Underground Reading: The Man from P.I.G. by Harry Harrison
Friday, June 19, 2009
The Man from P.I.G. (1968) is a strange little science fiction spoof. Harrison is always an entertaining author - especially on his home turf of the space opera. The Man from P.I.G. is no exception - a science-fiction adventure of the most bizarre kind.
A remote planet has problems with 'ghosts' - lethal ones. Expecting the space marines, the residents are disappointed when a bucolic hillbilly pig farmer arrives. However, as Harrison explains at well-relished length, the pigs are more than up for the task.
The book - a slightly extended version of a novella - is quick and slightly dirty. It follows a simple problem/solution format, with every problem solved by the judicious application of pig. Harrison is clever enough - and funny enough - to keep this going, but were The Man from PIG any longer, it would cease to be amusing.
The overall plot, the mystery, its inevitable resolution and even the characters - they're all actually fairly meaningless, with twists and turns introduced at random by Harrison. The book is an extended joke about how pigs can solve any problem. A funny joke (fortunately) but not a particularly deep one.
The book is particularly noteworthy for the John Schoenherr art. Known for his spectacular work on Dune and other SF classics, Schoenherr gives the... pigs... a hilarious sort of lofty majesty. It is an inspired pairing of artist and material, and elevates the book from an idiosyncratic novelty to something almost (but not quite) a must-have.
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