Shields of Phlegm by G. Ernest Smith
If you’re looking for a short read that’s hilarious, imaginative, and fun, this one is for you!
Publisher’s Description: PHLEGM is not one of those acronyms that just rolls off the tongue. It tends to stick in the throat. But it’s easier to say than Planetary Hub Law Enforcement Group – Monroe Division. PHLEGM is an important unit, doing an important job. Members of this group are called shields and they patrol Monroe Station, a huge orbital community in Earth’s influence. This story is about one of those shields. His name is Levi and he’s trying to fit into a human world as best he can. Levi is a sheep, but not just any sheep, he’s a fearsome quad ram, specially modified genetically for law enforcement.
Levi and his human partners Bud Havoc and Marty Boher get a call to go down to a small town called Harry-Hurt-His-Toe in the university district of Monroe Station. There they find a madman ransacking an office and screaming about an ancient prophecy of doom. Havoc approaches the man but he has protection, a 500 pound gorilla. Levi is able to dispatch the gorilla, allowing his partners to subdue the man and take him downtown to booking.
They listen to the man’s rantings. The end is near, he says, as foretold by the Book of Trudy and only the Eye of Nigel can save them. The madman is released, but he continues to make trouble all over Monroe Station. Levi doesn’t put much credence in the prophecy of doom, but then he discovers there are missing PHARTs (Planetary Hub Armed Recon Teams). Three have disappeared in two weeks while on patrol. When he meets a recon commander, he finds out that it’s worse than they thought. There are now many more PHARTs missing. Something is happening out on the perimeter. Something sinister. Can it be stopped?
What’s a sheep to do?
Possible spoilers beyond this point.
Kat Mandu says…
In this world, Havoc and Marty are “Shields” (cops, essentially) that patrol a space station outside earth’s borders. Here, there are fashion police for different sectors, crazy names for cities and establishments (Like Harry-hurt-a-toe!) and animals engineered to talk, think like humans, and do much, much more. This is where Levi enters, a quad-ram (those he’s often referred to as a sheep), who’s smart, kind, and brave. This is his story – a story where he saves the Monroe station they patrol from supposed alien threat.
This was cute to me. Levi is a sweetie and he doesn’t get jokes very often, which makes the situation funny. Marty and Havoc make their own jokes too. For me, I liked the characters more than the plotline itself (not that the plot was bad). Trudy and Heather, two witches from a sector that’s ruled by “Goth” apparel, are big parts of the story, too, as Trudy was the one who “prophesized” the world ending and wrote about it in a book. I liked the relationships between all the characters, who grow more fond of each other as the story progresses. There’s definitely some sparks between Heather and Havoc.
The author gets to poke fun at a lot of things – fashion, legal affairs, even “the cloud.” There’s a lot of interesting acronyms (PHART & PHUKT being two examples) and lots of interesting technology, like the smart-ass phones and the features within the alien ship.
I like the world that Smith has created. It’s fun and creative, while maintaining a goofy flair. His characters are cute and drive the story. I look forward to reading the sequel(s)!
If you like this book…
…to be honest I haven’t read much about animals in space, so choosing some similar books was hard for me. If you like books with goofy, talking animals, I’d recommend K-9 Cop by Erna Mueller and The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede. If you like older books that poke fun at stuff, I’d suggest something by Christopher Moore, Terry Pratchett or Carl Hiaasen. Of course, for this sense of space-goofyness, you have to check out the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Adams.