Title: Sly Mongoose
Author: Tobias S. Buckell
Age: Teen and up. Some language and violence, but very accessible.
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I'm already Tobias Buckell fan, and to set the general theme of this review, I'll start with what I said about Sly Mongoose at a little past the reading halfway point: I thought Tobias Buckell already kicked ass with Crystal Rain and Ragamuffin, but now that I'm halfway through Sly Mongoose, I've found there is far more ass to be kicked--far more than I ever dreamed!
And now that I've finished reading Sly Mongoose, I'll say I like them all, but this story is my favorite so far.
Pressure is everywhere, a crushing atmosphere on the surface of Chilo, on the reader who feels the weight on the shoulders of Timas--and we know we'd cave with half of what this young xocoyotzin must bear. Sly Mongoose comes racing through Chilo's atmosphere on a makeshift heat-shield and no parachute--and the story never slows down, jumps without warning to new tracks, characters--and readers--all headed one way and then we're broadsided. Suddenly we're all plummeting into Chilo's toxic atmosphere, pressure's rising, and the plot opens, scattering characters.
Some important points, things I noticed: New characters drop into the fray, even late in the story, but they didn't seem to slow things down. Another point: Buckell pulls off an extraordinary couple chapter long flashback that doesn't lag, but kicks the plot into higher gear, letting readers in on what really happened--through Pepper's POV--aboard the Sheikh Professional. We read the truth and know what nastiness is in store for an entire planet, while the citizens of Yatapek--the floating city in which he "lands"--and his Aeolian captors just hear Pepper's side of the story in those same chapters, not a lot to compel them to believe he's telling them everything or even the truth. Come on, zombies from outer space? That's the best you can come up with?
Expect to move through Sly Mongoose at an incredible pace with the building pressure, floating cities, vaporizing heat, poisonous fumes, viral brain-killing weapons, planets burned of all life, a near-unstoppable swarming army, and not much standing in the way but one resourceful old soldier missing a couple limbs, a bulimic technician who works on Chilo's 800 degree surface, and a young woman with the voices of whole civilizations running through her senses and her mind. Yeah, I was up to 4:00 in the morning reading and wondering how the hell they were going to pull it off.
Right to the point, Buckell continues his course of great storytelling, with steady, beautifully unobtrusive prose, bold and unpredictable plotting, characters that really stick in your head--that you fall for, strongly sympathize with, and would pay to hang out with in any Seattle coffee shop, or a good Akihabura tech buying spree. I'm looking at you, Pepper. Not the most sympathetic character around, but you're that across-the-board cool.