No Phule Like an Old Phule, by Robert Asprin with Peter J. Heck

nophuleIn a truly orderly universe, a once-in-a-trillion-chances event ought to have the common courtesy to wait for someone to make a few million attempts to bring it about before manifesting itself.  It says something very unpleasant about the universe we live in that such an event can just as easily occur the very first time someone tries to bring it about.
-Beeker’s journal entry #727


After my review of the last book in the Phule series, Phule Me Twice, one could be forgiven for thinking I’d give the latest, No Phule Like an Old Phule, a pass.  But I did enjoy other books in the series, and Robert Asprin has completed his Myth books (well, maybe; I could swear I’ve seen references to a newer book somewhere), so that’s no longer on the back of my mind-so I go into this offering of the Phule books with an open mind.  And one of the big reasons I wanted to read this one has to do less with Willard Phule, and more with someone with at least as much wealth:  his father, Victor Phule.  Victor has a few issues with his son’s business practices-particularly with the acquisition of the Fat Chance casino at Lorelei.  He just can’t accept that the casino makes money, and plans to prove it by hitting it big.  At the same time, though, a pair of failed kidnappers-Lola and Ernie-are coerced into giving it another try-and it looks like Victor’s the only Phule in town.

This is, however, the least of the issues facing the Space Legion on the world of Zenobia.  Captain Jester still has to deal with the ill-will of General Blitzkrieg; this time, the ill-tempered general has sent representatives from the Alliance Ecological Interplanetary Observation Unit to observe the environmental impact the Legion is having on Zenobia (yes, the organization really is AEIOU); worse yet, its most famous representative has come to see-Barky, the Environmental Dog.  In addition, there are a number of big-game hunters with connections who want to try to take some shots at the local wildlife.

But that isn’t all that’s going on!  We’ve also got the enlistment of a fellow named Zigger, a Lepoid who definitely isn’t the usual material for the Legion-he’s too good!  Such an aberration can only be assigned to one unit-Omega Company.  And there’s something odd about the Zenobians, who seem to be working on something that’s caught the attention of Sushi, Do-Wop, and Rev; the Rev’s trying to determine the mysterious connection between the King and an entity the Zenobians call by the curiously named “‘L’Viz”, and the search for that connection leads to some rather interesting revelations about the Zenobians.

In spite of all the various plotlines in this book, it helps that they’re primarily concentrated in two areas-Zenobia and Lorelei.  That fact is probably the only thing that allows Willard Phule to keep riding herd on everything-and even then it’s a close thing.  Once everything starts to come together, even Phule has some trouble managing the various crises.  I rather enjoyed most of the subplots in this book.  I enjoyed the boot-camp and subsequent assignment of Zigger, who takes on a Legion name that had me shaking my head; the mystery behind the Zenobians really got my attention, and the end result was hilarious.  I can’t bring myself to go into detail about how things fall out at Fat Chance.  Let’s just say that while certain gambles turn out fairly predictably, the aftermath is far more amusing (a classic example of the quote used for this review).  I was less interested in the big-game plot, although I was certainly amused by the resolution.  The big conflict on Zenobia is driven by the AEIOU and Barky, and the efforts to prove that Omega Company is far more environmentally friendly than the average Legion unit; not as easy as it sounds, as Barky tends to have a very, very sensitive nose….

I felt this was a more enjoyable book than the previous effort; I was pleased that this didn’t introduce too many new long-term characters at the expense of the characters already in Omega, because I still feel that the current batch has a lot of mileage still in them.  While No Phule Like an Old Phule isn’t quite as good as the first pair of books in the series, it is certainly moving back in the right direction.

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