Phule’s Company: A short, entertaining, and heart-warming SF tale

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Phule’s Company by Robert Asprin science fiction book reviewsPhule’s Company by Robert AsprinPhule’s Company by Robert Asprin

Until I picked up Phule’s Company, I hadn’t read anything by prolific author Robert Asprin. I hadn’t planned to, either, but Tantor Audio is producing his PHULE’S COMPANY series in audio format, so I figured I’d give the first book a try. I liked it well enough to ask them to send me the second book, Phule’s Paradise. There are six PHULE’S COMPANY books, published from 1990 to 2006. The latter four were written with Peter J. Heck and were some of the last books Asprin penned before his death in 2008.

Willard Phule, the heir to a vast fortune, has done something to annoy his superiors in the Space Legion. As a punishment, they promote him to captain and send him off to oversee a company of the Space Legion’s “misfits and losers” on a backwater planet. It seems like a recipe for disaster, but Phule (pronounced “Fool”) is smart, resourceful, hard-working, motivated, and unconventional. And rich. Really rich. With the help of his trusty butler, Phule sets out to whip the Omega Company into shape and to try to make them the finest fighting force in the universe.

Phule’s Company is entertaining from start to finish, especially in this audio format. It’s a light optimistic read that sometimes feels more like a course in leadership skills than a novel since most of the story involves Phule’s attempts to win over and change the habits of these losers and misfits. Toward the end, though, some plot appears when Phule’s Company has to work together to solve a problem. The outcome is predictable, and it plays out without much gravity or tension. The characters are thin and Phule is a total Gary Stu, but most readers, I think, will be rooting for Phule’s Company all the way and eager to be present for their next adventure. This heart-warming story is full of positive messages about hard work, teamwork, thinking outside the box, diversity, encouragement, and treating people with dignity and respect.

The audio version, which is seven hour long, is terrific. Noah Michael Levine does a great job with the narration.

Published in 1990. Audio in 2017. After being court-martialed by the Space Legion for ordering the strafing of a treaty-signing ceremony, multimillionaire Willard Phule receives his punishment: He must command the misfit Omega Company on Haskin’s Planet, a mining settlement on the edge of settled space. At his duty station, he leverages his personal money and a knack for managing people to get the company to come together as a unit. Phule convinces the governor to leave the contract for an honorary duty up for competition between the Space Legionnaires and the Regular Army. The Army sends some of their most elite troops to take part in the competition, but Phule’s company operates with their own unique tactics….

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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8 comments

  1. He’s another one who used a lot of plays on words in his titles, isn’t he?

  2. As you said, Kat, they’re light. If the puns start wearing on you, you can set them aside for a while.

  3. Jonathan Edelstein /

    Like most SF/fantasy humor, the Phule series doesn’t have a long half-life – the first and second books are funny and readable, but the jokes get very old after that.

    • Jonathan, that is exactly what I was expecting.

      Also reminds me a bit of Harry Harrison’s STAINLESS STEEL RAT stories.

  4. I read these eons ago but I loved them. I like that they are lighthearted and fun with some serious stuff hidden there in plain sight. Like Pratchett's Discworld but with more puns.

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