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The Bug Wars
by Robert Asprin

St. Martin's Press hardcover edition: 1979
Ace paperback edition: 1993

ISBN: 0-441-07373-5

This book is, without a doubt, my favourite book of Robert Asprin's (he isn't credited with the 'Lynn' in this book), as is right up there with Starship Troopers for excellent sociological/political novels-of-ideas.

The basic premise...oh, yeah. Spoilers ahead and all that. Ye be warned. The basic premise of the book is that there are two cultures, two species, at war. One of those species is the Coalition of Insects. Hence "The Bug Wars". The other species, of which the hero is a member, is the Tzen, a race of bipedal, militaristic, caste-society reptilians.

The hero of the book is Rahm, though as he tells the story from the first person perspective you don't learn that for some time, and the story follows his rise through the ranks from squad leader to general. His squadmembers at the beginning of the book are the supporting characters, though they slowly die off throughout the book.

Whether Asprin intended it or not, the Tzen society described in the book paints a picture of the Rationalist's Utopia, a society devoid of the shackles of emotional attachments, needless belief structures and other archetypes of the warm-blooded. It also tells a tale of a society of individuals pitting themselves against the seemingly unconquerable hordes of hive-minded society without notion of or care for the one.

As far as the science-fiction aspects go, Asprin has created a most plausible universe, with technology that is within the sphere of the possible. He also writes Rahm's narration as though to another Tzen, without stopping to explain those things that would be common sense or knowledge to another Tzen. He is telling a history, not a primer.

The only problem I had with the book is that it seemed too short, only 217 pages, though this is near the mark Starship Troopers reached. However, I do not believe that the book could feasibly have been extended, as the point would have been diluted and the impact lost. Asprin said what he wanted to say, wove a damned fine tale around it, and ended it satisfyingly.

Final Verdict:Four and a half stars. Out of five.

Thanks to RubenAzarja and Cletus the Foetus for corrections.

Pipe for the Ages

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