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Literature / Will Save the Galaxy for Food

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Not your traditional sci-fi hero.

"I just stopped remembering."

Will Save the Galaxy for Food, published February 2017, is the third published novel by Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw, a satirical sci-fi space adventure set in a world where star pilots are no longer needed because of widespread teleportation, called in-universe as "Quantunnelling". Our hero is a down on his luck pilot trying to get by and getting embroiled in increasingly complex power-plays and misadventures. And he ain't happy about it, starting with having to impersonate a Jacques McKeown, an author who steals stories from other pilots, so they all hate him.

A sequel, Will Destroy the Galaxy for Cash, was released in September 2019.


Tropes present in this work:

  • Absurdly Sharp Claws: Mr. Henderson has a cassowary talon hidden in his ring. Cassowaries have a specialized claw which, in folklore, can chop an arm off.
  • Ace Pilot: Our hero, and pretty much all star pilots in the book have saved many planets from the Malmind, a networked intelligence of cyborgs that are most definitely not the Strogg.
  • An Arm and a Leg: At the end of the book, Warden severs her professional ties with Henderson by way of severing his leg.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Between our hero and Ms. Warden.
    Ms. Warden: McKeown, I think we should have sex.
    • Subverted in that they're both so unenthusiastic about it. She claims she's only offering so he'd be relaxed for a tricky maneuver he has to do, and he accuses her of making an excuse to wrangle some consequence free sex out of a convenient warm body just to work off some of her emotional suppression. It never goes anywhere, and other than him joking about it immediately after the maneuver it is never mentioned again.
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  • Big Bad: While he rarely confronts the heroes directly, Mr. Henderson's reach drives most of the plot forward, as nearly all of the dangers the narrator and Warden face are either on his payroll or under his influence.
  • Big "NO!": And then followed by a smaller "No, I'm not fond of that either".'
  • Bittersweet Ending: The pilots whose stories got ripped off by the real McKeown finally get compensated, but our nameless hero gets picked up by the cops for blowing off his piracy trial.
  • Boring, but Practical: Quantunneling. It's about as boring as you could possibly imagine; no swirling vortex, no glowing lights, and it can't even be observed by the people utilizing it. It's about as dull and pedestrian as you can get.... But it's so much more practical than any other form of travel that the entire industry of interplanetary transport is wiped out instantly once it becomes commercially available.
  • Cannot Tell Fiction from Reality: Most of the human race, apparently. Jaques McKeown's books are all fictionalized accounts of real historical events with the title pilot taking the role of whoever was really responsible. Fair enough, except that most people seem to either give him credit for the real thing or assume the real story is copying the books. This is why the real Star Pilots are so angry.
  • Cassandra Truth: Shades of this with the primary driving conflict in the first half, where our hero is paid to impersonate a famous author who's been stealing stories about pilots and using them as his own.
  • Captain Ersatz:
    • Jaques McKeown's (the real one) publisher, Blasé Books, is one for Baen Books (a publishing house that specializes in space adventures).
    • Jaques McKeown himself is one of real life science fiction writer Jack McKinney (the guy who did the Robotech novelization).
      • Word of God has confirmed on stream that he had never heard of McKinney, and the similarity is entirely coincidental.
    • The Malmind horde is the Strogg of Quake II and IV with the Serial Numbers Filed Off.
  • Did Not Think This Through: The protagonist has changed identities several times... and didn't bother to change the name or registration of his ship. The cops figure it out the second they have a reason to look.
  • Disco Dan: Much of the narrator's character development stems around his Nostalgia Filter for his previous life during the Golden Age of Star Pilots and his inability to adjust to a changing world. At the start of the series he (and most other star pilots on Luna) is barely getting by giving rides to bored tourists and openly displaying annoyance that his lifestlye's become little more than a novelty. The end of the series does help it get into his head that he needs to change along with the times, accompanied with knowledge of a place that welcomes people with his precise talents.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Zoobs eat their owners when they're not fed properly, similar to pet pythons.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Ms. Warden has shades of this as the story progresses.
  • The Dreaded: Mr. Henderson, who easily terrified everyone he comes across, including the protagonist and the typically-unflappable Ms. Warden.
  • Earth That Used to Be Better: Earth (or at least the largest remaining nation) is still something of an economic and military powerhouse in theory, but they're so isolationist and paranoid that the rest of the galaxy considers them a meaningless backwater. Even their own ruling class refuses to live on the polluted surface, inhabiting a space elevator station instead. The one stable government that does still exist on Earth is an oppressive dictatorship.
  • Easily Forgiven: Not-Mckeown is the only one who sees a problem with Salvation Station being willing to hire the Malmind and it's creator. Whether claims that he's changed are true or not, he's still directly responsible for hundreds of bloody planetary-scale wars and the deaths or Unwilling Roboticization of who knows how many millions of people.
  • Eaten Alive: The Henderson's bodyguard Carlos is devoured by a swarm of Zoobs in the climax.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Used word for word to describe the Malmind core.
  • Equal-Opportunity Evil: The Space Villains came in all shapes and sizes. In contrast, the Space Pilots and Pirates are nearly all men (we see one woman) and the vast majority are human.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Henderson is a vicious and powerful Crime Lord who is seen constantly doting on his son. Though he initially seems calm and business-like when Daniel is kidnapped (if a little unhinged), near the end of the story he is openly fearful for the wellbeing of his son. It also looked to the protagonist as if he had not slept at all since they last talked. Indeed, Daniel's joyful reaction was the only reason he spared the two "heroes"... though he very soon came to regret that decision.
  • Everyone Hates Math: Enough to make ersatz cusswords from mathematical terms. Explained as the inventor of the quantum booths famously referring to the process of their creation as "a little addition and subtraction" in an interview, only to be told "I'll give you subtraction in a minute..."
  • The Faceless: Sort of. Our hero's face is visible on the cover, and it seems to be posed similarly to Jacques McKeown on the covers of his books, but it turns out Warden doesn't know his real name because he's already had three prior aliases to her hacking his ID chip.
  • Fallen-on-Hard-Times Job: The protagonist, (and practically every other star pilot who hasn't become a pirate) are reduced to hawking flyby tours of all the planets they've rescued. Few, if any, are happy about this, and many are forced to eat discarded food just to afford the maintenance of their starships.
  • Funetik Aksent: Used on the aliens. For example, the Zoob have a creepy, disjointed grasp on the standard language (i.e. future space English) sounding like "Mon-ay" or "Foo-ud". The Ruggels "sound" like cornish Pirates as per our current stereotype, saying things like they'll "cut yer". The Zuvirons talk like Sean Connery, with a lisp turning any 'S' sound in to 'SH'. Par exemple, "good breeding shtock". There's also the human pirates from the beginning, using their own wild guess at what a Danish accent sounds like.
  • Gargle Blaster: The homebrew "wine" not-McKeown drinks at Salvation Station gets him completely tracfaced after half a glass.
    ''It's not often you see wine with a head on it!"
  • Going Native: Pilots who picked up native Proud Warrior Race cultures from various worlds, often from shacking up with their queens for a while, are numerous enough that they're a distinct subculture.
  • Hidden Elf Village: Salvation Station (although they're trying to become less so). A jumping-off point for space exploration and strongpoint to muster when the Malmind inevitably start picking on another planet. And no plying public quantunnel booths (well, there's one, but it's only for governmental purposes).
  • Humanity Is Advanced: Humans are the most advanced race in this setting.
  • Is This Thing Still On?: Gets not- McKeown in trouble at the start of the novel: The intercom talk button sticks; he can hear the vacationing passengers whining about being bored, and they can hear him conspiring with a pirate ship to steal their luggage.
  • Japanese Ranguage: Referred to by mention of a somewhat racist joke about pilots becoming pirates.
  • Job-Stealing Robot: Or rather, job stealing booth. Once the quantunneling booths became a thing, the Star pilots were rendered irrelevant over night. Not just the pilots either, but also the villains they once fought, the pirates who had preyed upon them, and even the cybernetic collective who could no longer find enough victims to maintain themselves.
  • Killer Rabbit: Zoobs, a species of green blob-like aliens that were saved when a documentary made known their plight. Apparently they're only cute if they're well-fed, and when there was a food shortage, they ate the crew that kept them as pets.
    • They're either quite easy or nearly impossible to kill depending on if you figure out you have to pin them down first. If there are more than one or two after you you probably won't have time to solve it.
  • Misapplied Phlebotinum: Averted. Quantunnel teleporters allow a person or cargo shipment to go anywhere in the universe in the blink of an eye. This has put all the dashing space pilots out of work, unless they're lucky enough to fly some rich bracket's yacht. They also turn phones into pocket-size ansibles. In fact, it's made everything so cheap even buskers are rich.
    • Although Artificial Gravity and engines are still separate; and if people had set on it the way they had quantunnelling, ships would have a Reactionless Drive instead of a nuclear motor.
    • In the sequel the Captain and his current motley crew find all kinds of novel new uses for quantunnels once they set their devious little minds to the problem.
  • No Name Given: The narrator's name is never confirmed, with him being mostly called McKeown due to the scam he attempts to pull and interrupted at all other times. Warden eventually reveals he had 3 different names on his ID and it's never stated if he used his real one when creating his bootleg ID chip. In the sequel, he's named Dashford Pierce, although this also another alias.
  • No Peripheral Vision: This is a major problem for Malmind drones. They never look up, so if you can get above them you're fine. The protagonist mentions that this was a big part of why star pilots were so effective against them; they're very easy to bomb.
  • Noodle Incident: "We do not talk about the nuclear waste dumping contract." The sequel reveals that whatever happened made every resident of a sentient ferret colony permanently sterile.
  • Parental Substitute: The narrator and Warden awkwardly form one toward Jemima, whose politically-inclined mother is distant and cold. They're clearly not crazy about the idea, but they do whatever they can to keep her safe and give her valuable advice.
  • Portal Network: Of sorts. Quantunnel booths require a connected booth to work, and the older Trebuchet gates, which apparently draw energy from local stars and use some sort of mass driving technology with gravitics count as well, though they don't require a second station. They just kind of launch you forward really fast and you hope you don't end up as a smear on a planetary surface.
  • Quantum Mechanics Can Do Anything: Teleporters are based on quantum tunnelling.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Robert Blaze. He's the only person in power in the book who genuinely cares about others over himself who also had the respect, authority, and connections to back it up. Even his few underhanded acts are performed with a moral justification. After her character development, Warden seems to be shaping up into one of these.
  • Running Gag: A meta example; the third Croshaw novel out of four total to have a reference to trebuchets.
  • Scannable Man: Everyone has RFID chips in the back of their hands; which double as debit cards.
  • Self-Deprecation: In the author biography, Yahtzee mentions he emigrated to Australia and then America, and says in his spare time he likes designing videogames and emigrating.
  • Shout-Out: Of a kind, specifically to Yahtzee's previous novel. "[They] are in a bit of a strawberry jam situation."
  • Sickeningly Sweethearts: A pirate couple, Pippa and Peter, who talk on and on about their recent marriage and pretty much nothing else.
  • Space Is an Ocean: Or a highway. Apparently flight school involves filling out multiple choice tests on when to overtake on a busy space lane.
  • Space Friction: Of a sort. Ships have a top-speed, which shouldn't be a thing.
  • Spoiled Brat: Daniel, to the greatest possible degree. He's such an insufferable prick that his father, a feared and powerful crime-boss with enough money and connections to give him anything he wants, has never once heard the kid say thank you.
  • Stealing the Credit: McKeown has an incredibly profitable book series ostensibly written about his adventures during the Golden Age. The pilots all hate him because he's actually stealing the stories of their adventures for his books. Having kids claim your actual war stories were stolen from McKeown is the extra insult to injury.
  • Subspace Ansible: Quantunneling allows phonecalls over any distance.
  • Swirly Energy Thingy: Notably averted with the Quantunneling technology. Our hero lampshades the fact that one, they don't work if they're being observed, and they're decidedly lacking in cool sci-fi glowy effects.
    • Trebuchet gates are corkscrew-shaped, for what it's worth.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Our hero's observation of a yacht Mr. Henderson bought is that it's far too luxurious to be practical. He suspects the man blindly purchased the most expensive thing available and didn't check if it was, for instance, famous for being pirate bait.
    • It's named the Platinum God of Whale Sharks, where the company's naming convention went past precious metals, to royalty, to fish, so it's pretty much the MOST impractical craft in a long line of impractical craft.
    • The ship is so infamous that the protagonist states Star Pilots and Pirates alike have christened it the "Dinner Bell."
  • The Theme Park Version: In-Universe with The Cantarbridged Experience, which is a dramatization of the Malmind Wars, boiled down to it's base components: The Malmind are picking on some natives and Only A Star Pilot Can Save Them [dramatic echo]. Not-McKeown is right plied off about it.
  • The Unreveal:
    • We never do find out who McKeown is, only that 1) he's someone we've met during the novel, and 2) he's rich enough to not care about several million Euroyen in royalties, but he's not Henderson.
    • We're also never given the name of the protagonist, only that he's had multiple fake aliases over the years he's been a star pilot.
  • Unusual Euphemism: "Plying, trac-eating divs, doints and brackets.*"
    • The asterisk leads to a long-winded, world-building explanation that a lunar colony outlawed swearing, leading to pilots taking up math terms as replacements. In "pilot math", multi(ply) replaces "the most popular swear word", with sub(trac)tion as "an all-purpose noun with scatological leanings". Bracket is a common insult, doint for decimal point and (div)ision represent "male and female genitalia, respectively".
  • Up to Eleven: Our hero's blaster came with the settings of stun and kill (which doesn't apply to races with armor like skin) so he illegally modified it and drew on a third setting, "Solve All Immediate Problems".
  • Viewer-Friendly Interface: The Platinum God of Whale Sharks is noted to have a control system straight out of a poorly researched movie. This is a big part of why it's so inconvenient to pilot. At one point the protagonist is forced to navigate a touch screen interface with his nose because he can't take his hands off the joysticks for that long.
  • War for Fun and Profit: The Malmind rebranded themselves into a galaxy-wide LARP when Quantunnelling took over. Proud Warrior Race cultures hire them to invade their worlds in order to satisfy their hunger for combat without that nasty business of having their young men dying. Even before that it was apparently created solely because it's builder was bored with regular wargaming.
  • Wave-Motion Gun: The "Solve All Immediate Problems" setting on the protagonist's gun.
  • We Will Spend Credits in the Future: Averted, with the first currency mentioned being a "Euroyen" (portmanteau of Euro and Yen), and how our hero figures even if pirates out in "the Black" won't necessarily use Lunar or Terran currency, he has a lot of it so it might catch their attention.
  • Zerg Rush: Zoobs aren't that dangerous in a one-on-one fight if they don't have the element of surprise. In a group though, they'll swarm an enemy and just devour them en-masse. Carlos finds this out the hard way.