I have read one other book by the author, Deathless ,a fantasy set during the Russian Revolution. It is much darker than this one, which is a comedy. The premise is basically a galactic version of the Eurovision Song Contest: the Megagalatic Grand Prix, invented in the wake of interstellar wars.
When it was all done and said and shot and ignited and vaporized and swept up and put away and both sincerely and insincerely apologized for, everyone left standing knew that the galaxy could not bear a second go at this sort of thing. Something had to be done. Something mad and real and bright. Something that would bring all the shattered worlds together as one civilization.
You don’t have to win to survive, just don’t be dead last!
It’s pretty obvious that this book is influenced by the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. I caught a few brief references, but the main thing this book takes from Adams is the concept behind the nonfiction-style entries for laws of the universe that are known as Goguenar Gorecannon’s Unkillable Facts. For example:
Seventh Unkillable Fact: Dying happens to everyone, even stars. Even the stuff between the stars. But if you believe in yourself and achieve your goals, you can die so hard that no one will ever forget you, and that’s almost as good as not dying at all. Well, it isn’t, really, it isn’t at all, and believing and achieving is just something sportscasters say, but what are you gonna do, not die? Try it. I’ll wait.
But it didn’t feel overly derivative to me. This was a lot of fun, and the silliest book I have read in a long time. There is a plot, sort of, or at least a bunch of things happen, and there are main characters, namely the members of a defunct glam rock band called Decibel Jones and the Absolute Zeroes. But mostly I liked this book for the narrator, who is highly quotable.
But in the end, all wars are more or less the same. If you dig down through the layers of caramel corn and peanuts and choking, burning death, you’ll find the prize at the bottom and the prize is a question and the question is this: Which of us are people and which of us are meat?