Pay Me, Bug! by Christopher B. Wright
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I said it in a few status updates, but after I finished the book last night I was even surer in my convictions, this should be animated. Why not live action? Well, as we’ve seen in all the super hero movies, actors hate having their faces obscured – it’s their biggest asset. So they keep it visible even if it doesn’t make sense in the context of the plot. In this book, the characters spend 1/3 to 1/2 of the book sporting completely different faces. That wouldn’t fly in Hollywood. Also, Hollywood tends to think you’re dumb so they’d resist it thinking the audience would get confused. The success of the Adult Swim shows and Archer have shown that there’s an audience for animation that falls outside the realm of an animated sitcom. With the tone of the book, it could succeed in an Archer animation style – perfect by that team when they worked on Sealab 2021 for adult swim. It could also beautifully work with Watanabe’s Cowboy Bebop style. (Although that would perhaps be too expensive for American TV? Maybe Netflix would do it?)
So what is this book? It’s essentially a heist tale – like Ocean’s Eleven. Only good and in space like Cowboy Bebop or Firefly. Like those shows, we’ve got a plucky, motley crew on a rickety ship and a captain with Lady Luck strongly on his side. The title drop comes early on when you learn that the gunner and Ktk (a “bug” – centipede-looking alien) always bet on whether the Captain’s crazy scheme is going to work. When Ktk (who always bets against the captain) loses, “Pay Me, Bug!” is heard on the ship intercom.
Why so highly rated? First, there’s the tone. This book’s got that sarcastic tone I love so much. Similar to Scalzi, Douglas Adams, and many others. Captain Vind is a smartass and Christopher B. Wright has a lot of fun writing him. It’s also a very well realized world. Essentially known space is split up between an empire based on Catholicism, a secular alliance, and the usual independent trade plants called the Baronies. I’m not 100% sure how we could have another story with the crew of the Fool’s Errand or if it would get boring to have them “always” winning. However, I would love to see more stories in this universe. Maybe even a story that presented the holy empire in a good light by focusing on one of their ships. Or a story that follows some of the spies we meet in this book. I think if Mr. Wright has any intention of continuing in this universe, he’s got a multitude of stories he could tell. Of course, there’s also the “Wild Cards” route. He’s created the universe – he could always have others play in his playground.