Sly Mongoose

Posted: April 25, 2012 in Reading

I was feeling lame yesterday evening so got all fall-asleepy but I finished off Sly Mongoose by Tobias Buckell.

Sly Mongoose is about Timas, a kid who lives in a floating city on a Venus-like planet called Chilo. That’s all sulfuric acid clouds and such for you non-astronomy types. He throws down working on mining drones on the surface in a huge antique pressure suit because he’s small enough to fit in it. Meanwhile Pepper, a mongoose man of the Raga (ie awesome spec-ops kinda soldier) literally crashes down in Timas’ city. He’s bringing a heads up on nasty aliens who’ve come looking for something? What are they looking for? Not telling! But it’s all importantlike for the sake of peace in the galaxy. Sounds cheesy but I swear it doesn’t work out that way. I can’t elaborate without blowing some awesome moments. We can live with that.

This is the third book in the Xenowealth series that starts off with Crystal Rain which I mentioned back here with it’s break away from the Eurocentric view. It’s freshly re-released in my favorite mass market size so I gobbled it up on my last book run. Now it’s been ages since I’ve read either of the other two books that preceedSly Mongoose and at first I was hesitant to dive in but had at it anyways. The book is written with a summation of what happened before it which jogged my memory some. I never felt it was absolutely dependent on the previous books and while I may have seen more things if I had read the others recently, I never felt I was at a loss.


So what’s cool about this book… We get a good sense of the city early on in this harsh environment. Cloud City this isn’t. This isn’t even an oasis in the desert, it’s a clinging to the edge kind of city. They’re a city full of poor refugees and they know it, having a chip on their collective shoulder when dealing with the more prosperous cities. It’s an interaction which changes as they story progresses. It’s a change born of desperation, yes, but it’s still a positive change when it could have very well gone in a less beneficial way. We tend to see a bit less of the city as the narrative moves around and focuses on more pressing matters than the setting. It’s a bit of a shame because it’s one of those settings that I really want to know more about, but it’s not something I thought about until I was sitting here typing this. While I was reading the book, I was wholly engrossed in it, not longing for more setting.

Pepper is a bad ass hands down. He spends most of the book minus some limbs but doesn’t let that slow him down at all. It’s a mild inconvenience at most for him. I thought Timas grew a lot through the course of the story. He had a lot of literal and figurative weight on his shoulders, fate of his city and all that. But he was pretty timid during the early stages of the novel and the adversity he faced, made him come out the other end as a stronger person, doing what he feels needs to be done rather than simply reacting to what others expect from him. I was a bit disappointed there wasn’t more of Katerina in the book. She’s an avatar of the Aeolean Concensus. (seriously sorry if I screwed up the spelling on that) They’re the prosperous floating cities around the rest of Chilo. All their citizens are networked together, not in a hive mind Borg kind of way but more like an Internet in their brain kind of way. They use this to vote on everything. That’s how their government works and  things like being an avatar (like a diplomat, but avatar is the book’s choice of wording) are all chosen by chance. Hence a teenager as the speaker for a whole society. She’s on the cover of the book with Pepper and a large rifle. She was an important character but not as much as being on the cover might suggest. I understand that kind of thing is out of the author’s hands. This is really more of a “I want more!” kind of a statement than a “Gr! Book covers! *shakes fist*” kind of a statement.

So yeah. Enjoyable characters, solid city building (grander world building having taken place in the earlier books) and tension-action-drama abound. Seriously, I would go into the bad guys more but they are delightfully unexpected for a sci fi book. I really want to go into them more. But I can’t bring myself to steal that moment I had when they showed up. Page 51. You’ll know exactly what I’m talking about when you get to it. So go check out this book. I know I’ve read a bunch of Buckell’s stuff lately and I’ve talked about even more but that’s because his stuff is worthy of all that. You wouldn’t go wrong at all with any of his books.

Next up, Well of Sorrows by Benjamin Tate

  1. […] is book four of the series that began with Crystal Rain. Sly Mongoose, which I read earlier this year, is book three. Part of the beauty of these books is that you can […]

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