What is Aftermath?
What happens in the wake of FAILURE MODE?
The AFTERMATH of a stunning victory, especially an unexpected, complete and final victory, should be High-Fives all around, listening to politicians give boring congratulatory speeches, and a well-deserved rest for the Merry Band of Pirates. Yes, the galaxy is still a freakin’ mess but that is nothing new, and for a change, that can be someone else’s problem.
Until, you know, something really BAD happens, and only the Pirates can deal with the problem.
AFTERMATH by Craig Alanson is the sixteenth book in the Expeditionary Force series. For those unfamiliar with the series, it is a space opera series about Earth being caught between feuding interstellar powers that are all proxies for even larger interstellar powers. We’re centuries from being able to be anything other than cannon fodder and more likely to be exterminated in an off-hand action by people who consider us no more important than a gas station town next to a highway. This all changes when humanity finds SKIPPY THE MAGNIFICENT, an Elder AI that gives humanity not so much a fighting chance but the tools to do wild trickster plots that would make Coyote or Loki proud.
The Expeditionary Force series has been a consistently entertaining collection of books following the adventures of Skippy and Joe Bishop. The books are kind of silly in that every single one deals with another existential crisis to humanity’s survival, usually brought about by whatever they did to resolve the previous book’s one, but they’re incredibly fun. The audiobook versions narrated by RC Bray also emphasize the humor to be found in Skippy’s obsession with pop culture as well as desire to troll humanity at every opportunity.
The series reached its ending in FAILURE MODE where the majority of the story’s plot threads were wrapped up and it was believed the universe was finally put to rest. But you can’t keep a good AI or his pet human down, so Craig has revived the series. I originally thought this was going to be a one shot or denouement to the original series. The title certainly indicates so. However, it actually seems like this is the beginning of a full revival of the series and I am all for it.
The premise for this volume is that Joe Bishop has settled into retirement as a two star general. I say retirement because while he’s on active duty, his duties are more or less nonexistent. The government grew sick of his shenanigans long before he finished saving the world and this job is meant to keep him out of trouble. That goes out the window when an attempt to activate a Sentinel to protect an allied race’s destroyed homeworld goes disastrously wrong. A mysterious new third party has entered the game and wields power even greater than Skippy.
Craig Alanson hasn’t lost any of his charm, wit, or skill at describing the Merry Band of Pirates deranged missions. You’d think after sixteen books of these crazy adventures I’d be ready to move on but I’m excited to be back with old friends. The cast has gotten significant older and middle aged father of two (soon to be three) Joe reads significantly different than the Joe who stole a beer can that turned out to be the most powerful weapon in the galaxy. That’s the way it should be and the character development helps the book feel like it isn’t just a rehash of everything that has gone before.
In conclusion, Aftermath is an excellent continuation of a series that never should have ended in the first place. Certainly, as long as Craig Alanson and Bray continue to produce these books, I will continue to read them. There’s also set up for the next few books that I think will hopefully lead to another ten books at least.