Riders of the Purple Wage

by Philip José Farmer
Reviewed date: 2019 Apr 12
1968 Hugo Award for Best Novella
cover art

Style over substance.

I'm not surprised this was published in Dangerous Visions. It's vulgar and obscene. There's a clever nugget of an idea, but the rest is gratuitous obscenity. Did it win a Hugo? It did. Should it have won a Hugo? Well...I wouldn't have voted for it. It's a non-stop pile of obscenity and bad puns until the last few pages where Farmer gets serious long enough to tell us the bare outlines of the story.

This story should have either been much shorter or much longer. Shorter it would still be edgy but the funny end would pack more punch. Longer and it could be another Stand on Zanzibar.

I read Zane Grey's classic western novel, Riders of the Purple Sage, thinking that perhaps a familiarity with that work would shed light on this one. Nope. Riders of the Purple Wage is a clever title, but beyond the title there's no allusion to Zane Grey's book.

Winnegan ran the nation's last private company, and he was put on trial for the crime of paying his workers too much, which undermined democracy by causing unrest among the public who had to subsist on the government dole, that is, on the purple wage.

The purple wage, because after Winnegan stole $20 billion in currency from the government, the government devalued all the old banknotes and issued new, purple bills.

Winnegan faked his death and then spent 25 years evading the tax man, who was coming after him for all the taxes he didn't pay on the $20 billion he stole. Winnegan manages to evade the tax man once and for all by actually dying.

There is something called fido, which is a sort of cable TV-internet-videophone mashup. Everyone and everything is available on fido.

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