Black Ops (Expeditionary Force Book 4) – TwoMorePages Book Review

Black Ops (Expeditionary Force Book 4) – TwoMorePages Book Review

The best Skippy Adventure yet by far!

 

I’ll admit. It’s been a little while since I was really, truly excited about a book. Between the Stanley Cup Playoffs reducing my available reading time, and me reading some books that I struggled to get through, reading was starting to become a chore instead of something that I really enjoyed.

BUT YAY SKIPPY’S BACK. AND I LOVE READING AGAIN!

While Book 3 of the Expeditionary Force series kind of felt like the recurring adventures of “Oshit. We’re in trouble. Oh, well that’s fine, because Skippy’s going to save the day”, Book 4 was great in that it relied a lot less on Skippy’s Awesomeness, and more on human ingenuity. Maybe part of it was just that it’s been awhile since I read an Expeditionary Force book, and I had like no gap between books 2 and 3, but I REALLY enjoyed Book 4.

One other thing I loved about this book was the anthropomorphism of inanimate objects. For instance, these thoughts from a missile:

WTF, I’m launching while the ship is inside a freaking wormhole? Of all the stupid-Unbelievable, I survived. Great. Where is the target? It’s – Holy shit, I’m right on top of the damned thing! No shields in my way? Uh, I am programmed to expect strong defensive shields. And defensive fire from maser turrets. None of that going on here. Ok, what should I – Oh. Hmm.There is a nice big smoking hole in the enemy’s hull. Maybe I’ll go in there. Yeah, that’s a great idea. Hey, it’s cozy in here, although the Thuranin really could use some help tidying up the place. Well, this has been nice, but a missile has got to do what a missile has got to do, right? I can set the warhead for wide dispersal, now that I’m inside the enemy’s hull.

Can’t really talk about more without spoiling stuff, so from here on out SPOILERS BE HERE:

Spoiler-y discussion begins here

Two facets I really liked the introduction of were (1) Skippy is not immortal and (2) Skippy might not have always been sentient.

The first point of course, was a major plot point in the book. Seeing our merry band of pirates deal with his absence not once, but twice, shows just how vulnerable our protagonists are. The book ends on quite the melancholy note because of it.

The second point though wasn’t revisited again, and I suspect will be a major point of the next book? I wonder how that will weave into the story. It doesn’t really matter to Joe whether or not Skippy used to be sentient, right? Only that he’s sentient *now*

The Jeraptha

We got to see our first look at the Jeraptha in this book! I actually loved the scenes on the Jeraptha ships, seeing their culture of gambling meshed with their military. The depiction of receiving Skippy’s Intel, along with the description of the ensuing battle, were honestly some of my most favorite chapters in the book, especially given how brief they were.

Conclusion

I love that Craig Alanson is keeping to a publishing schedule. The next book is out in Nov? YES! And I loved this book. It was my oasis in a sea of…less than stellar books lately.

The Expeditionary Force series always has a distinctly fun tone in it, and I’m a big fan of that. The story isn’t usually predictable, and the ways that our protagonists get out of them are fun to read. It’s a great escape from life. 🙂

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Paradise (Expeditionary Force Book 3) – TwoMorePages Book Review

Paradise (Expeditionary Force Book 3) – TwoMorePages Book Review

We hit book 3 of the Expeditionary Force series, also known as “The Adventures of Skippy and the Merry Band O’ Pirates!”

I will say I very much preferred this book to book 2, which alas did drag on for a bit, and went a little too heavy with Skippy related material. The switch to and from the perspectives from the characters on Paradise and in the Ruhar and Kristang ships was a nice break, and made me really appreciate the storyline involving Skippy a lot more.

Skippy was hilarious as always, and the ways in which our merry crew got around several obstacles was amusing to read. Specifically, Skippy’s interactions with “Count Chocula” were especially hilarious.

Where the book really shines though is the return to Paradise and picking up with characters introduced in Book 1, but that we never heard from again. Shauna, Perkins, and Bishop’s old Fire Team brought new and interesting perspectives and personalities that we got to know through their own adventures, even with Skippy/Emby.

SPOILERS AHEAD

I honestly thought this would be the last book in the series and our that our Merry Band of Pirates would somehow be able to rescue the remaining humans on Paradise and bring them home, and was surprised that wasn’t the case. So color me shocked when that didn’t happen, and the cliffhanger to introduce the next book was introduced at the very end.

I honestly will probably read Book 4, because I rather enjoy the low brow humor and banter that all the scenes with Skippy bring. But I can see why some other people would not. It kind of gets repetitive. Get in sticky situation; have Skippy say “Oh, well we’re fucked”; Have Bishop be like “Well, what if we did this?”; and then have the problem be solved with a few funny quips in between. I mean, I guess there’s no real way around that when you have painted humans as by far the least technologically advanced race in the book, and Skippy as by far the most technologically advanced. Humans can’t really go toe to toe with any of the other races, so the only way out is basically through Deus Ex Machina via Skippy.

What will be interesting is if Book 4 deals with the problem introduced in Book 2 – who went and killed the Elders, and how exactly Skippy et al are supposed to deal with that. Up until now, we haven’t even been able to deal with the Jeraptha and Thuranin host races, much less a race that is on par or better than the Elders. What exactly is Skippy going to be able to do?

But that’s a problem for another time, and overall, this book was still fun to read. 🙂

Columbus Day – TwoMorePages Book Review

Columbus Day – TwoMorePages Book Review

This was a pretty fantastic book. I mean, obviously, since I’m writing this review. You’ve probably noticed by now that I don’t generally write reviews for books that I’m “meh” about.

The writing style of this book was particularly amusing. The protagonist tells the story as though he’s recounting a tale, complete with asides to the reader, which I found pretty fantastic. And the introduction of Skippy was absolutely amazing – the book flew by once that happened.

I can’t really talk more about this book without starting to spoil things, so here we go!

Skippy!

I feel like this was basically two different books in one. Part I of the book details the invasion of Earth, and Earth’s response to it; and Part II is SKIPPY-TOWN!

I loved Skippy-Town haha. Yeah sure, it’s kind of cheating to introduce an AI that’s smarter than all the other species in the book combined to help out protagonist, but the way he interacts with everyone, especially Bishop, our protagonist, is extremely well done.

Several times, it’s shown that Skippy is not in fact omnisicent / omnipotent. He just is very smart, and doesn’t think the way that we do. For instance, he can totally take over a Thurasian star carrier by himself, but he forgets that we meat bags can’t survive in vacuum. Whoops haha.

But more importantly, the way the author wrote Skippy’s personality was AMAZING. One liners here and there and everywhere. The banter between him and Bishop MAKES the story, especially when you contrast it to the interactions between him and other people in the story. I especially liked the poignant moment where he describes why he and Bishop get along so well – namely, that Bishop is the only person who’s treated him as an equal rather than a machine. And his illustration of that point? That Bishop constantly calls him out and points out that he is an asshole. TROLLOLOL.

Once he enters the story, the game sort of becomes a videogame, where Bishop, as the antagonist, gets to play almost on God mode. Skippy can disable weapons (except the Lizard weapons), and take over entire starships. That’s cool.

Ordinarily, that would be really hard to write in a way that keeps the audience interested, because how interesting is it really to go around murdering everyone when they don’t really have a chance?

But the author did a great job here as well, introducing tension by showing that the good guys can indeed get hurt *and die*, even with God mode enabled. So kudos to that.

I loved every bit of Skippy-town. He made the story for me.

Part I

Oh, right, I said there was a Part I to this saga, right? Despite the amusingness of Part II (Skippy-town), Part I was actually pretty dark. You follow Bishop as he gets shipped off to an alien planet, presumably under the guise of protecting Earth from the Ruhar (the hamsters), only to see him first get stuck on what he considers babysitting duty, and then to see him learn that maybe he’s on the wrong side of this war after all.

Actually, it’s worse than that. I felt like the analogy that Bishop talks about in the book is pretty spot on. Earth is N. Africa in WWII. Both the Allies and the Axis don’t really care about the native people, and said native people get slaughtered because they are so far behind the major fighting powers technologically. So what’s Bishop to do? Just be sad? Earth has essentially been conquered by the Lizards; the Hamsters, while objectively better, do not necessarily care about liberating Earth, and have killed several hundred Earth soldiers.

Part I gets *dark*. Bishop talks about how he feels shooting down the two Hamster dropships, ostensibly killing 1,000 Hamster soldiers in the process. He describes the nightmares he has where he thinks he saw the pilot of one of the dropships look straight at him and ask “Why?”

He also sees a young pilot who refuses to shoot a Hamster school get reprimanded by basically getting executed by having the power cut off in her plane, forcing her to crash. Her last words and thoughts were basically “I didn’t have control of the plane. I didn’t mean to shoot that school full of kids.”

After he gets reprimanded and jailed for refusing to kill Ruhar civilians, he ends up in jail, where he learns that because the Kristang (the Lizards) don’t value female lives, the women soldiers who also willfully disobeyed orders to murder civilians were being raped, tortured, and hung while the male prisoners were merely being sentenced to death. He learns later too that since he’s a guy, he got to eat, while the women prisoners were starved during their ordeal.

This is some truly dark stuff for a book that ends on such a light-hearted note. It’s a weird contrast and I sometimes wonder if the author meant to change the tone so drastically when Skippy was introduced.

Conclusion

Anyway, this is an action book. There isn’t a lot of time spent on character development; heck, you can argue that *nobody* grew as a character, not even Bishop, our protagonist.

But it is extremely entertaining. I’m looking forward to the next book in the series. I wonder if it will do what The Atlantis Trilogy did, where each book has the same writing style, but each book is also a different kind of story? Or if it will be more of a continuation of the adventures of Skippy and the paisley, no wait, the paramecium pirates (you’ll get that joke after you read it the story haha).