“Yahtzee” Croshaw is best known for his video game reviews series Zero Punctuation (so named because of the way it’s spoken, edited, and sped up so that you have a hard time knowing where, if any, punctuation exists).
One fun thing about listening to him read his own audiobook, Will Save the Galaxy for Food, is that if you speed up the narration speed to x1.5, he pretty much sounds the same as he does on his show. In fact, listening to him at x1 speed makes him sound downright slow and plodding.
But I digress. Will Save the Galaxy for Food is a satirical science fiction adventure about my favourite kind of space trope—the captain of a small ship just trying to make ends meet. Only… spaceships are kind of obsolete now, what with Quantum Tunnelling being able to teleport people wherever they want in an instant. A rather boring and unglamorous instant. The golden age of space travel has come to an abrupt end.
This has made for an awful lot of out-of-work and nearly out-of-work pilots who were once heroes of a hundred worlds, having defeated countless enemies and saved millions of lives. Now their only means of income is desperately trying to appeal to tourists, literally hounding them at QuanTunnel gates with placards promising tours filled with grand stories of the golden age.
In fact, things are so bad for pilots and pirates alike that many of them have come to an arrangement where pilots will let themselves get attacked by pirates so that they can dump their passenger’s cargo as part of their “escape” and then split the proceeds in secret.
What’s worse, some blowhard named Jaques McKeown has been writing extremely popular adventure novels and stealing all the best stories of all the unemployed and underemployed pilots out there, making him the most hated man of the increasingly unused space lanes. Only nobody has ever seen him.
There are shades of Douglas Adams Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in Yahtzee’s humour, such as a scene where a team of immigration inspectors is thwarted by their own government’s bureaucratic doublespeak. There are also shades of Harry Harrison’s Stainless Steel Rat series, in that you have a world that no longer has room for the bygone era the protagonist represents. At least, not in the conventional sense of making use of their talents.
Anyone familiar with Zero Punctuation knows that Yahtzee lives and breaths sarcasm, and that’s what fuels the humour here, but it does so in a perfectly acceptable way. It’s not sarcasm for sarcasm’s sake; it’s sarcasm that screams against the absurdity of the situation the protagonist finds himself in.
Yahtzee even created a system of swearing (“pilot math”) based on mathematics, due to the fact that Quantum Tunnelling is based on math. So you have terms like “ply” (multiply) and “div” (division) standing in for the colourful language you would otherwise expect to see, and it works surprisingly well.
I would rather avoid discussing the plot of the book directly since much of the humour comes from not knowing what to expect. But suffice it to say, our hero is one of those former heroes now holding out a placard, trying to drum up business and ends up taking a job he really shouldn’t have.
The bulk of the story is dealing with the consequences of that job, trying to get as far away from the job as possible as quickly as possible, and learning along the way that not everyone has handled the obsolescence of space pilots in quite the same way.
Aside from being very funny, the story does look at the theme of moving on. Each of us, in every generation, can look back to something we loved that no longer exists. Some of us try to cling to that nostalgia, some move with the times, and some try to honour the past as well as look to the future.
I picture coal and oil workers desperately trying for ways to discredit green energy and keep their towns viable, people who cling to their CD collections when all the music they could ever hope to listen to can be held on a single solid-state drive, or mourned the passing of the last Blockbuster Video. I have spent a ton of time and effort making a home theatre that approximates the classic movie theatre experience in a time where the very future of movie theatres is in doubt.
I’m not trying to argue the book is deep in that regard, but it is a topic I think we all come to face in our own lifetimes in one way or another.
The book ends in a satisfying enough way for those who like a touch of irony to their humour. But if you don’t agree on that front, rest assured there is a sequel available—Will Destroy the Galaxy for Cash—that will leave our protagonist wondering whether the bad guys he once fought maybe had the right idea all along.