Discussion:
Expeditionary Force/Skippy series (Craig Alanson)
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m***@sky.com
2018-11-18 12:56:45 UTC
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This is a series of books on Amazon, starting at "Columbus Day" - this name reflects the surprise arrival of technologically superior aliens. Skippy is an alien AI with a personality defect, and constraints which mean that he can only interact with non-spacefaring species - which means humanity. The books are partly old-fashioned SF puzzle stories, in which Skippy presents the leading human, Joe Bishop, with problems for which Joe finds imaginative solutions (Humans appear to have a unique talent for finding creative solutions).

I'm not convinced the reader can be expected to solve the puzzles, but I find I don't care. I was recently given "Forever and a day" by Horowitz, a prequel James Bond novel. This has a trivial puzzle - perhaps sufficiently shallow to be better described as a Chekhov's gun. The first time this was brought up I though "oh yes, I see," without being particularly impressed or pleased with myself. After the second time I was yelling to the author "I heard you the first time!"

The world-building that sets up this situation appears consistent, if not very likely. Characters spend most of their time within the military, so we don't see much of everyday life in any situation, but the various races are interesting. I like the Jeraptha, who are obsessive gamblers to the point that it permeates their institutions. As in E.E.Smith's universe of the lens, the bad guy species are against sexual equality, and are modifying themselves to reduce this.

If you can ignore or appreciate the somewhat juvenile sense of humor, these are surprisingly intelligent books - and cheap on Amazon. Once you meet Skippy in "Columbus Day" the pattern for the other four books (so far) in the series is set - so I would suggest that a small investment of time and money spent buying and reading "Columbus Day" is a pretty good bet.
Ahasuerus
2018-11-18 13:36:54 UTC
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Post by m***@sky.com
This is a series of books on Amazon, starting at "Columbus Day" - this
name reflects the surprise arrival of technologically superior aliens.
[snip]
Post by m***@sky.com
If you can ignore or appreciate the somewhat juvenile sense of humor,
these are surprisingly intelligent books - and cheap on Amazon. Once
you meet Skippy in "Columbus Day" the pattern for the other four books
(so far) in the series
Volume 6 was published in May -- see
http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/ea.cgi?277699
Post by m***@sky.com
is set - so I would suggest that a small investment of time and
money spent buying and reading "Columbus Day" is a pretty good bet.
It's also on Kindle Unlimited, which, in the US, is $0.99 for the first
3 months at the moment.
m***@sky.com
2018-11-18 18:00:13 UTC
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Post by Ahasuerus
Post by m***@sky.com
This is a series of books on Amazon, starting at "Columbus Day" - this
name reflects the surprise arrival of technologically superior aliens.
[snip]
Post by m***@sky.com
If you can ignore or appreciate the somewhat juvenile sense of humor,
these are surprisingly intelligent books - and cheap on Amazon. Once
you meet Skippy in "Columbus Day" the pattern for the other four books
(so far) in the series
Volume 6 was published in May -- see
http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/ea.cgi?277699
Post by m***@sky.com
is set - so I would suggest that a small investment of time and
money spent buying and reading "Columbus Day" is a pretty good bet.
It's also on Kindle Unlimited, which, in the US, is $0.99 for the first
3 months at the moment.
Thanks - I miscounted rather than missing a book, so I can report that Vol VI "Mavericks" is a worthy addition to the series. Sooner or later - especially with this puzzle-heavy format - he's going to run out of ideas, but that hasn't happened quite yet.
Ahasuerus
2018-11-18 19:38:27 UTC
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Post by m***@sky.com
Post by Ahasuerus
Post by m***@sky.com
This is a series of books on Amazon, starting at "Columbus Day" - this
name reflects the surprise arrival of technologically superior aliens.
[snip]
Post by m***@sky.com
If you can ignore or appreciate the somewhat juvenile sense of humor,
these are surprisingly intelligent books - and cheap on Amazon. Once
you meet Skippy in "Columbus Day" the pattern for the other four books
(so far) in the series
Volume 6 was published in May -- see
http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/ea.cgi?277699
Post by m***@sky.com
is set - so I would suggest that a small investment of time and
money spent buying and reading "Columbus Day" is a pretty good bet.
It's also on Kindle Unlimited, which, in the US, is $0.99 for the first
3 months at the moment.
Thanks - I miscounted rather than missing a book, so I can report
that Vol VI "Mavericks" is a worthy addition to the series. Sooner or
later - especially with this puzzle-heavy format - he's going to run
out of ideas, but that hasn't happened quite yet.
I may give it a try in the foreseeable future. After entering hundreds
of Japanese "light novels" in the ISFDB -- and reading a bunch of them
-- I am ready for a change of scenery.
Ahasuerus
2018-12-04 20:41:50 UTC
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Post by Ahasuerus
Post by m***@sky.com
Post by Ahasuerus
Post by m***@sky.com
This is a series of books on Amazon, starting at "Columbus Day" - this
name reflects the surprise arrival of technologically superior aliens.
[snip]
Post by m***@sky.com
If you can ignore or appreciate the somewhat juvenile sense of humor,
these are surprisingly intelligent books - and cheap on Amazon. Once
you meet Skippy in "Columbus Day" the pattern for the other four books
(so far) in the series
Volume 6 was published in May -- see
http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/ea.cgi?277699
Post by m***@sky.com
is set - so I would suggest that a small investment of time and
money spent buying and reading "Columbus Day" is a pretty good bet.
It's also on Kindle Unlimited, which, in the US, is $0.99 for the first
3 months at the moment.
Thanks - I miscounted rather than missing a book, so I can report
that Vol VI "Mavericks" is a worthy addition to the series. Sooner or
later - especially with this puzzle-heavy format - he's going to run
out of ideas, but that hasn't happened quite yet.
I may give it a try in the foreseeable future. After entering hundreds
of Japanese "light novels" in the ISFDB -- and reading a bunch of them
-- I am ready for a change of scenery.
I finished volume 1 a few days ago. It was a mixed bag.

The good news is that the book was passably well written, at least for
an indie novel. The first chapter was all but unedited with run-on
sentences all over the place, but then it got better. Enlisted
characters mostly rang true; I have known people just like that. The
universe felt superficial, but overall it was pretty decent considering
the kind of story the author wanted to tell.

The neutral news is that the officer characters were a bit bland. Not unbelievable, just bland.

The not so good news is that the aliens didn't feel like real aliens.
They were stereotypical humans dressed up in funny suits. The notion
that all sentient species -- or at least the two that we met in
volume 1 -- would use the same body language was hard to credit.

The super-intelligent AI was even more problematic. The humor was from
the factory floor. The notion that an AI would be incredibly capable
in some areas yet absent-minded in other areas was extremely hard to
credit. It seemed like a convenient plot device which justified the MC's
role as the AI's minder. Worse, the protagonist ended up as a huge Mary
Sue. Some scientists and government officials were caricatures and the
way the MC treated them was a thinly disguised power fantasy of the
most basic kind.

Overall it wasn't bad for an indie novel and I can see how the universe
can be attractive to its fans. Some elements reminded me of Dennis E.
Taylor's equally popular "Bobiverse" books.
Ted Nolan <tednolan>
2018-12-04 21:47:03 UTC
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Post by Ahasuerus
Post by Ahasuerus
Post by m***@sky.com
Post by Ahasuerus
Post by m***@sky.com
This is a series of books on Amazon, starting at "Columbus Day" - this
name reflects the surprise arrival of technologically superior aliens.
[snip]
Post by m***@sky.com
If you can ignore or appreciate the somewhat juvenile sense of humor,
these are surprisingly intelligent books - and cheap on Amazon. Once
you meet Skippy in "Columbus Day" the pattern for the other four books
(so far) in the series
Volume 6 was published in May -- see
http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/ea.cgi?277699
Post by m***@sky.com
is set - so I would suggest that a small investment of time and
money spent buying and reading "Columbus Day" is a pretty good bet.
It's also on Kindle Unlimited, which, in the US, is $0.99 for the first
3 months at the moment.
Thanks - I miscounted rather than missing a book, so I can report
that Vol VI "Mavericks" is a worthy addition to the series. Sooner or
later - especially with this puzzle-heavy format - he's going to run
out of ideas, but that hasn't happened quite yet.
I may give it a try in the foreseeable future. After entering hundreds
of Japanese "light novels" in the ISFDB -- and reading a bunch of them
-- I am ready for a change of scenery.
I finished volume 1 a few days ago. It was a mixed bag.
The good news is that the book was passably well written, at least for
an indie novel. The first chapter was all but unedited with run-on
sentences all over the place, but then it got better. Enlisted
characters mostly rang true; I have known people just like that. The
universe felt superficial, but overall it was pretty decent considering
the kind of story the author wanted to tell.
The neutral news is that the officer characters were a bit bland. Not
unbelievable, just bland.
The not so good news is that the aliens didn't feel like real aliens.
They were stereotypical humans dressed up in funny suits. The notion
that all sentient species -- or at least the two that we met in
volume 1 -- would use the same body language was hard to credit.
The super-intelligent AI was even more problematic. The humor was from
the factory floor. The notion that an AI would be incredibly capable
in some areas yet absent-minded in other areas was extremely hard to
credit. It seemed like a convenient plot device which justified the MC's
role as the AI's minder. Worse, the protagonist ended up as a huge Mary
Sue. Some scientists and government officials were caricatures and the
way the MC treated them was a thinly disguised power fantasy of the
most basic kind.
Overall it wasn't bad for an indie novel and I can see how the universe
can be attractive to its fans. Some elements reminded me of Dennis E.
Taylor's equally popular "Bobiverse" books.
I've read the first 3.5 of these now and like them a good bit. At this
point it's clear that the AI is probably operating under some kind of
hobbles. I suspect he's an amnesiac Sentinel (that's not a spoiler, since
it's just my guess).

Thanks to the OP for the pointer!
--
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