Like Starship Troopers meets Gordon Frohman!
July 30, 2007 8:00 PM   Subscribe

BookFilter: I read an odd science fiction book when I was younger, but then it got lost in a move long ago and ever since I've been wondering what it was.

It's especially strange because I don't know how we got the book in the first place—a random book sale? Garage sale? Someone gave us a box of old books? Who knows. Anyways, here's what I remember:
  • It's a vaguely satirical book about war.
  • At the beginning of the novel a recruiter comes to the podunk town where the protagonist lives, and convinces Our Hero that the space navy is the place for him. The recruiter may or may not have only one arm.
  • At some point Our Hero, lured into the navy by thoughts of fame and fortune, finds himself pressed into service as a bottom-of-the-barrel combat grunt—I think he gets crammed into the rear turret of some giant spaceship or something. The gleaming starship enters a giant battle, and most of its crew dies due to big explosions and laser fire and stuff—but not Our Hero, who manages to survive mainly because no one's bothered to shoot out his tiny little gun turret. He is promptly promoted, showered with medals, and declared a hero.
  • Fresh off all this success, Our Hero goes on shore leave on some distant paradise planet, but because he's still basically the podunk backwater kid from the beginning of the story, he manages to a) lose all his medals, b) all his ID, and c) any record that he was a soldier. Hijinks ensue.
  • I don't remember much about the rest (and there is quite a bit more), except that at the end Our Hero goes to other backwater planets as a recruiter himself. He may or may not have one arm at this point—I seem to remember the book making a point of Our Hero being similar in every way to the recruiter that conscripted him at the beginning of the novel.
If I don't find this book, at least I've provided you with a vaguely amusing summary! But any hints you might have about the identity of this novel would be greatly appreciated!
posted by chrominance to Media & Arts (12 answers total)
Best answer: Harry Harrison's Bill, the Galactic Hero?
posted by Justinian at 8:05 PM on July 30, 2007

Best answer: That has to be it. The plot summary from this archived Wikipedia page matches almost exactly.
posted by niles at 8:18 PM on July 30, 2007

Spoilers...It is Bill the Galactic Hero. The giant city-planet is a parody of Trantor, I believe. At the end of the book he recruits his own brother, despite knowing how awful the service is, and despite the impassioned pleas of his own mother, who he barely recognizes.
posted by maxwelton at 8:56 PM on July 30, 2007

Yeah, that's got to be BtGH. I vaguely remember that it had some sequels, which were terrible.
posted by hattifattener at 8:58 PM on July 30, 2007

He had two right arms - the service had a shortage of left arms.
He didn't mind much after he realized he could shake hands with himself.

"Up the Chingers!"
posted by Crosius at 9:46 PM on July 30, 2007

Wow - definitely not bowb your buddy week here, is it?
posted by Chunder at 1:33 AM on July 31, 2007

A spoof of Starship Troopers for the most part.
posted by A189Nut at 4:07 AM on July 31, 2007

The original Bill, The Galactic Hero is pretty awesome (well, maybe I'll always love it because I found it hilarious when I was 12) - but watch out for the sequels that Harrison (and possibly other authors) wrote years later. I think the first sequel might be passable, but then they quickly go WAY downhill.
posted by chr1sb0y at 5:38 AM on July 31, 2007

I'd totally forgotten about that book. Awesome.
posted by Happy Dave at 5:50 AM on July 31, 2007

It was Bill himself who wound up with two right arms. I think he inherited Deathwish Drang's fangs, too.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:02 AM on July 31, 2007

Response by poster: I go away for the night and it turns out the answer arrived in FIVE MINUTES. Score another for AskMe!

How fitting that I read this as a kid, but never Starship Troopers or any of Heinlein's other works. I really, really need to get on that. Thanks everyone!
posted by chrominance at 10:34 AM on July 31, 2007

Dunno if you'll check this thread again, but if you do and you're interested, the usual way to go is to read Starship Troopers along with Joe Haldeman's The Forever War which is often regarded as a response to the former by a veteran of Vietnam. Forever War is considered a classic and is one of the few novels to win both the Hugo and Nebula awards. (Starship Troopers won the Hugo Award but the Nebulas didn't exist for some years after it's publication).

John Steakley's Armor is generally considered another major novel along these lines.
posted by Justinian at 11:20 AM on July 31, 2007

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