Sly Mongoose-- Tobias Buckell-- Review
Sly Mongoose by Tobias Buckell is the third book in a science fiction series starting with Crystal Rain, then advancing to Ragamuffin. The setting for the third novel is quite interesting. It is on a planet like mercury with floating cities in the clouds, and very high pressure on the planet below. The clouds are acidic and the air is not breathable. It is also one of the homes of the Azteca, a human group once ruled by ruthless aliens. The Azteca have since declared the aliens false gods, and formed a democracy based on group consensus.
The story begins with a Pepper, a character who has appeared in the previous novels, falling from the sky into the dome of a floating city. Because of the alien biotechnology permeating his body, he survives the fall, although he is missing an arm and a leg in the story. This does not stop him from building a working armored suit so he can move around in the story. Pepper is the founder of the "Mongoose Men" and a member of the Dread Council on a world built by Caribbean immigrants.
Pepper has just escaped a harrowing battle with plague zombies on a passenger liner. He is wanted by several factions who want to know what happened on the ship. There are at least three different factions in the story, The Dread Council, The Azteca Consensus, and the Human League (which is virulently anti-alien).
Pepper is the center of intrigue. There is another character Timas, a teenage boy who goes to the surface sometimes to scavenge technology in a pressure suit. Timas provides the spare parts for a pressure suit so Pepper can lead the fight against the plague zombies.
This book has lots of action in it. There are battles aboard a spaceship, airship battles, pirate confrontations, and constant intrigue. The characterization is quite intriguing. The different characters in the story are culturally and individually distinct.
Pepper, one of the heros of the story leads the fight against the zombies, and must help the people of Chilo defend themselves. He helps them prepare the defenses and makes a last stand until the Mongoose Men can help. There is another hero in this story as well, Timas who has seen something which the zombies are seeking on the surface.
This was a fun book to read. The setting, plot, and characterization were all unique. Most science fiction stories are based on cardboard cutouts with aliens that are little more than substitutes for human fears. This was not one of them. An excellent addition to a series that gets better with each book. Once the action starts in this book, it does not stop until the book is done. Ragamuffin was short listed for the Hugo award. I think this book will be listed for the Hugo award and might win it.