Trouble on Paradise (An ExForce Novella) (ExForce Novellas, Volume 1), by Craig Alanson

This shorter book in the Expeditionary Force series is variously listed as Novella Volume 1 or Expeditionary Force 3.5. It veers off a bit from the extended story involving Joe Bishop and the alien artificial intelligence dubbed “Skippy”, but still involves the ongoing struggle between the hamster-like Ruhar and the lizard-like Kristang and which side the humans from earth should be siding with.

On Paradise, a planet tensely shared by humans and the Ruhar, there’s an unbalanced alliance. But the human’s had their first view of aliens when the Ruhar landed on earth on Columbus Day (book 1) and the Kristang seemed like a savior race. For many humans there is still loyalty to the Kristang. Rejecting the new alliance they call themselves Keepers. In either case, humans are considered an inferior and backward race.

Despite these tensions, humans and the Ruhar have an alliance on Paradise.  A cadre of Kristang have shown up to do damage to their Ruhar enemies and a group of humans are recruited to assist, mostly because humans have inferior technology which has forced them to be more creative in their tactics.

This book nearly succumbs to what I see as Alanson’s primary weakness by falling into what feels like grunt nostalgia. This nearly ruined the first book, too, until the author introduced Skippy and something magic happened to the book. This book plods along with humans of the UNEF (United Nations Expeditionary Force) fighting, bonding, and missing home like characters in a WWII movie about a group of mismatched Marines. Again, he pulls the story out with the introduction of an alien character that changes the focus of the book. In this time it’s a thirteen-year-old Ruhar cadet who is the only one willing to work with the humans as a liaison when the humans participate in a mission. With the introduction of Nert the book changes mood and has something to balance the military chatter.

The novella is a short 167 pages and the book moves along on the plot of the primary mission to destroy a Kristang weapon before it can be activated. Alanson writes great battle scenes with creative tactics that get you cheering along with the good guys. Non-battle action near the climax is also well-paced. It’s a fun little standalone book if you’re not familiar with the series or a nice diversion for series fans.