Skippy the Magnificent

or… sometimes, Skippy the Meh.

 

To properly give context to this post, I need to go back a year ago when I gave Alex a subscription to Audible for Valentine’s Day. Due to the fact he is a compensated dyslexic, Alex and reading haven’t ever had the best of relationships. However, I adore that, despite this fact, he has maintained an enthusiastic interest in written works, enjoying books from sci-fi and fantasy novels to non-fiction compilations of things that interest him like aikido and greek mythology. He’s always down to peruse a book store and takes his book recommendations very seriously. Most of the time, he prefers to read a book as quickly as possible so he can enjoy the content while spending the least amount of time actually reading. Even better though, is when he gets to listen to audio books. Hence the gift of Audible! It truly was the gift he never knew he wanted and he has maintained the subscription for the past year, with no intention of discontinuing it.

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I benefit greatly from this awesome gift because I have access to his steadily growing library of audio books. And that, is where Skippy comes in. Though Alex has suggested other fun novels to me throughout the years, he finally came across one book that was so awesome he had to insist I listen to it – so far as installing the Audible app on my phone while I was distracted.

So let me tell you about this extensively entertaining book, and hopefully you too will meet the awesomeness that is Skippy. Contrary to the way I speak of it, the book is not actually called Skippy, and Skippy the character does not make an appearance until halfway through the book. The book is called Expeditionary Force: Columbus Day.

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It is the first of a growing series which now has 5 books published with number 6 and 7 scheduled to be released within 2018. It is written by Craig Alanson who I am beginning to greatly admire for his skill in writing compelling characters and his ability to create an inclusive cast complete with many strong female characters. The premise is that in the not too distant future, aliens unexpectedly ‘crash land’ on Earth on Columbus Day (I assume in reference to the alien disaster flick, Independence Day). These aliens are thought to be hostile and the main character, Joe Bishop, becomes infamous for taking an alien hostage in a beat up van covered in paintings of cartoon characters like Barney. From there, humans realize that they are tiny and insignificant compared to the greater scale galactic war ongoing throughout the Milky Way galaxy. Many influential nations – such as the United States, India, China and the United Kingdom – join forces and form the Expeditionary Force which sends it’s own (truthfully rather useless) contribution to the war – working essentially as grunts for a more powerful patron species.

I don’t want to give much more away, but as a teaser… Joe heads into space as part of this Expeditionary Force and soon starts to realize that the humans are probably on the wrong side of the war. The wrong side of a war in which humans are greatly outmatched. As that becomes more and more apparent, Joe is forced to choose between his morals and his safety (and ultimately his own life) and it is then that Joe meets Skippy – an incredibly intelligent alien A. I. who is, in Joe’s words, an asshole.

At this point the entire book shifts from being a dystopian/war torn sci-fi novel to following a ragtag team of space-pirates (who call themselves the Merry Band of Pirates) gallivanting about the galaxy wreaking havoc and attempting to protect Earth and the human race from the greater dangers out in the galaxy.

Have I convinced you to read it yet? Well I won’t stop there! You should listen to it. Sometimes audio books are simply the mechanism of getting the story without having to devote time to stare at the pages. However, that is not the case with this book. All of the Expeditionary Force books are performed by R.C. Bray. Note. performed by, not narrated by, not read by, performed. R. C. Bray does a fantastic job conveying emotion, differentiating characters with inflection and accents, and makes you feel as through you are really listening to Joe narrate. Where his performance truly shines, however, is his portrayal of Skippy. The dialog between Skippy and Joe, while written quite well by Alanson, would not have the same impact were it not delivered by Bray. For a character who’s personality can only be understood through their inflection and vocal interaction with others (because he’s an A.I., remember?), it is necessary to have the narrator convincingly interpret and deliver each line true to character. Half of what makes Skippy so great is R. C. Bray’s interpretation of him.

The book is full of witty humor, thought-provoking mysteries, and some intriguing science. If you liked The Martian by Andy Weir  (which also has an audio book version – performed by R.C. Bray), you’ll probably like this one. If you liked the tv series Firefly, you’ll probably like this one. If you ever ask me for a book recommendation, I’ll confidently recommend this one.

6 thoughts on “Skippy the Magnificent

  1. As always, your writing is delightful. I read until the description of the book not titled Skippy, and then stopped because even the tinge of a spoiler makes me not want to read or see or hear whatever it is. There’s not much of a likelihood that I really would get into this series, but the conundrum is chancing that and then regretting the chancing of that which then would permit me to read the entirety of your I am sure delightful post, only to find that it totally describes the series that I would have loved to my core of cores, but alas then am forever plagued, knowing I cannot ever read it because it has been spoiled, leading me to revert to my initial plan of not reading the whole blog post, at the cost of losing out on reading your fresh words. There are other logical possibilities which can solve my problem, but right now I am so sleepy and lazy that I’m not willing to think about them or to elaborate on them. So for now I’m skipping Skippy, but I am so pleased that Alex is a literary devotee.

    1. Carol – I’m totally on board with your attitude about spoilers, and I am not going to try to convince you to finish reading the post, but I feel compelled to make an observation. I’ve found that really good books can’t be spoiled. We often know what happens in the story before reading a book, or watching a movie, ie, the ring is destroyed, the Nazi’s are defeated, Pearl Harbor gets bombed, the Titanic sinks, Harry confronts Voldemort, etc, etc. The joy comes not from the story itself, but from the TELLING of the story. I’ve read the Lord of the Rings many times, not because I want to read the story, but because I enjoy so much the telling of the story. While it is true that I can never have that first time experience again (which really does sadden me), I can enjoy the story-telling again and again. (An exception to this is anything in the mystery or “whodunit” categories, but I don’t really spend a lot of time in those genres.)
      The story or stories of the Expeditionary Force series are really secondary to the performance of the audio books. In fact, I’d argue that the actual story of the books is immaterial to the fun to be had here, especially in the listening option. RC Bray is very, very good in his performance on these audio books.
      That being said, I agree that the irreverent, space sci-fi, getting out of various scrapes type of story may not be up your alley…..

      1. Craig, Aha. Connecting the dots, my apparently unconscious fear that Skippy might meet with a horrible demise has been revealed by your comment at the end about getting out of scraps. I love getting out of scraps stories, and sci-fi as a genre! It’s just that my reading focus seems to have stabilized on the enchanting early to middle childhood gems that Claire long ago adored, and is now carefully recommending to me. These take a long time to get through, as they beg to be luxuriated within, rather than raced through. Conceivably, my developmental reading level will catch up one day to incorporate Skippy and such, and as there is not a common societal culture of knowing that, by definition, Sherlock Holmes survives into the next and the next book (and are we REALLY sure about Moriarty’s fate, we now?), I’d like to keep it that way for dear Skippy and comrades and foes, beyond your compelling argument!
        I’m wondering if this has happened that your kids have come as adults to you both, enthusiastically updating your reading lists with their childhood faves.

  2. Thanks for the review I enjoyed it. You made the book and characters sound interesting and fun to read or listen to. I’m not sure it’s my kind of book, but then again I might find myself listening to it.

  3. Amen. Really, Amen. This could not have been better said. This reveiw should really be posted on Audible.

    As someone who has also benefited from Alex’s book recommendations, I appreciate hearing of the thoughtfulness he puts into them. It seems he’s been spot on anytime he suggests books or movies. Including those that he recommends I don’t bother with.

  4. Awesomeness! We LOVE Skippy the Magnificent! It’s such a great book to listen to on long drives. Can’t wait for book six to come out on audio!

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