Robert Aspirin was one of those must-read authors when I was a kid. I mean, if you read the Dragonlance stuff, and you read the Xanth stuff, you needed to read the Myth series. (I had heard of the Thieves’ World books, but the very concept confused me… it wasn’t written by one person, it was just short stories? By dozens of authors? And everybody used everybody else’s characters? Too much overhead.)
The Myth books, however, were straightforward. They had puns in the titles. They were about a young apprentice who showed promise and a grizzled other-dimensional creature summoned by the young apprentice’s dead master. Together, they fight crime. (There was some other stuff in there about how the grizzled other-dimensional creature lost his magic as a practical joke by the dead master, but the dead master was assassinated before he could undo the “joke”. The apprentice wanted to avenge his master (but wasn’t really trained yet), the well-trained other-dimensional creature wanted to get the assassin who forced this situation on him and, along the way, why not train the kid? They become friends. And isn’t that the *REAL* magic?)
Well, those books were an absolute delight. So when I heard that Aspirin was trying his hand at a new, science-fiction (!), series I jumped at it. “Phule’s Company“. Hey, it had a pun in the title!
And the book itself was about a young billionaire CEO-type who, as punishment, is given command over a strugging military company and he turns this band of misfits and losers and turns them into a well-oiled machine. (It wasn’t that these guys were *BAD*… it’s that nobody knew how to leverage them. Captain Phule, if he knows anything, knows how to leverage his assets.)
You’ve got a bunch of really memorable characters: Sergeant Escrima (the Filipino mess sergeant), Mother (the shy legionnaire who is no good talking face-to-face, but makes the best dang communications director so long as she only has to deal with disembodied voices), Top Sergeant Brandy (the grizzled veteran but she knows how to throw a punch!), Super-gnat (the diminutive martial artist who has a temper!), Tusk-anini (the large alien warthog who is a pacifist but is Super-gnat’s best friend), as well as “Beeker”, the butler of Captain Phule who is the story’s narrator.
Yes, it’s just a bunch of… let’s call them “archetypes”… who go from “not working well together” to “working very, very well together” and the story is charming and fun and escapist and you’ll find yourself laughing and then waiting for the next one.
Which was really irritating in the 90’s because Aspirin got, like, an 7-year case of writer’s block due to troubles with the IRS right after Phule’s Paradise (the equally fun and funny sequel) came out. (But he came out with another four books (with Peter Heck) once he found his feet again. And those books were fun and funny too and, if you like the first one, you’ll dig those too.)
So… what are you reading and/or watching?