Robert Asprin
& Peter J. Heck,
No Phule Like an Old Phule
(Ace, 2004)

Robert Asprin had a great series with his Myth books. Take a main character who seems to fall in to the worst misfortunes and surround him with a crazy supporting cast. Somehow, with a lot of luck and even more humor, they will get out of any sticky situation -- usually in ways that you won't see coming.

Change the genre from fantasy to science fiction and instead of myths, deal with a Phule. The Phule in this case is Captain Willard Phule, a man who grew up in an extremely wealthy family and could have done anything his heart desired. And he did! He joined the Space Legion ... bringing along his manservant, naturally. The first two books in the series, Phule's Company and Phule's Paradise, were written by Asprin alone. From that point, author Peter J. Heck co-wrote the books with Asprin.

No Phule Like an Old Phule is the fifth in the series. Phule is stationed on the planet Zenobia, where the sentient inhabitants look like man-sized dinosaurs. Phule's nemesis in the legion, General Blitzkrieg, comes up with a devious plot of sending environmental investigators to expose how Phule's operation is polluting the Zenobian landscape. With the well-known and loved Barky the Environmental Dog on the case, surely Phule will be discredited.

That, however, is just the first thread in the plot. A group of "hunters" is on its way to Zenobia to kill some "dinosaurs." They say they want some trophies, but what is the real objective of their trip? How is Phule going to keep the hunters and the green eco-thugs apart? What do the natives think of all this? And what is this secret project, the "sklern," that the Zenobians are working on? Is it some kind of master weapon?

As if Phule's hands weren't full enough, his father has taken it upon himself to disrupt Phule's casino operations back on Lorelei Station; it seems both Phules want to teach the other a lesson. It doesn't help that two inept kidnappers from a few books back have reappeared to try their luck again. And boy, is their luck different this time around!

With many a pun, a few missteps and a lot of misunderstanding, quite a bit takes place in just over 300 pages. While the book is humorous, it is a little odd that the main character, Captain Phule, takes a back seat through much of the story. This is not necessarily a bad thing, if all you would like is a little entertainment. However, if you specifically want to read about this particular Phule, you will in all likelihood be disappointed.

I like Asprin's writing style. He is very witty and his books are very silly. As his books are written in a tongue-in-cheek style, they read rather fast. The plots are light, but the chuckles are many. There are a lot of similarities in the humor between his Phule and Myth series. If you are not familiar with his work, then I would recommend going with the genre you prefer -- fantasy or SF.

- Rambles
written by Wil Owen
published 18 December 2004

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