Tobias S. Buckell
[REVERB] SPAAAAAACE ZOMBIEEEEEEEEEES!!!!!!!!!!!!!! [/REVERB]
If this were a perfect world I’d end this review now and you would all go out and buy the book now. But our world certainly ain’t perfect so I guess I should say a little more. If you’ve read Buckell’s previous books Crystal Rain and Ragamuffin you’re likely familiar with cyborg ultra-badass Pepper who, as Sly Mongoose begins, is plummeting from orbit to the surface of a gas giant in nothing more than a space suit. The rather exciting introduction is certainly an attention grabber but also serves a vital purpose in forcing the typically super-powered Pepper to use a bit of innovation to get through the novels later action.
Speaking of action Sly Mongoose has plenty of it. Buckell seems to have taken some lessons from Ragamuffin, a certain scene involving no gravity and a minigun, and pulls together some compelling set pieces starting with Pepper’s introduction, continuing through Timas’s travel on the surface of Chilo, and ending right at the titanic conflict at the novel’s climax. The three novels Buckell has written so far certainly show a strong progession of a writer with a clear eye for action (especially those “oh shit” moments) that has only grown with each book he has written. Pepper is a fun character, though a familiar archetype, and Buckell’s deft manipulation of his cirumstances here add a bit of depth to his personality that is great to see and damned fun to read.
Buckell, as in his previous novels, brought in a Robin to our Batman in the form of Timas. Timas is a character I initially wrote off as a carbon copy of John de Brun’s son but who, rather early on, turned out to be a more well-rounded and likeable character overall. Timas, thanks to his young age and small size, is able to fit inside the pressure suits used to delve to the surface of the gas giant he lives in order to perform vital maitanence on the mining engine. In a bit of brilliant social insight Buckell introduces the fact that Timas uses a brutal combination of diet, excercise and bolemia to manage his weight and size that is at once shocking and believable given the vital importance of the need to keep the surface machinery running. Timas proves to be a rather interesting character, thanks mainly to his strong opinion on duty and his quick thinking, that far eclipses any of the other “buddy” characters Buckell has previously introduced.
Sly Mongoose serves as testament towards Buckell’s to craft a sequel framed in a shared world but with a picture and story completely different from previous outings. Admitedly some reference to earlier evens from both Ragamuffin and Crystal Rain might confuse newer readers but I think that Sly Mongoose stands on its own with extraordinary ease. At the same time Buckell manages to hint at some of the grander events in store for Pepper and company. Indeed the novel’s quick pace and action certainly left me wanting more in the end, not because it was really missing anything but because what was there was so damned slick that I didn’t want to stop reading. I certainly recommend you check out both Crystal Rain and Ragamuffin but think if your looking for a good, fast-paced space zombie action story than you can’t really go wrong with Sly Mongoose.