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Summary

Nominee, 2018 Audie Awards — Audiobook of the Year

We were fighting on the wrong side of a war we couldn't win. And that was the good news. 

The Ruhar hit us on Columbus Day. There we were, innocently drifting along the cosmos on our little blue marble, like the Native Americans in 1492. Over the horizon came ships of a technologically advanced, aggressive culture, and BAM! There went the good old days, when humans got killed only by each other. So, Columbus Day. It fits. 

When the morning sky twinkled again, this time with Kristang starships jumping in to hammer the Ruhar, we thought we were saved. The UN Expeditionary Force hitched a ride on Kristang ships to fight the Ruhar wherever our new allies thought we could be useful. So, I went from fighting with the US Army in Nigeria to fighting in space. It was lies, all of it. We shouldn't even be fighting the Ruhar; they aren't our enemy. Our allies are. 

I'd better start at the beginning. 

©2016 Craig Alanson (P)2016 Podium Publishing

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Hampsters, Beer Cans & Cheese Burgers

I've read a lot of books and a fair bit of science fiction and so when I saw this novel from an author I had not previously read anything from, I was curious. I listened to the sample and was hooked instantly. Not only was the narration handled by one of the very best in the business, R C Bray, but the writing style of this author was superb.

So, I purchased the title hoping the book would be as good as the brief sample promised. I have to report that this book wasn't as good as I had first thought ... it was far better! Not that I had low expectations, quite the opposite but it is rare indeed to find a story so well written and so pacey and so utterly entertaining that I was fairly certain it could not maintain even the expectations I had based on the sample.

How would I sum this book up? Well, simple ... just about perfect! Perhaps a bold statement and of course, I realize that any opinions on such things are largely subjective but as science fiction stories go, this one ticks all the boxes and does it with such aplomb. Of all the science fiction writers I've read, I'd say the style and content of this story is perhaps closest to another favourite author of mine, B V Larson. Larson writes uncomplicated military based science fiction and Craig Alanson has a very similar style which, in my humble opinion, makes science fiction fun, entertaining, never boring and action packed. In several ways Columbus Day reminds me of Larsson Star Force series of books in that we have a hapless hero who is thrust into situations that allow his adaptability to get him in and out of all sorts of trouble. Where Alanson differs is that his style of writing has humour and irony woven into the two lead characters - our human hero, Joe Bishop and an artificial intelligence dubbed Skippy buy said hero. The interactions between these two alone make the book at times a hilarious read. However, this humour doesn't detract from the often gritty elements of the story but are perfectly done. This was the first science fiction book I actually laughed out loud to on several occasions and it only made the book that much better. The Joe Bishop character is not the straight laced stereotype hero but a real person who asks the sort of question the reader thinks of to ask or points out the flaws in a plan that the reader has figured out which proves to be very satisfying.

Alanson's prose are engaging, funny and efficiently move the plot along at a good clip not wasting dialogue or lengthy narrative on things not required for the story. You will not find pages of dialogue wasted here by people idly chatting when it's not needed and as such the plot develops at a pace and in a way to keep the reader hooked. I actually tried to ration my listening of this book because I didn't want to finish it too fast! Before I'd finished chapter 1 I had pre-ordered the second book in this series so now I've finished this book I only have two days before the next part is released ... thank goodness!

Incidentally, we are treated to a sample of book 2 at the end of this book just to whet your appetite. However, rather oddly, there seemed a glaring production error in that final section of the recording as the sample appeared to have the first half of it loop through twice before continuing with the second part. Weird.

Also of minor interest to me was the fact that assuming the book is written in a contemporary timeframe, then based on the date of release, it would appear that the author, like most of us, assumed that Hillary Clinton would win the presidency and Alanson has duly worked a female president into his story.


Interestingly, either the author has had direct military experience himself or has done a lot of research as many of the little details in the book hint at this. Familiarity with current military hardware, organization and even slang is impressive and something lacking in some other authors writing.

I first came across R C Bray's narration in the Fear saga books and was impressed immediately. If possible, his narration here is even more impressive and I would dare to say, flawless. About the only other narrator that could pull off a good job of this would be the equally excellent Mark Boyett.

Although already mentioned, I will reiterate that Columbus Day is just about perfect which I know is a very controversial comment to make but until I find a book I enjoyed more and felt was better written and read then the statement stands.

Get it! ... NOW!!

8 people found this helpful

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Fun in a can

The story trots along quite nicely at the beginning but when the intelligent beer can cracks open this story gallops into a whole new level. Excellent fun.

6 people found this helpful

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Clearly I'm in a minority but...

Don't get this review wrong, I did generally enjoy this book but I don't think it is the 5 star gem other reviewers seem to agree on. The idea is great and the mix of humour is fairly unique given that this is not the focus of the book, this is a really difficult balance to achieve, so the author deserves kudos for the attempt. However the characters are shallow and the plot is simplistic; motivation for uber-intelligent species to be conducting a galaxy encompassing war is never explored and the aforementioned humour is school-boy at best. Coupled with a overly large dollop of American jingoism and you're left with a basic if enjoyable yarn to waste a few hours on but not a 5 star listen. I doubt I'll continue with the series.

130 people found this helpful

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Perfect distraction to 2020

I’m sat at home, 7 days into Covid, feeling horrible and struggling to breath and this have been a lifesaver. Keeps me distracted, calm and it is perfectly pitched and the RC Bray is superb.

4 people found this helpful

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Fantastic start to what I hope is a great series

This was an impulse buy and I was a little worried at first. I needn't be though as it was gripping from the start. It's well written and easy to listen to, R.C Bray was as usual, a spot on choice for the narrator. The book has a great change part way through that really sent the story in another direction that was very well delivered. Overall it's a great easy listen. There's some obvious ideas liberated from other sci-fi greats, both written and televised but it works really well.

34 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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The Star Trek Spirit

If you're hankering for the old spirit of Star Trek, well at least the more humorous episodes, with perhaps a little Starship Troopers blended in then freshly seasoned with some Blake's 7 then this is the place to come! Alanson strikes an excellent balance between injecting plentiful humour and making the story serious enough and the action tough enough to make you care. If, on the other hand you are looking for a modern-day Heinlein then you can stop reading now, these aren't the pages you're looking for.

There are lots of hi-lites in this book including a classic choice of vehicle early on to conduct an attack and some genuinely original sci-fi gags. There are of course some "classics" in there but what steals the show is the relationship between Joe and "Mr Skippy" (think Oracs with huge upgrades especially in the personality department) which had me laughing out loud on more than one occasion.

The narration? Well I've Spent a lot of time in the company of Mr RC Bray recently and I love him doing his thing in books like the Arisen and Mountain Man series. He injects great tension and drama into the situations and action scenes. But who would ever have guessed from that he could really do comedy too?? Well it seems he can, he sounded like he was genuinely having a blast at times reading this one.

I always try to avoid spoilers but this book ends by setting up a real Star Trek exploring the universe against the backdrop of warring factions scenario. I am very much looking forwards to where the remaining crew will boldly go.

21 people found this helpful

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Just a whole lotta fun.

This in not heavy SciFi like Peter F. This is fun.
Craig C. Has managed to take some form of serious adventure and also make it humerus. This isn’t slapstick as some reviews imply but it’s also not overly serious and deep like a Iain B. It’s really funny and a darn good adventure too. Some have complained it too formulaic, but so is a drink, and who doesn’t need a drink from time to time just to relax and enjoy. Just like this book.

2 people found this helpful

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FANTASTIC!

Great start to an amazing series! R.C Bray is amazing as usual!!!!
Love it and want more!!!!!

5 people found this helpful

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Good fun

Think Independence Day meets Star Trek.

Of course, when an alien star ship turns up in earth's atmosphere, followed closely by a second alien race, you just know it's all not going to work out in Earth's favour. Our little earth-weapons clearly aren't up to the task! Naturally, the cunning humans' plan is to simply nick the other lots' ships, weapons etc et.... I've totally overly simplified the plot with that statement - but that's the feel of the book.

It's good fun, great narration, and I've downloaded the next book in the series for when I need some light relief. The adjective "jaunty" seems to fit the bill. Onwards then, for a merry jaunt through the universe.....


8 people found this helpful

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Excellent, original and narrated by a master

RC Bray is reason enough to buy an audiobook. Brilliant performance of an original and entertaining book. Need the next book now!

17 people found this helpful

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  • Guernica
  • 08-07-19

Overrated

The reviews on this are overwhelmingly good which means this review will likely get drowned but I really thought this product was badly overrated.

The performer RC Bray does a fine enough job making the mediocre story line flow as best as he can but there's only so much you can do with a bad story.

The story itself was the main problem. It drags. Horribly slowly. Much of the chapters delve deep into the life of Joe Bishop as he evolves into a space marine. This will include daily recaps of what he eats for each meal, when he decides to go play basketball, hitting the pool, and shooting the breeze with other soldiers.

The plot advances too slow and is predictable. Much of the first 25% of the book could have been told in 2-3 chapters.

I really wanted to like this product based on the overwhelmingly positive reviews but I'm afraid either I don't have the same taste, or there are a lot of bots or fanbois pumping up the stars.

217 people found this helpful

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  • Jake
  • 14-04-19

Not an Expanse stand-in

Cardboard characters that do nothing but bro talk. Was suggested this book after completing the Expanse, and I couldn't disagree with that rec more.

70 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 05-07-19

Entirely unbelievable

I'll try not to give much away, but the first half of this book is pretty good and an interesting take on our first exposure to alien species. Then it takes a turn and magically every single problem that does or could ever exist is solved.

It's fun to listen to but I wouldn't recommend it for anyone that appreciates realistic scenarios.

35 people found this helpful

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  • melissa
  • 19-07-19

Mind numbing !

This book lacks style and substance . I have no interest in any of the characters as the story seems rushed. The main character goes from one impossible situation after the other , after the other , after the other. But you never really get the feeling like he is in any danger.
The narration is poorly done. He seems to drone on and on, like one of those movies where the mobster is narrating the movie. He is probably thinking “ If i just talk faster with a Brooklyn accent that will be entertaining enough.” Maybe they should have listened to Ready Player One for an example of narration perfection. Will Weaton sold the show!!!
The editor could have chopped this book in half and it would have been better.

19 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Gary Glenn
  • 27-06-17

Sci Fi I didn't know I wanted

I usually over analyze anything I read or watch, not wanting to waste my time on dribble or uninteresting content. After spending too much time sorting through different audio books, I settled on the Expeditionary Forces series as it appeared interesting and is, well, a series. If I enjoyed it, that would postpone the excruciating task of finding another book.
I am ecstatic that I made this choice. As much as the story is engaging, the narration is as good or better than any I've listened to. Even sound effects are not needed to add anything. Very well done.
A little more science fiction detail wouldn't hurt but does not detract from the enjoyment of this writing.
The humor throughout was unexpected but welcome and well done. Not found very often in well written Sci Fi.
Off to start the second book!

378 people found this helpful

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  • Tim
  • 29-06-17

Brilliant, Funny, Clever... a Sci Fi must have

It’s hard to know where to start when describing this instant modern classic. I’ve loved Sci Fi since I was yay high…I cut my teeth on space operas like the works of EE. Doc Smith. This is the next generation of space opera and it’s fabulous. It’s also quite funny in many places. It’s action packed but doesn’t feel silly like a lot of action fiction does. The plot includes dueling alien races of giant hamsters and lizards, faster than light travel and a snarky deus ex machina artificial Intelligence the size of a can of coke. Sounds ridiculous but is actually compelling, weirdly credible and wildly entertaining. I’m already most the way through book two which puts me close to a third of the way through a 50 hour epic. If you love hard Sci Fi, if you are a Trekki or a Star Wars fan you will lap this up.

240 people found this helpful

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  • Klaumbaz
  • 02-08-17

fun listen

maybe my monkey brain can't understand the innumerable forces at work to allow Joe the ability be at the right place at the wrong time. very tropish ( that means you need to understand all of the science fiction theories out there, or you're going to get lost) but it goes from mediocre to entertaining when you find Skippy

13 people found this helpful

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  • Mixter
  • 05-05-19

Bray can’t carry this mess!

The dialog is so bad it just makes a good narrator sound dumb. Should be labeled for 6th graders and below. I want my money back!

11 people found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Jones
  • 26-04-19

Written like someone had a gun to his head

If you like 8 books of repeated dialogue, repeated jokes, repeated references, repeated expressions, character development (actually none in 8 books), and a formulaic layout that would fit into a children's TV show then this series is for you. The writing is worse than the continuity of Skippy's abilities.

10 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Eileen
  • 30-01-18

Alanson and Bray ROCK!!!

This audible book is the perfect union between author and narrator, really, it doesn’t get better! I loved this book, sci-fi with humor, you can’t go wrong! R.C. Bray is freaking awesome, I don’t think anyone could have done a better job, he’s totally a gifted narrator! I’m already through to book 4 and waiting on book 5 if that tells you how much I like this series so jump on this train, it’s a great ride!

39 people found this helpful