Wrath of the Lemming Men by Toby Frost (Chronicles of Isambard Smith: Book 3)

With Space Captain Isambard Smith having already brushed with the eponymous Lemming men in "God Emperor of Didcot", this adventure fully acquaints the reader with the furry fanatics from Yull. Forced to retreat at the Battle of the Tam valley, leader of the Yullian army Colonel Mimco Vock seeks absolution for his failure by offering his life to the Yullian war-god "Popacapinyo". Acting as agent for the scheming Ghast leader Number 8, Smith's nemesis 462 interjects and persuades Vock to instead seek redress from those responsible for his loss of face - specifically the clan of Suruk the Slayer. Since Suruk's father Agshad is ignominiously killed in the battle with the Yullian forces, Suruk has in turn sworn to avenge his father's honour. Unsurprisingly the Ghasts merely want to use the Lemming men as pawns in their ongoing struggle with the British Space Empire. Whilst the Empire's resources are tied up in chaotic battle with the Ghast-Yullian alliance, Number 8 is free to covertly pursue his true intention - to seek out the powerful and enigmatic Vorl (first encountered in "Space Captain Smith") and genetically engineer an army of Ghast/Vorl hybrids! Once again it's up to Smith and a few hardy personnel to solve the puzzles and thwart this dastardly threat to the Empire. But this time his efforts are further hampered by Suruk and Vock's sworn commitment to resolve their differences in a manner from which only one can emerge victorious.

This is the third of Toby Frost's “Chronicles of Isambard Smith” and I have to say upfront that it's really one for the fans. By this I mean that firstly it's pretty much a requirement to have read the previous two books in this series in order to be familiar with the characters, their relationships and previous plot elements upon which this tale draws. Secondly, and rather more poignantly, I got the impression that perhaps Frost is beginning to tire of having to continuously innovate humorous situations for his creations since I found this book to be the least funny of the three. Whilst it certainly has it's moments of hilarity (the names of the Yullian Gods for example), they were noticeably fewer than in previous Smith adventures and the net had been cast further afield in order to find them. This notion was reinforced by a tendency for Frost to fall back on the formulaic especially in the crucial character interactions. I realise of course that anticipating how a character will react under given circumstances forms the backbone of many comedic situations. It's just that I felt the standing jokes had truly run their course and it was time for something fresh - a position I suspect Frost shares. This isn't to say that “Wrath of the Lemming Men” is dull or boring because it isn't. But despite having the most ambitious plot to date, the book isn't quite up to the standard of previous offerings.

With no immediate sign of a fourth book on the horizon it seems Frost has decided to take a break from the Smith series. Whether this is a hiatus or a permanent parting remains to be seen, but hopefully it's in recognition that the humour inherent in the circumstances surrounding Smith and Co. has reached a natural plateau, at least for now. For my part I would sooner the “Chronicles of Isambard Smith” finish permanently on a high note rather than risk diluting the enjoyment given thus far with a further inferior offering.

8/10 Still enjoyable but the jokes are beginning to wear thin.

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