Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

Phule's Company #1

Phule's Company

Rate this book
In the novel that started all the phulishness, meet the soldiers of Captain Willard Phule's Company—a handful of military rejects able to do more damage before 9 a.m. than most people do all day. Threatened by an alien enemy, Earth's military sends Phule and his soldiers to a distant planet. But now, the aliens have chosen a new target of war . . . Phule's Company.

232 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published July 1, 1990

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Robert Lynn Asprin

185 books1,005 followers
Robert (Lynn) Asprin was born in 1946. While he wrote some stand alone novels such as The Cold Cash War, Tambu, and The Bug Wars and also the Duncan & Mallory Illustrated stories, Bob is best known for his series fantasy, such as the Myth Adventures of Aahz and Skeeve, the Phule's Company novels, and the Time Scout novels written with Linda Evans. He also edited the groundbreaking Thieves' World anthology series with Lynn Abbey. Other collaborations include License Invoked (set in the French Quarter of New Orleans) and several Myth Adventures novels, all written with Jody Lynn Nye.

Bob's final solo work was a contemporary fantasy series called Dragons, again set in New Orleans.

Bob passed away suddenly on May 22, 2008. He is survived by his daughter and son, his mother and his sister.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
3,363 (34%)
4 stars
3,585 (36%)
3 stars
2,233 (22%)
2 stars
460 (4%)
1 star
100 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 328 reviews
Profile Image for carol..
1,574 reviews8,230 followers
May 12, 2023
A fast comfort read that remains vaguely amusing. A billionaire genius is sentenced to running a grew of misfits in the intergalactic armed services. A significant portion of the book is spent getting to know the major players, all the better to appreciate the transformation they each undergo.

It passed my 80's sniff test, but that's because I went for underlying sensibility over thoughtful characterization. Asprin does like to start from stereotypes and then flesh them out, showing how they all are valuable. As an example, the characters, who chose their career names, are named things like 'Brandy,' 'Do-Wop,' 'Super-Gnat,' and 'Chocolate Harry'--you can probably guess their starting points. Three of the women decide to for no apparent reason, but when the General of the Army confronts Phule, he note that he couldn't order them not to any more than he could order them to do it. Still, there's a lot of role diversity for the women. There are also actual aliens, which were fun and bring it up a notch.

Although plotting poses as irreverent, it honestly supports familiar idealistic values: the value of the individual effort to the team, teamwork in achieving more, the value and function of law and order, and so on. There's usually a twist with each challenge the crew faces, with a big one at the end of the story. I thought it fun.

Keywords: comfort-read, band-of-misfits, found family, cozy fantasy
Profile Image for D.M. Dutcher .
Author 1 book49 followers
April 5, 2012
WIllard Phule is the heir to a super-rich munitions company, and also an officer in the Legion. Unfortunately he gets a little too gung-ho during a peace treaty, and catches the ire of his higher-ups. They can't court-martial him, so instead they try to get him to quit by shipping him off to a remote swamp planet to command a company of losers. But Phule is far too entrepreneurial and positive-minded to let that get him down.

This is yard sale sci-fi. By that I mean you'd really never give this a look except for 50 cents at a yard sale. It's a slim book with a goofy cover. But it's good yard sale sci-fi: it's positive, well written, with good characters and a gentle spirit to it. It's not epic space opera, but it's great comfort reading. It's not going to win Hugo awards, but when you get tired of doom and gloom, hyper-violent and hyper-sexualized modern sci-fi, you could do a lot worse than this.
Profile Image for Justin Robinson.
Author 38 books150 followers
September 24, 2019
I first read this way back in junior high, so it's tough to separate what I like because of merit and what I like because of nostalgia. It was a fast read and I looked forward to it, so I'm giving it the benefit of the doubt.

The meat of the book was a bit thornier, since I noticed things and was bothered by things that I wouldn't have back when I was much younger and when the world was a bit different. I'm a strong believer in the concept of "fair for its day" and not pillorying a book or artist for not living up to modern standards. Still, it's a bit tough not to wince at a few elements in this book, specifically the way the characters of color are described and the voices that are used for them.

Also of note is the complete absence of any gay characters (let alone bi or trans people). Considering Asprin's track record with this (looking, and wincing, at you Don Bruce), that's probably for the best. Still, he has a bunch of female characters who are all distinct and interesting in their own way. So that's good.

The structure is bizarre. It feels like Asprin was shooting for a slobs vs. snobs kind of thing that culminates with the contest between the ragtag underdogs of Phule's Legion and the hoity-toity favorites of the Red Eagles. But then he finished and realized he didn't have 200 pages yet and so tacked on this weird first contact chapter on the end. It's not bad, it's just weird. And it was yet another place where Phule could make money.

That might have been the spot I had the most difficulty with. Phule is a billionaire and a decent person. When I was 13, I could accept this as a possibility. Now? Not so much. Phule's relentless capitalistic drive is off-putting for me now, and the book leans on his wealth to solve problems so many times it somewhat undermines the stakes. It's a weird, minor gripe, but hey, this is Goodreads. Half the reviews are nothing but weird minor gripes.

I still like the book, but it's very much a product of its time. Nothing illustrates that more than the sequence in which Asprin essentially describes a smartphone, and then says they're prohibitively expensive so no one has them. That'll help remind you that the book was published in 1990, and temper your expectations accordingly.
Profile Image for Tammie.
1,353 reviews158 followers
December 11, 2021
I went into this book having only read one other book by Robert Lynn Aspirin. I liked that one ok, so I thought this one would be a good choice to vote for our book club read. Most of my friends agreed and we all ended up enjoying this book. In fact, it's rare that we all like a book unanimously. I think one important thing to note is that we all seemed to be wanting something that was just a fun, easy read, and that's what we got. I thought the characters were fun and engaging. It does show it's age a bit with some of the content - I did cringe a bit at the use of the term orientals for Asians - but mostly this was a fun escape. It's the first in a series of 6 books and a couple of my friends have decided to continue on with the series. I think I'm good with stopping with just this one though, as I liked and enjoyed it, but it isn't something I'm dying to read more of.

Review also posted at Writings of a Reader.
Profile Image for Jan.
541 reviews73 followers
May 3, 2018
The plot is a futuristic military unit of misfits and the officer who tries to whip them into shape. The different personalities were enjoyable and some were well-developed. The pacing was good and the story moved along well.

However, my reservations are these: 1) the plot device of the officer's butler introducing the chapters was unnecessary; the POV could have been third-party and just as good, and 2) the constant use of wealth to solve problems was a cop out. I think that the legion commander was too much of a wise-acre and I began to dislike him. He never had a problem he couldn't buy his way out of. That was unrealistic and disappointing.

The book includes very little violence or foul language, no sex.

I listened to the audiobook and the narration by Noah Michael Levine was very good. There are a lot of characters in this story and the group was multinational (and multi-species), and most of the voices were quite distinct.
Profile Image for Jim Street.
26 reviews2 followers
July 21, 2019
I liked the Myth Series enough to give this a try. I figured it would be somewhat similar, but in space. My assumptions were pretty wrong. I was also misguided by the blurbs on the book and the description/summary on the inside cover. I'm actually really disappointed by them as they were mostly misleading. While there were clever and mildly humorous parts, I failed to find much of it as "hilarious" as the author and company probably wished it were. I will admit that it is better written than the three Myth-adventure books I have read so far.
The major theme of the book is "money is power" and "with enough money, you can solve all your problems." There was very little conflict in the book - what little conflict there was was easily sidestepped by the hero-for-no-reason-and-no-reason-to-like Captain Jester. The entire book is a set of character studies of the "ragtag" bunch that Phule has managed to convert to his cult of personality by throwing money at them. It has the feel of a Police Academy movie, but without the actual hijinks. But even the Police Academy movies have an underlying story to pull it all together...

I can't say that I feel compelled to pick up the next book in the series.
Profile Image for Robert.
1,610 reviews106 followers
July 13, 2023
Yipes but this one has not aged all that well in the 33 years or so since I read it first as a floppy paperback.

I chose to revisit it as an audiobook looking for a breezy, easy listen so I tried to cut it some slack but so much of the attitudes and notions were so dated I couldn't help but laughing at them, as opposed to with them.

Lesson learned: sometimes you really can't go home again. I won't bother moving on with the remaining books at this time.

PS: No merit taken away from the narrator, he did a creditable job with the material as presented.
Profile Image for Sejong.
51 reviews
November 9, 2021
I have to admit, this book is the first since joining Goodreads that I haven't been able to finish. I had fond memories of Asprin as a fantasy writer and would borrow his books from my uncle two decades ago, always drawn in by the amazingly illustrated covers by Robert Grace. I happened to pick up this particular sci-fi adventure at a dusty old bookstore because of it's crazy cover and the phrase "don't judge a book by it's cover" has never wrung so true.

The titular character Phule is a member of the intergalactic military and the son of a uber-successful businessman. In a moment of Zapp Brannigan-esque bafoonery, Phule messes up a military parade and his punishment is to captain the military's most notoriously difficult company, made up of miscreants and aliens.

Phule is a Tony Stark-like character; oozing with charisma and dripping with money. He uses these two attributes to work his way out of seemingly every problem. This formula became tiresome very quickly. Having a character as perfect as Phule, someone who is a master at everything he attempts, is not very relatable and I found myself liking him less and less as his victories piled up. None of the other characters stood out to me as particularly interesting either, just stereotypical characters I'd seen time and again. You might get some enjoyment out of Phule's Company if you're into disposable, light-hearted sci-fi novels but it simply wasn't for me.
Profile Image for Becky.
832 reviews155 followers
March 19, 2016
Having been in the military for 8 years I can really appreciate the characters in this book. They are all misfits, but you have to love them. Every unit, hell, even every group of friends, has a few characters from this book in the crew. Its just realistic enough to life that its particularly enjoyable without being disconcerting.

Robert Aspirin takes a certain taste, thats for sure. You have to be willing to roll with the punches. There is a massive neccessity for suspension of dibelief, because this is like Wodehouse's Bertie Wooster and Jeeves doing a space opera. In essence: everything I've ever wanted.

Aspirin is funny, he is always funny. Its snark, witty, and tongue in cheek.You need to read these books just to enjoy them, to look on the light side of things. The action is still all there, so is the suspense, and the characters are immensely enjoyable. If you are looking for a good book vacation from the heavier stuff, I highly recommend Phule and the gang.
Profile Image for Jim.
Author 7 books2,041 followers
August 19, 2020
This was a lot of fun with interesting, if somewhat 2D characters. The main theme is self confidence & good leadership can turn the dregs into the best during interesting encounters. It's told from the butler's point of view, so his rather dry wit adds to the flavor. It's a quick read, great in either text or audio. It has no redeeming features other than being a hell of a lot of fun. That's still enough to earn it 4 stars from me, though.
Profile Image for Timothy Boyd.
6,652 reviews35 followers
January 24, 2016
I started reading Aspin's fantasy comedy series and was surprised to find he had branched out into SiFi. I wasn't disappointed in the least. Still a laugh all the way through the book no matter what area he writes in. Highly recommended
Profile Image for Soo.
2,598 reviews264 followers
July 10, 2021

Solid intro to a series. I like the batch of misfits. =)
Great example of writing a story in a sparse manner & have be fun to read. Lots of active sequences to draw out characters & plot.
Profile Image for Jenny.
171 reviews6 followers
October 7, 2019

I read this for nostalgia really. I used to read Robert Asprin as a teenager with access to an older brother's fantasy and sci fi collection. Some bits were a little dated but some were surprisingly ahead of their time. Enjoyed it in 2019, which is not bad considering I enjoyed it in the 1990s.
Profile Image for Lucy.
233 reviews1 follower
July 7, 2014
Did not finish.

I didn't dislike Phule and his butler but too many things rubbed me the wrong way.

imo it wasn't actually funny despite being billed as such. An irreverent tone does not comedy make. There is no satire. There is no true farce (at least in the half of the book that I read). The closest we get are quirky characters, but no one stood out for me.

Moving on to the actual plot line...

This Richie Rich fantasy is fun for a bit but over and over again ? nothnx. The wealth==merit thing, again no. He's fabulously wealthy but it's not his father's money. He just loaned from him and amassed his own fortune and paid it back. lol just lol...... clearly no understanding of how the world works. Amassing wealth is all about loans, loans only the already rich or well-connected (ie being a banker or buddies with bankers) can get.

Then we have the wink wink nudge nudge theft/embezzlement/etc with the scurvy members of his crew. They are bonding over shared criminal sensibilities. These aren't really victimless crimes. Am I meant to smile and keep one eye closed and be impressed/amused by it? IRL these people are arseholes.

And at the same time there's a pathetic motivational can-do saga with improving the troops (honestly there's so much of it the book is almost trying to be some kind of motivational text -- and not a whiff of satire, if that was the intention it fails miserably). What am I meant to get from this? It's, obviously, implausible and remote from reality, but there's no feel good element to it because the people are cretins. Humorous? See above.

Despite the cheering at financial fraud etc, Phule/the author(?) has a hypocritical concern for racism and discrimination, and several times we see him benevolently instructing his inferiors in tolerance and inclusion and so forth. And there are fully gangsta black guys he is chummy with. How enlightened etc. I'm politically correct guys, do I get points? It totally makes all the other crimes all right, doesn't it ?

For me this book reeked of some of the worst aspects of English-ness (should I say City of London-ness).

And you know, I wouldn't have given a shit if there was at least a hint of satire, wisdom, or actual funniness.

but nope.

Profile Image for Mikhail.
Author 1 book31 followers
February 16, 2021
It's not bad, but it is extremely, painfully so a product of its time in the early 90s. Not nearly as bad as it could be, in part because Asprin was really going for something light and uplifting, but with attitudes towards race, sex, and gender that are decidedly eyebrow raising today.

I enjoyed reading it in the early 2000s, but I can't imagine I'll ever read it again.
Profile Image for Eden.
1,868 reviews
January 10, 2023
2023 bk 7. Phule's company - Are you a fan of ensemble cast movies? A fan of the changes that can occur in attituce and aptitude? Then Phule's Company might be the sf book for you. The military unit with the 'well' least well thought of reputation is the Legionaires. People join to forget and to be forgotten (many for criminal causes). Officers purchase their ranks. And in this group of misfits we find Lt. Scaramouche/Jester aka Phule (ah - I forgot to mention you take a new name when you join up.) He did something very wrong and his punishment was a promotion to Captain and assigned an Omega Company group of the misfits of the misfits. (He wasn't cashiered because his family owns and makes most of the munitions/armor used by the Legion.) Phule sees a challenge and uses all of his best business and human resource techniques to turn his unit around. A fun read as we meet Mother, Brandy, Super Gnat, Doo Wop, and the other folks of Phule's Company. I read this many years ago, was afraid that it might not hold up - but it did and was as much fun to read the second time around.
60 reviews2 followers
July 24, 2021
I ended up getting this as a recommendation while complaining about another military scifi book I had read, described as something my partner had read as a kid, fit the genre, and enjoyed enough they would reread it. While I probably wouldn't pass on the recommendation, it did make for an entertaining listen.

The most interesting part to me wasn't the story, but the historical context of it. Phule's Company will almost certainly never end up on many "best of" lists, but it was written primarily as entertainment and it largely succeeded there. Being able to clearly see the differences between how such books were written 30 years ago and comparing it to modern books was definitely worth getting through the parts that aged pretty badly, but I'm sure there are plenty of books I enjoy now that my kids will say the same thing about.
Profile Image for Beorn.
58 reviews
October 17, 2018
Fun from start to finish! Great idea well executed. If you want hardcore sci fi look somewhere else, but if you have a sense of humor, this is the place.
Profile Image for Trever.
276 reviews8 followers
September 22, 2019
This was fantastic. I went in expecting "Stripes in Space" but it was actually way more encouraging and uplifting, even, than I'd expected. Rich kid Phule gets put in charge of the usual company of washout space marines, and applies his can-do philosophy to inventing many unconventional methods of team building. It's funny, yes, and sometimes downright exciting, but more than anything it's just a really well written "feel-good" adventure story that will leave you with a big smile at the end. Recommended.
1,814 reviews5 followers
May 27, 2022
Just because a book has a light tone and a tendency for humour at every chance doesn't knock it down the ratings as far as I am concerned. I rarely give four stars (my average is 2.78 Stars as of today) and a fair number of those have been what others might call 'silly'!
Which brings me to "Phule's Company" by Robert Aspirin.
The dregs of the Army eventually end up in an unofficial legion of the damned (think French Foreign Legion), until HQ finds them and starts the process all over again. And when the son of one of the most powerful people in the Empire really screws it up - who better to command them (obviously, stuck in a backwoods posting with a hapless bunch of losers. it's only a matter of time before he gives up is the official thinking).
Except it doesn't quite work that way - and that is the where the story gets wonky. Basically Willard Phule/Captain Jester has lots of money and a belief that all it takes to turn no-hopers into elite troops is incentive. Not a single one of the formerly disgraceful soldiers opposes him (it's kinda like 'The Dirty Dozen' minus Telly Savalas).
It's an easy book to rip into but that avoids the fact that it is a genuinely fun read with a lot of heart. There's a lot of character development, I particularly enjoyed Super Gnat and Tusk-anini, not forgetting 'Mother' and Brandy.
The addition of Beeker, the butler, is a plot device that that allows the story to skip rapidly from event to event, but it jars after a while.
If you like Science Fiction and have a sense of humour you will enjoy it. If, on the other hand, you like your SF hardcore, look elsewhere.
4 solid Stars.
82 reviews
January 14, 2021
Phule's Company is a book that I've had for (literally) decades and have read several times in the past, although it's been a few years. That being said, you'd think it would be one of my favorite books of all time, wouldn't you?

If you had asked me before I started reading it this time with a more critical eye, I would have agreed with you. But I remember liking it more in the past than I did this time, and I definitely didn't think it would wind up with barely an "It's OK" rating.

My main complaint with Phule's Company is the lack of a plot. The first 207 pages are basically meeting all the characters, seeing them interact, and how the unit becomes stronger. It's basically the DM of your weekly D&D group running a "You all meet at the tavern in town" scene that lasts three months. The characters themselves are very enjoyable and well-done, though; each of them is distinct, both in appearance and in personality, and developed enough that when some of them do something...odd (like three of the women doing basically a Playboy photo shoot), it definitely feels forced and out of character for them...or at least two of them. And the whole Space Legion (as campy as the name sounds) feels like the author put a lot of thought and work into it.

The main plot (at least, I think it was the main plot), when it finally arrived, was well written and had its fair share of Asprin's typical humor. But it wasn't significant enough to pull the rest of the book out of the muck.
Profile Image for Saul.
Author 7 books41 followers
May 6, 2012
Though well written, I didn't enjoy it all that much.

I read this because I'm researching the Mil SF humor sub-genre. You see, I'm currently writing my own military science fiction comedy, and even though I did my first draft without any knowledge of this series, there are similarities. I suppose it goes to show you how hard it is to be original. Maybe that's the problem. Coming to this book with my own set of expectations, Asprin's treatment was shockingly different. All of which I can forgive except for one thing: it's not that funny!

But...this book was supposed to be humorous. In fact, the cover (I know, I know...don't every judge a book by that!) and "some" readers claimed it was downright hilarious. Sorry, I would have to disagree. In truth, other than the first page, there are few jokes. At best, I would categorize this as a situational comedy. Honestly, I think Asprin could have done more to make this book funnier. The MC is probably the biggest problem. Willard Phule comes off as fool in the first few pages, but as you read on, it's anything but that. The MC proves himself to be not only very intelligent, but hard working and honest to a fault. All of which would be great if this was simply a Mil SF. However, it's positioned as a Mil SF COMEDY.

To some things up, this book does not have the right setup for true comedy, but is a very well written. So with the correct expectations in mind, you may enjoy it. Probably more than I did.
Profile Image for Felix Zilich.
451 reviews58 followers
December 26, 2012
Не читал Асприна лет двадцать. Был уверен, что никогда к нему и не вернусь, но выпавшая в книжную рулетку “Шутовская рота” оказалась произведением почти бесконечной кавайности. Вещь простецкая, жанр – сатира с приставкой “милитари”. Ничто, на первый взгляд, не предвещает беды, но бьющий фонтантом альтруизм писателя чертовски мотивирует и поднимает настроение.

Уиллард Шьют – наследник крупнейшей оружейной империи. Гений экономической мысли, ставший мультимиллионером еще в подростковом возрасте без какой-либо активной помощи со стороны родителей. Гуманист, экономист, альтруист. И что хуже всего – человек невероятно увлекающийся. Уж если решил пойти в армию – вуаля! уже служит в Космическом Легионе. Пусть и в компании личного дворецкого.

Проштрафившись во время очередной военной кампании, Шьют оказывается переведен с повышением на провинциальную шахтерскую планету командиром местной охранной роты “Омега”. “Омега” – место, куда ссылают всех неудачников и штрафников, но Шьют никогда не теряет веры в себя и в человечество. Капитан решает сделать из своих подопечных лучших десантников в действующей армии. Шьют уверен - бесталанных людей не существует, просто не всегда удается найти путь к сердцу человека, где скрываются его истинные способности.

Вещь, повторюсь, простецкая, но очень заразительная и светлая. Обязательно прочту все сиквелы.
Profile Image for Will Jones.
33 reviews
December 1, 2022
I had a hard time to decide whether this book should be rated 4 stars or 3 stars. As 4 stars puts it at the same level as two of The Lord of the Rings Books, and this book is definitely not that good.

The story is very simple, very basic prose, no real threat that faced the characters, that the main character (Phule) didn't seem to be bothered by any issue, and was one step ahead at all times. All of the other cast members mostly consisted of one-dimensional stereotypes. So why 4 stars.

I read for fun, and enjoyment, and this book was the definition of stupid fun. As basic as it was, it sucked me in and kept me absorbed for the whole length, with its wackiness and awful puns.

I can't see myself reading the next book in the series immediately, because I can see it maybe getting a bit repetitive and annoying but that's speculation, also the series is meant to get significantly worse from this point forward. But maybe at some point I will try it to change the mood a bit.

I would not recommend this to someone looking for depth or tension, but for a short quick read that is a lot of fun. Absolutely!!!
Profile Image for Dennis Keithly.
145 reviews
March 29, 2018
Not the Satire Inexpected

I read this book based on a recommendation from Amazon, and it pleasantly surprised me. From the description, I was expecting an overly comedic story about a band of misfits that form a military unit in the future. When I started reading it, my expectations turned to Police Academy or Stripes. However, Phule’s Company isn’t that. Certainly, it has some very funny moments, but it is also fairly intelligent.

One of the central themes is leadership and motivation. Captain Phule gets assigned to an Omega Company as a punishment for botching a treaty meeting. Phule dives into his assignment and sets about turning this company around with corporate techniques are often subject to satire by current movies and variety show skits.

The difference is that Aspirin puts real thought into their use and has credible reasons for the techniques he employs.

If this novel lacks anything, it is the presence of a real antagonistic organization or enemy. The conflict or challenge is making the unit successful, but that is enough. It is a fun ride.
Profile Image for Chuck.
Author 8 books10 followers
March 14, 2009
A reread for me . . . I read the book in '90 when it first came out, thought I liked it, put it down, and didn't read anything else in the series.

Funny stuff--fans of Aspirin, of Harry Harrison, and of Piers Anthony will appreciate the slapstick, very tongue in cheek, mock-heroic nature of the events of the book.

Capatin Phule is a young multimillionairei who joined hte Space Legion for a variety of reasons; he has irritated the brass and has been put in charge of an Omega company stationed on Haskins planet. An Omega company is a unit where the sevice channels all of the foul ups and head cases.

Phule comes along and turns the Omega Company into the crack unit in the Legion, and makes it on par with the crack special forces units in the ohter branches of the services. HIs methods are, um, unconventional and occassionally felonious--a book that's funnd and in good fun both.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 328 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.