Note: This novel has been adapted for radio and as a series of comic books. A shorter version of the novel appeared as "Starsloggers" in Galaxy (December 1964)
Harrison's first 'non-Campbell' novel, an experimental story begun in Denmark in 1959. A first chapter and character sketches for the story (originally titled If You Can Read This You're Too Damn Close) was submitted to Damon Knight who was SF advisor for Berkeley. He liked it and Harrison was given an advance of $1,500 to complete the novel. Knight rejected the complete story, complaining that it was an adventure story spoiled by jokes. The novel was published by Doubleday, and Berkeley then published the paperback.
The book is important in that it marks the point where Harrison began to write more ambitious books, on subjects which he felt strongly about.
Bill is tricked into joining the army, and the story follows him through training, into battle, through to him accidentally becoming a hero. He emerges at the end as a cynical, grizzled officer whose only goal is to survive his enlistment and get out of the army. It parodies the pro-military stance of Heinlein's Starship Troopers and the pro-Empire stories of Asimov's Foundation series, but the novel is also an attack, masquerading as satire, not so much on the military life Harrison himself endured, but on the military logic that way of life is founded upon.
Dedication: For my shipmate Brian W. Aldiss who is reading the sextant and plotting the course for us all.