students made a live-action movie out of this book. The actors spend all their time in white space suits, so you can't see them -- and the sound is muffled, so it's hard to heard them. Still, it's impressive given that it was a student project. Watch it here: https://vimeo.com/114775119
Harrison is a master of the genre, and this is a fun, light read, laced with his not well hidden disdain for the military. Worth the read, but not in the stead of the Stainless Steel Rat series.
In many ways, the book's humor is reminiscent of the style of that other 60's era book "Bored of the Rings" (another book that did not make an appearance in the Dallas public libraries, but which I discovered along with the National Lampoon, and other great humor, through a roommate in college).
It's a silly, gentle sort of parody, not the dark, tear into shreds, profanity laced, edgy sort of stuff that we get so much today.
Bill is a farmboy in an outlying planet of the Empire, studying to be a Technical Fertilizer Operator, when he is literally drug-gooned into the Imperial Star Troopers. And thus begins a series of misadventures where Bill becomes a fuse tender (his job is to change the large fuses when they blow under the stresses of battle) on board the spaceship Christine Keeler (I had forgotten this one and had to look it up - Christine Keeler was the call girl who brought down the British Secretary of War John Profumo in 1961 in a sex scandal), and almost by accident becomes a hero, loses a left arm in a space battle, gets the right arm of one of his buddies transplanted so that he has TWO right arms....etc....
You get the idea.
All in all, a fast read and an amusing story, and a reminder of the gentle humor of the 1960's.
I first read this book in grade school. Reading it as an adult I now fully appreciate the fact that this is a hilarious masterpiece of sorts that no SF fan should miss. It is great that this one is now available on Kindle. RJB.