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.