No Phule Like An Old Phule is a hilarious tale interweaving the ridiculous adventures of the elder Mr. Phule and the younger Mr. Phule, as well as the stories of two conniving hucksters, a military company full of ridiculous characters, an enthusiastic young recruit, a crew of big game hunters, an environmental inspection team, and the easily mistranslated local Zenobian population.
Before I go any further:
TRIGGER WARNING: Occasional punning; humor of the kind that may make you slam your palms into your face at a reasonably high velocity.
Great, that’s out of the way. The characters were great: generally caricatures, but done well and so over the top that it just makes you grin. And then when it turns out that they actually have a bit more depth, then it is just that much more effective. The humorous aspect of each character is usually something you can grasp right away, but what makes the book shine is how the interaction between the characters is smartly done as well.
Although the characters and humor by themselves were quite honestly enough to keep me reading, there are several mystery arcs weaving through the story that add a good amount of tension and suspense and charge the story with narrative juice that drives the story along. Asprin and Heck also make great use of summary to avoid getting bogged down.
Beeker’s journal entries before each chapter are great as well, because they work along with suspension of disbelief by showing that pretty much the most even-keeled character in the company regards much of the farcical proceedings as a farce.
As a bit of a bonus, while apparently there are 4 other Phule books that take place before this one, I had zero problems diving in. Even though the book referenced previous events, it provided just enough context for us to understand the situation without giving more context than necessary or super spoiling the previous stories. Which is great! Also rare.
Cover Art Review: This cover definitely undersells the book’s writing. While it captures the light-hearted mood, it could have hinted more at the zaniness and farcical proceedings to come.