Monday, October 13, 2008

Book/Magazine Review: Sly Mongoose by Tobias S. Buckell

Every Monday, I'll be doing spoiler-free, bite-sized book/magazine reviews.

The first chapter of Sly Mongoose got me hooked as Tobias S. Buckell establishes one of the most tough-as-nails science fiction heroes. In many ways, I thought it could be Starship Troopers if Heinlein had ramped up the action, or perhaps a space opera James Bond. It quickly tapered off though as we are presented with a more conventional narrative style when Buckell switches to a more vulnerable and sympathetic point of view. It's certainly an interesting choice on Buckell as he switches between two different perspectives, each one bringing something different to the table. For the most part, it works, although I'm more eager to read the exploits of the protagonist Pepper than Timas.

Much of the book revolves around action and Buckell's appropriation of an old horror trope. Add in some politics, a guilt-stricken main character who finally matures, and the fate of the human race, and you have an exciting adventure utilizing sci-fi elements.

Buckell gives each of his characters ample screen time and builds them over the course of the book. I can't say I was surprised at how they eventually developed but it was a fun ride.

This is the first novel of Buckell that I'm reading so I'm not familiar with the setting the book takes place in but there's enough hints for new readers to get the gist. We know who's supposed to be the good guys and who's supposed to be the bad guys, although the latter isn't really fleshed out so much in terms of motivation. Can't say the science is that outstanding but it's serviceable for the kind of story Buckell is attempting.

Some good questions about politics also came into play that didn't seem forced and gives the book some room for deliberation. What really shines however are the two protagonist, one an anti-hero of sorts and remains kick-ass, the other tugging at your emotional chains as we sympathize with his conflict.

Overall this was a fun read, with certain chapters having its can't-put-down moments. It serves its purpose of delivering adventure and drama with a good attention to plot and detail. Sly Mongoose is one of those books that you take at face value and if it's the type of novel that you enjoy reading, won't have a problem appreciating.

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