Thursday, February 25, 2010

Pirates of Ersatz: a Free Book review

The Pirates of Ersatz (available here as a free audiobook) by Murray Leinster, is the story of Bron Hoddan, who intends "in order (a) to achieve splendid things as an electronic engineer, (b) to grow satisfactorily rich, (c) to marry a delightful girl, and (d) end his life a great man."

It doesn't help that his family is a bunch of space pirates. It also doesn't help that Walden, the most civilized planet in the galaxy, doesn't really want an electrical engineer with new ideas, no matter how useful. So he soon finds himself locked away for improving some local equipment (or creating a death ray, depending on who you believe). Perhaps he should try the other end of the scale--a planet like Darth, run by rival warlords with relatively primitive technology. Warlords like Don Loris ("who was prince of this and baron of that and so on"), who has a scheme to take over the planet. He also has a beautiful, willful, and...well, maybe occasionally homicidal daughter named Fani.

As Bron goes from pickle to bigger pickle to Death Dill, he begins to respect the advice and wisdom of his grandfather, and he also keeps finding that people's preconceptions lock them into failure. Will he somehow overcome his own and avoid the same fate?

This story has a number of great quotes:

"It's no use!" it was the custom of his grandfather to say. "There's not a bit o' use in having brains! All they do is get you into trouble! A lucky idiot's ten times better off than a brainy man with a jinx on him! A smart man starts thinkin', and he thinks himself into a jail cell if his luck is bad, and good luck's wasted on him because it ain't reasonable and he don't believe in it when it happens! It's taken me a lifetime to keep my brains from ruinin' me! No, sir! I hope none o' my descendants inherit my brains! I pity 'em if they do!"

"Government, in the local or planetary sense of the word, is an organization for the suppression of adventure. Taxes are, in part, the insurance premiums one pays for protection against the unpredictable." (That kind of reasoning should sound familiar these days!)

The economics presented here is nonsense--so's a lot of the story, really--but it's a good yarn and extremely fun. I'll definitely come back to it later--probably several times.

Once again, that's The Pirates of Ersatz:

Free Gutenberg e-text

Free audiobook

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