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Bill, the Galactic Hero [Paperback]

Harry Harrison
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Nov. 1 1979

It was the highest honor to defend the Empire against the dreaded Chingers, an enemy race of seven-foot-tall lizards.

But Bill, a Technical Fertilizer Operator from a planet of farmers, wasn't interested in honor-he was only interested in two things: his chosen career, and the shapely curves of Inga-Maria Calyphigia. Then a recruiting robot shanghaied him with knockout drops, and he came to in deep space, aboard the Empire warship Christine Keeler. And from there, things got even worse...

From the sweltering fuse room aboard the Keeler, where he loses an arm while blasting a Chinger spaceship, to the Department of Sanitation far below the world-city of Helior, where he finds peace, job security, and unlimited is Bill, a pure-hearted fool fighting a deluxe cast of robots, androids, and aliens in a never-ending losing battle to preserve his humanity while upholding the glory of the Empire.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

Product Description


'Simply the funniest Science Fiction book ever written' -- Terry Pratchett

'The Catch-22 of SF' -- Irish Times

'Wonderfully funny ... irresistable' -- Brian Aldiss --This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition.

About the Author

Harry Harrison is one of the established greats of SF The Stainless Steel Rat is his most popular creation 'The Rat can hold his head up high amongst the most elevated superhero company; Bulldog Drummond, James Bond and Flash Gordon' TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Made Me Laugh Nov. 9 2003
It's very rare for me to read a novel (especialy an SF novel) that can make me laugh out loud, but this one made me, several times. It's about a lunkhead named Bill, kidnapped and pressed
into the military, who encounters bad luck after bad luck, all the while trying desperately to maintain his cheerfulness, indeed his humanity. Harrison tweaks a lot of people in this book--Heinlein's gobbledygook in _Starship Troopers,_ Asimov's Trantor in _Foundation Trilogy_ (who takes out the garbage on a planet completely covered in buildings, with a hundred billion or so people?). This is a funny book, half humor, half
horror, and might be just Harrison's best.
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You don't have to be a science fiction fan to like this book. There are no long, technical discussions of imaginary future technologies nor does the human race become different than it is now. What this book does as well or better than any other book is provide hilarious commentary on war and government as it follows the adventures of an everyman named Bill as he is drafted, sent to war, lied to, cheated and abused by every institution and bureacrat he comes in contact with. (Kind of reminds you of modern-day civilization, doesn't it?)
The simple plot follows a farm laborer named Bill as he is tricked into joining the army in a future inter-galactic war. I first read this book as a teen-ager and loved it though of course the military and the government were really our friends and not run by nut-cases concerned only with their own advancement as in the book. Well, re-reading this 30 years later after 4 years active duty and 5 in the reserves (They don't tell you that you can never leave the military if your specialty is needed when you try to resign) I find that this "satire" is a lot closer to the real military than almost any sincere book you can think of. Almost every ridiculously improbable military event in the book reminded me of similar real-life occurrences I participated in or heard about.
All in all, this book is entertaining and forces you to laugh even as identical monstrously wrong things happen in your own life. And, in case you're wondering, Bill does not triumph over the system, but ends up one more victim of bureaucracy and civilization.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Terry Pratchett fans - this is the beginning April 4 2004
I went to a Terry Pratchett book signing, and during the Q & A he mentioned that reading Bill The Galactic Hero forever altered the way he looked at fiction. I got a used copy and had high hopes for the laughs to come.
Boy, did they! Harry Harrison turns so many outworn cliches of science fiction and rocket pulp on their ear you'll get a crick in your neck. I laughed regularly through the whole thing, with some really good ones in the middle.
BTGH is the story of a backwoods farmboy who is shanghaied into military service because he looks just the type - big and strong, but dumber than a plant. During his training period, however, we find that our hero is quicker to notice things that we expected, and learns valuable lessons that are easily applicable to life, especially if you have a job you hate. To wit:
1) Shut up.
2) When the going gets tough, it'll get worse.
3) Never, ever, ever volunteer.
4) and Shut up.
Bill is slung through various attempts on his life in the course of military service, is awarded hero status, then promptly criminalized for missing his transport (because he gets lost, and there's a map, it's a long story) and gets wrapped up in a secret organization trying to take over the government, but he's working for the government as an informant, and all he really wants to do is get back to being a Fertilizer technician.
And I didn't even mention the war with the Chingers.
This book is a very quick read, and very entertaining, and required reading for any Terry Pratchett fan. I gave it four stars, beacuse it's the first in a series, and I really dislike having to read books in order, especially if there's more than two. But if you like your fiction with a good satiric twist, and non-stop, panic-addled action, find a used copy like I did, and give Bill the Galactic Hero a try.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't Put It Down Nov. 15 2001
I haven't read a book such as this in many years. You felt sad for Bill the way he was enlisted in the army. Harry Harrison kept Bill's adventure always interesting and exciting. Never a dull moment. What amazes me the most is Harry Harrison in-depth understanding of the military. This story is a must read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A classic send-off of a classic June 4 2001
This is a classic (originally published about thirty years ago) parody of RAH's "Starship Troopers". As parody and satire, it works very well; a bit less so if you want to read it as a simple "adventure book". A needed counterpart to all militaristic science-fiction, good, or bad.
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