Spec Ops, Expeditionary Force Book 2, by Craig Alanson
I read the first volume in this series last month and noted that the book was mostly dry military scifi until, about halfway through the book, the author introduces an Artificial Intelligence that comes to be named Skippy. Grunt turned colonel Joe Bishop finds him while a prisoner of aliens and they developing a bantering bond that continues through the rest of the book and it transforms the whole texture of the book.
Spec Ops picks up where book one left off. During their escape Bishop and a small group of humans, with the help of Skippy, manage to capture an alien vessel (dubbed The Flying Dutchman) that allows them to return to earth. The AI manages to close a wormhole that allowed access to earth and with the planet safe from future alien invasions they gather a group of 70 special operations soldiers (spec ops) and civilian scientists to help Skippy acquire technology left by the ancient race that created Skippy and, hopefully, other AIs like him.
Alanson manages to keep the dialogue between the two main characters fresh and lively while still maintaining a well-written adventure story going. I wondered whether the snarkiness between Joe and the AI would get tired through another book but amazingly it doesn’t. I admire and cherish a writer who can keep me laughing through a whole book.
As the story progresses they do find signs of the ancient race but also run across unsettling evidence that another destructive race managed to sweep through and destroy several locations where artifacts were stored, a race powerful enough to reshape whole planetary systems. They also discover that one of the contemporary and highly militarized alien races have launched their ships at earth, even without use of wormholes.
The action is tight and well-paced, the humor, even though it runs along predictable ideas, is kept strong. Bishop and Skippy also begin to develop a grudging appreciation for each other.
This book will not be everyone’s cup of tea but it kept me entertained and laughing out loud at some sections. I’m willing to pick up the next book to see if Alanson can keep it going.
Available only in Kindle and Audible versions. No hard copies available.