Pay Me, Bug!

I finished Christopher Wright’s Pay Me, Bug! last night, and I’ve gotta say, I enjoyed the heck out of it. It was a space opera in the best sense of the term; in fact, I think I’d argue that it’s the best example of a space opera I’ve ever read.1 It’s got, at least, that most important aspect of a space opera: a sense that huge things are happening… in the background.

Because, to me, a space opera isn’t about those huge things happening. It’s about the fact that space is so mind-blowingly big that you can’t even hope to comprehend everything that’s going on. Sure, Pay Me, Bug! takes place in a fairly organized universe, in which there’s really only three big players to keep track of,2 but it’s still a huge, confusing space. A theocratic empire ruled by telepaths, a loosely-aligned group of planets that accounts for more than half the galactic population but doesn’t have a cohesive enough government to prevent the formation of some really nasty spy agencies, and finally a set of systems that were bought outright and stand as a testament to capitalism gone mad. It’s beautiful chaos, and it worked perfectly.

The book also gets points for good use of science-fiction tech, with the sort of hand-waving that’s totally in-character for the narrator,3 and there’s a few of the type of scene that every space opera needs – spectacular in scale, a depiction of an engineering marvel unparalleled in the real world, and, of course, so utterly cinematic that the mind’s eye instantly sees it on the screen of a theater.4

Anyhow, I’m not going to say a whole lot more, I feel like I’ve covered the main points. It’s a lovely book, the banter is incredible, and I was once again barely able to put the book down. Go read it – not only can you buy it as part of the Immerse or Die StoryBundle it’s also Doctorow-style available to read online for free.

  1. The ghost of Iain Banks is sitting the corner glaring at me. Apparently I’m going to have to reread all of the Culture books before I make that declaration. 
  2. The Radiant Throne, the Trade Baronies, and the Alliance, for those wondering. And yes, I’m aware of how stereotypical a name ‘the Alliance’ is, but I think the execution of the concept of Trade Baronies makes up for it. 
  3. Along the lines of “I don’t need to know how it works, I just need to know that it does work.” 
  4. In this book, it was the image of the capital of Barony Tylaris (or Tyrelos? I still can’t remember which is which.) as a city built on an asteroid, light gleaming off a transparent dome over the New City, which was built atop the Old City. 

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