The title and prologue might give you the impression this is a cynical slapstick space opera in the vein of Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. After the first few pages of the Chapter 1 you will know otherwise. (Unless rape is side-splittingly funny to you.) I struggled a little bit to find the tone of this novel but once it resolved itself I found the story and its narrator very compelling. Because it is written as the personal remembrances of the titular character the tone is actually part of the story – and provides insight into the storyteller. There is a real sense of distance between the speaker and stories being told, but it is a distance that is filled with life experience. What is remembered is an important as how it is remembered. There may just be some deep, twisty psycho machinations going on here.
To be sure, I struggled to accept much of what happens in this book. Piers takes his characters to some darkly desperate places. I found myself asking, on occassion, if it was TOO far. But then I realized, it is as it had to be. Without the impossible moral decisions, and even the immoral ones, the characters would not be who they are and frankly, I wouldn’t care as much to see what becomes of them.
Bio of a Space Tyrant is not all doom and gloom. Piers injects the right amount of adventure and even innocence into his novel. While the events unfolding may be bleak, Piers’ (Hope Hubris’) tone keeps the characters from becoming cardboard cutouts of sad-sackery. A blunt awareness of their predicaments and an honest (sometimes funny) assessment of them make these characters fun to read. Here is where some of the Piers’ phrasing and the protagonist’s obsessive tangential ramblings do remind me of Hitchiker’s Guide.
That being said, this is not a book for kids. It is about a frantic band of refugees who bounce across space suffering intolerable conditions and life-shaping disaster. And yet there is a spirit and resiliency in the telling of this story. This short novel is prelude to what I assume is a long and involved series of books chronicling Hope Hubris and his ascendancy to role as Space Tyrant.
The protagonist, Hubris, in this first novel is less hero than survivor. In these early years he is merely a young man clawing his way through adversity and loss; trying to preserve something of his own moral code in the process. As Hubris describes himself, “Part of the horror of my situation was the knowledge that if I had been a better person, I would long since have died.” In Piers’ world humanity is battered but never completely lost. And ultimately, that is what the very best of Sci Fi is meant to demonstrate.
Do yourself a huge favor and download this book (I got mine for appx $3 on Kindle). I’ve yet to find something so satisfying at such a low price. Though it is not next on our reading list, I went ahead and downloaded the follow-up book, Mercenary. If you want an introduction to the Space Opera sub-genre of Sci Fi, this is a completely accessible way to get it.