No Phule Like An Old Phule, by Robert Asprin and Peter J. Heck (Ace, 2004)

Captain Willard “Jester” Phule of the Space Legion, and his irrepressible team of misfits, Omega Company are back for their fifth action-packed outing in No Phule Like An Old Phule. Ever since Phule took over the leadership of Omega Company, generally regarded as the dumping grounds for the Space Legion’s worst and most incorrigible soldiers, he has turned it into an elite unit through an infusion of money and business sense, and good old-fashioned dumb luck. But there’s always someone willing to rain on the parade. Not only have a pair of unsavory gamblers set their sights upon Omega Company’s casino (the story of which can be found in Phule’s Paradise), but Phule’s father has come to pay his son a visit, to prove that no one in their family should sink so low as to own a casino. When the team manning the Fat Chance Casino raises the stakes on one very special set of slot machines, a one-in-a-billion chance could spell disaster. But that’s not all. Omega Company is under investigation for potential environmental violations on the planet of Zenobia, their current station. Throw in a quest for the spirit of Elvis, a genetically-enhanced dog, a group of unwanted big-game hunters, and a lot of chaos, and you have a typical day for Captain Jester and his men.

As always, the Phule series features Robert Asprin’s trademark dry humor, whimsical attention to detail, and outlandish circumstances, with Peter J. Heck pitching in to liven up the plot. Comic science fiction is a rare thing, and the Phule series is always good for some chuckles, if not outright laughter. I’ll confess that I’m not as enamored of “newer” characters in the series as I am the ones who got much more screen time in the original Phule’s Company. Frankly, a preacher who spreads the gospel as according to Elvis only gets so much mileage with me. Some of the humor (especially in acronyms — an environmental agency with the initials AEIOU?) is a little forced, and I still never really get a sense of any danger from whatever bad guys have been produced to give Our Heroes a hard time. However, this doesn’t stop me from reading each new book in the series, and enjoying the story anyway.

Originally posted on SF Site, 2004

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