I’m reading Hughes’ work all out of order, but happily, there’s really no shared universe from story to story, so it’s not an issue. And, having now read all four of his books, I can say that “Ed” would be my recommended starting place, if you want to give it a go.1 It’s the lightest – a very silly beginning, and told by a narrator who’s further outside the story than any of his other works. While it’s not quite to that space opera feel, with the big events happening in the background and the story following regular-sized people just trying to make it through, it’s more human in scale.
It’s also very episodic most of the way through, so it’s easier to pick up and put back down for a while, if that’s your reading style, though there’s enough callbacks that you’ll be rewarded for going right through. (And, because this is a web-first piece of fiction, if you’re reading it online, a great deal of those callbacks are hyperlinks to the correct chapter – an easy way to catch yourself back up without devolving into “as you know, Bob” territory.)
All in all, “Ed” is a fairly short read, and a fun one. It’s got that characteristic “sprawling across space and time” feel that’s characteristic of Sam Hughes, but at no point do you feel like you need to stop and take notes to try to follow what’s going on. I quite enjoyed it. Give it a read, and if it really captures your interest, buy a copy!