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?

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Jaybird is Birdmojo on Xbox Live and Jaybirdmojo on Playstation's network. He's been playing consoles since the Atari 2600 and it was Zork that taught him how to touch-type. If you've got a song for Wednesday, a commercial for Saturday, a recommendation for Tuesday, an essay for Monday, or, heck, just a handful a questions, fire off an email to

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9 thoughts on “Sunday!

  1. I started Dance Night by Dawn Powell. She seems to be one of those authors who was once very well known and respected but has since fallen into obscurity and can now largely be found in used book stores across America. She was born in 1896, moved to New York when she was 22, and died there in 1965 of cancer.

    Dance Night is set just before WWI in a factory town in Ohio.


    • There are a lot of authors like that, Rebecca West, Muriel Spark, Robert Penn Warren. I keep a mental list of which current authors I feel are going to fall down that hole. It isn’t pretty. Mainly, those poplit authors like Chabon, Franzen, Mantel and Wallace. Mailer is already there. They are good word for word, but too mired in the time they are writing, with very little vision outside of the now. It makes no difference if they write about the past, the lens is always now. DFW is already headed that way, his death has made that clear. They have to be churning out books to stay relevant.

      That said, I often really enjoy those writers, as you can get a good feel for the age they wrote in.


  2. I remember Phule’s Company. Its an American equivalent of the Irresponsible Captain Tyler, a Japanese series of light novels and an anime about a slacker that becomes captain of an intergalactic star ship. I always wondered about the economics of the fantasy novel industry in the United States. It seems big enough but how many fantasy authors need to have day jobs.

    I’m currently reading A People Betrayed by Alfred Doblin. Its a historical novel about the November 1918 Revolution in Germany.


  3. I’m ridiculously well-pleased that my CW shows are (largely) back on for the season. All the superheros + Riverdale and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.

    Still enjoying The Orville, and plealsed as punch to have Lucifer back too.

    I just finished reading a sff anthology from 2008 or so, edited by the Vandermeers, called Black Ships, Black Sails. Rather a lot of dulse, but a decent number of oysters, and a few truly beautiful pearls.


    • I’m really enjoying the Orville. It’s doing a good job of straddling the line between serious and silly. One of the things that always bugged me about Star Trek, especially STNG and later is how elitist EVERYBODY in Starfleet was. Orville hits quite a bit closer to my experiences in the Navy*.

      *Although I can’t say this enough, the CO & XO would never, ever, EVER go on away missions, unless it was a situation that explicitly required the COs/XOs experience/skills/position.


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