It’s fatal for someone to tell you that if you don’t find a particular thing funny then you don’t have a sense of humour. You’re undoubtedly not going to find that thing as funny as they feel you should.
With that in mind …
This was recommended to me by an older customer who was reading all the big names in scifi when they were first published back in the 60s and 70s – Asimov, Clarke, Delaney, Aldiss, Heinlein. He’s a great guy and I love talking to him about books. Recently, I expressed an interest in what he would list as his all-time favourite scifi books, and Bill the Galactic Hero was mentioned. Then, unfortunately, those fatal words were uttered: ‘If you don’t find Bill funny then there’s something wrong with you …’. I went ahead and bought it anyway, and … well … it turns out there is something wrong with me because I didn’t laugh.
I got annoyed. I got bored. I rolled my eyes a few times. But no laughing.
So, this will be short.
Things not to like:
- Bill is a bit dim and not really very interesting. And as the book goes on he is changed by his military service into a less nice and even less interesting person. He barely has any depth and no one in this book has any dimension at all.
- There is no hope, no saving grace, no glimmer of humanity. This is a book all about the senselessness, inevitability and stupidity of war. About the ridiculous time-wasting, the indoctrination, the nit-picking and the soul-breaking. About how military service reduces a person into a tool. While I agree with the sentiment, I am already melancholic by nature, and I don’t need to read this type of thing to be reminded that humanity behaves stupidly oftentimes.
Things to like:
- It’s only 160 pages long.
For a much more balanced and insightful take on Bill the Galactic Hero please see this Tor.com article by Alan Brown. (I read it before writing the above in the hope that I could be persuaded into a more even-handed opinion, but turns out, I just can’t).