You might call Isambard Smith the Anti-Flashman, though the covers at first seem similar. But look closely at that cover. Does Smith have a scantly clad woman draped around his leg? No, he's got a dead body at his feet and holding a cup of hot tea. Proper.
Smith is about as different to Flashman as you can get. He's not a womanizer, a coward, or a bully for one (well, three) thing(s). About the only thing they have in common is a decent mustache. But Smith isn't a larger than life hero without flaws. Outside of a good fight he's downright awkward, especially around members of the opposite sex. But he also embodies everything we're meant to see in the British Space Empire - noble and refined, with its citizens carrying a stiff upper lip and not dealing with things like "feelings" in public. Dreadnought Diplomacy is alive and well. When one speaks of "civilizing" an alien culture, it refers to how the iron fist is used if talking sensibly to the silly buggers didn't work.
Smith's long time friend is a Morlock (or M'Lak) called Suruk the Slayer (Doom Purveyor, Son of Agshad Nine-Swords, Grandson of Urgar the Miffed). The M'Lak look vaguely like a thin version of the Predator but their personality better fits the "noble savage" archetype from classic adventure literature like King Solomon's Mines
To act as a foil to Smith and Suruk are two women: Pollyanna Carveth, a fugitive sex toy masquerading as the ship's pilot, and Rhianna Mitchell, a New-New Age hippie herbalist from the American Free States (think California). Despite the fact she is so unlike Smith - or perhaps because of it - he can't help but fall head over heals for her, nor can he help but blow almost every opportunity he has to score with her.
Like Terry Pratchett's Discworld series, parody and satire infuses much of the novels. Frost pokes fun at the Martians from H.G. Wells, the trenchcoats and sunglasses in The Matrix, and everything in between. While these parodies sometimes stick out as a little obvious in the first novel, by the second Frost has found his rhythm and the references are more seamlessly interwoven with the narrative.
The series is set in a future where the British Empire has risen once more, and with it an aesthetic throwback to late colonial England. The architecture is New Gothic, ships are designed with brasswork cogs and levers, and while the computers have normal displays, numbers are often displayed with rotating dials and a handy ticker-tape that prints out relevant information.
God Emperor of Didcot has Smith and his crew try to recapture Urn, principal planet of the Didcot System and supplier of sixty percent of the Empire's tea. This may not seem like such a big deal at first, but science has shown that tea with milk produces more Moral Fiber in humans than any other drink, and that this was the key to the first British Empire's success. If mankind is to survive the Ghast invasion, the tea must flow. To succeed they'll need the help of a commando unit so elite there are only five members, and Smith will have to visit Suruk's clan, who have recently gone under some rather dramatic cultural changes.
In both novels you can be assured of lots of laughs, tons of movie and book references, awkward romance, and a jolly good kick up old Gertie's backside. I'm particularly impressed how Frost has avoided the temptation of making the battles like an episode of G.I. Joe (where lots of shots are fired yet nobody gets hurt) just because it's a comedy.
(I also reviewed the first in this series, Space Captain Smith, so there is some overlap here)