Phule’s Paradise is the second book in Robert Asprin‘s screwball comedy series called PHULE’S COMPANY. These are being released in audiobook format by Tantor Audio with excellent narration by Noah Michael Levine. You’ll want to read the first book, Phule’s Company, before picking up Phule’s Paradise.
In Phule’s Company, we met Willard Phule, a mega-billionaire who, as a punishment, was assigned to captain the Space Legion’s company of “losers and misfits” that was guarding a swamp on a backwater planet. (Don’t ask why a mega-billionaire would want to spend his time doing this job — it makes no sense — you just have to go with it.) As anyone could have predicted, Phule quickly whipped those losers into shape and now they are a well-trained, close-knit, and effective fighting force. And they love their captain.
In this second installment, Phule’s superior, a woman named General Battleax, goes on vacation, so the next guy in the chain of command, General Blitzkrieg, who hopes to humiliate Phule, assigns his company to guard the Fat Chance Casino from a criminal organization that plans to stage a hostile takeover. Phule soon realizes that the military’s standard operating procedures will not be effective when dealing with the mob and that he should, instead, use his skills as a successful businessman to prevent the takeover. He hatches an elaborate plan to save the casino. It involves putting many of his soldiers under cover, hiring actors to play parts in his scheme, and using his expertise with hostile takeovers, casinos, finances, and computers to foil the bad guys.
Most of Phule’s plan seems silly, overly complicated and wasteful, but it’s an excuse to let Phule be extravagant with his resources and to put on a lively show. The bad guys’ minions are stereotypically dumb and incompetent. But Asprin is going for “madcap” so you just have to go with it. The casino planet is fun and, not knowing much about casinos, I learned a few things about how the games work and how they can be rigged or scammed. We also discover some of Beeker’s tricks for being a great butler.
These books were written in the early 90’s when Robert Asprin was around 50 years old. It’s nice to see Asprin subvert stereotypes in various ways, but there are also a few remarks that today might be considered sexist or racist. For example the black soldier (nicknamed Chocolate Harry) is portrayed as imposing and scary (but it could be argued that this is due to his physique and not his skin color) and in one scene Phule praises a female soldier for wearing a skirt and encourages her to dress that way more often.
As I mentioned, the audio editions are excellent. Noah Michael Levine gives a spirited and entertaining performance. Phule’s Paradise is 7.5 hours long.