When I was younger, I loved the stories of heroes. I'm sure many of us did living precariously through such personas as Bilbo Baggins, Lord Crystal, Luke Skywalker, Captain James T. Kirk or any one of many amazing folks who's stories and lives we swallowed in bulk only to wait for the next installment of the series or the next episode to air. I'm not sure what it was that kept me from the work of Piers Anthony, but I've rediscovered him in boxes of old pulp science fiction novels and have since devoured it.
One of those I came across was a five volume story that follows the adventures of one Hope Hubris. In Bio of a Space Tyrant, Anthony takes us on an amazing journey with a man that really wasn't as much a hero as some of the others we remember were. Instead, told in first person view, we are treated to the life and history, from age 15 to 50s, of a man who probably isn't much different from ourselves. He's quite unassuming and in many cases not apparently heroic - instead he is bolstered by his use of an adage that was originally taught to me by a man named Nat when I worked for him years ago. Nat said, "To better yourself, surround yourself with people who are as good or better at things than you are." I've paraphrased that, but in short it means that while many people will surround themselves with unassuming people who don't challenge them, they'll find themselves never bettering themselves. However, if you surround yourself with people who are as good at what you do or better at what you do, you'll be continuously improving your own skills and abilities to keep up with your peers. And that was the secret of Hope Hubris' success.
While this series is a five volume set, I was only able to find four of them in the collection I received. Now it is quite possible that Volume 3: Politician is buried in the shelf somewhere, I did look for it and came up fruitless. However, Piers' writing of the novels is so adept that while you will find him referring to past books and reading them straight through is definitely a plus and enhances the experience, it is by no means necessary and you'll still find yourself engrossed in this particular period in Hope's life. The volumes are separated into periods that easily stand on their own.
Volume 1: Refugee takes you on a whirlwind journey with a family in a space-based future. Finding themselves being forced out of their home on Callisto, a Jupiter moon, the Hubris family decides to make a dash for a refugee bubble - a basic transport ship that will hopefully carry them to salvation, and a new life on planet Jupiter. While Bio of a Space Tyrant is indeed a juvenile looking and sounding book, I must caution that it is not by far. Much of the storyline, and especially throughout Refugee, is very gory, sexual and brutal. It is rife with senseless violence, so if you're in the mood for a space drama that has no qualms about melting people with warp drive engines and providing the wonderfully gory and detailed results, or the bloody mass rape of entire stocks of women, this is your cup of tea. Or should I say blood? Refugee follows Hope from Callisto to Jupiter - or rather a Jupiter waystation where his next course of action is actually determined for him - Jupiter Navy.
Volume 2: Mercenary picks up where, obviously, the first left off. In the Navy, and simply by surrounding himself with the best people he can find using his "talent," the ability to read in short interviews the apparent motivations of others and weeding out those who have obvious loyalties elsewhere, Hope rises in stature to admiral level. Armchair strategists will really enjoy the battle maneuvers as Hope and his fleet wipe out the Jupiter Belt, a veritable no-man's land, of all pirate entities excepting one. That one is the one from which Hope's next wife - Roulette - comes from (Piers shows aplomb with character naming). The rape scene involving him and her is brilliant if a rape scene could ever be considered such. You'll find cultural differences very dramatic in futuristic humanity.
Volume 3: Politician again continues. This is the one I don't have and can't find (I tried, really I was enjoying the series enough to look for a copy of this). In this volume, and I'm speaking from what pieces I could fit together from further volumes that referred back to this period of Hope's life, he again uses the talents of his staff to rise in political stature as a past veteran and military hero within the bounds of the corrupt Jupiter politico.
Volume 4: Executive takes us further along as Hope Hubris steps up to wrest the power of the Jupiter presidency. He becomes The Tyrant, and while this name may evoke visions of Mussolini or Hitler it is far from the truth. Armchair economists and political buffs will eat this one up, as it is filled with the rebuilding of industry, agriculture, and government control. It concerns every aspect of modern government, from education on through Hope's complete decimation of Big Iron. Iron at this time is a major industry, and not only has shades of OPEC by today's standards but even mimics it to a heavy degree (IPEC, for example...it's actually stated as such). Hope's maneuvers and decision making - however tempered by his staff yet again, remember he's just a "normal Joe" being bolstered by the right people - causes havoc at the interim (such as how he iron-handedly handles population control), but the benefits that slowly become apparent make Executive an excellent novel. There's enough sex and assassination attempts to make this still adventurous even though, of course, Refugee was much more action-oriented than this one.
Volume 5: Statesman is the final culmination of the life of Hope Hubris. Following an exile from Jupiter with an awesome character twist in the end (though the more astute of us, such as myself, will see it coming as the storyline moves along but this does not detract from it for some reason), Hope finds himself in Saturn. Jupiter is the mimic of modern-day U.S., and Saturn is the mimic of the Soviets. As Tyrant of Jupiter, Hope has helped to diminish many levels of the Cold War, demolishing it in part by bringing the entire solar system to a near-cataclysmic confrontation between Jupiter and Saturn complete with Planetbuster Missiles (i.e. nukes in today's standards) following an incident that is closely related to the Cuban missile crisis of our own history. He bluffed them out, and the power in Saturn was seized by Admiral Khukov - a man who while not truly a "friend" of Hope's is nonetheless respected by him. He begins to work with Khukov in Statesman to further a new Dream much like the movement of man out to the solar system which happened prior to these novels in Piers' history of this milieu. It was the scientific breakthrough of the Gravity Lens that allowed man to populate the solar system - and Khukov's scientists have just had another breakthrough, the Light Drive. (Sure, it may sound cheesy, but don't forget Bio of a Space Tyrant is one of the forerunners of this genre, and therefore is very finely aged cheese indeed.) But to use this breakthrough to further Khukov's Dream, now shared by Hubris, will require the resources of the entire infighting system, much as it did the entire Earth for the move out to the solar system. With the Light Drive, the universe is now the limit
The utopian aspect of "so much space to shit in that nobody wars with anybody else" is not original, but very well done here. Hope's mission, using his respected background as military hero, politician and The Tyrant comes into play as his job is to unite all the planets of the system to provide resources for this dream. Sociologists and culture scholars will adore this book, as the planets are aligned with modern day empires on Earth. Saturn, as we said, is Soviet like - Jupiter represents democratic societies - Earth remained East Indian as examples for you. Now Hope and his limited entourage must contend with cultural differences throughout the system, and get them all, through political maneuvering, to agree to provide resources for this new Dream.
And man moves out to other galaxies. To destroy more worlds, as we have Earth. But hey, it's only fiction. Isn't it?
"Bio of a Space Tyrant Volume 1:
Refugee" by Piers Anthony
Published by Avon Books
Copyright © 1983 by Piers Anthony Jacob
"Bio of a Space Tyrant Volume 2:
Mercenary" by Piers Anthony
Published by Avon Books
Copyright © 1984 by Piers Anthony Jacob
"Bio of a Space Tyrant Volume 4:
Executive" by Piers Anthony
Published by Avon Books
Copyright © 1985 by Piers Anthony Jacob
"Bio of a Space Tyrant Volume 5:
Statesman" by Piers Anthony
Published by Avon Books
Copyright © 1986 by Piers Anthony Jacob