Sly Mongoose is a great adventure with depth!

August 27, 2008 by Josh · 1 Comment
Filed under: Reviews, books 

I had the opportunity to read an early copy of Tobias Buckell’s latest novel, Sly Mongoose, which is a kick ass adventure novel with loads of action. Sly Mongoose mixes together several cool ideas including zombies, autonomous robot creatures and a man with internal technology fusing with rusting misshapen technology to become whole again all while still conveying a well thought out plot.

Sly Mongoose also provided me with something to chew on as Tobias explores governments and the pitfalls that come with different kinds of ruling societies ranging from the old school council of elders style taking place in Yatapek to the, everyone must vote, government of the Aeolian Consensus. My favorite protagonist Pepper takes a young emissary to task over the shortcomings of this severely democratic process in a scene which caused me to explore my own conceptions about government and the differing forms democracy takes.

“What do you call sex without consent, Pepper?” She leaned forward like a large cat.

“Rape,” Pepper said evenly.

An invisible trap sprung. She smiled, reciting a script that came easily to her. Pepper imagined it being taught in schools to Aeolians all around Chilo. “Indeed. Rape. It is the consent that is the key. What is the act of governing without consent?”

“Getting shit done.” Pepper didn’t like getting lectured at by little girls, even if they embodied the will of millions.

She ignored his irritated reply. “Think of government as a marriage Pepper. You’ve entered into a bond, but it does not mean that the right to do certain things are guaranteed. A wife who doesn’t consent can still be raped, as an elected government can still run over its people. Better to do make sure that permission is asked for each act, every time. Better yet to make the government vanish: run by monthly volunteers and automated frameworks. For a month you’ve been chosen to be a judge, study hard. Next year you’ll be a filing clerk for a month. We all serve. We all vote. We’re the government.”

“That crap’s nice until you have a threat breathing down your your neck,” Pepper growled. “Even the Athenians you adore so much turned quickly towards strong leaders when it came time to face invaders. Our time on Chilo is countable in days. You will need leaders, not town meetings.”

She recoiled from the intensity he hissed the last word out with. He noticed that she had bags under her eyes. It was late into the night, and she was just a tired, stressed out teenager. “Well,” she whispered. “It did turn out rather well for the Athenians, throwing away freedom for a good defense, didn’t it? After centuries under the boot of the Satraps, I would have thought dying free would beat living safe.”

Amazingly Tobias is able to provoke these questions all while providing a race to the end adventure. This is his third book and it is clear that he has further honed his writing chops. If you can’t find anything deeper than the action in Sly Mongoose, I suggest you avoid the deep end of the swimming pool. Sly Mongoose was able to pull me in much quicker than the first two books and I felt even more connected to Pepper and Timas than I did to John DeBrun in Crystal Rain.

This novel is sure to be enjoyable even to readers who missed out on the planetary adventure that was Crystal Rain and the space opera of Ragamuffin. I think the first two books and his short stories only whetted my appetite for Sly Mongoose. I was thrilled to see Pepper get the attention and time his character deserved. I truly hope that we see more of Pepper in the future. If you aren’t familiar with Pepper, my best description would be Chuck Norris circa Delta Force a little bit of shaft, one part terminator, a dash of Steven Hawking and dreds…don’t forget the dreds.

Also be sure to check out his next novel, which is part of the Halo series called, Halo: The Cole Protocol. If you need to get acquainted with Pepper check out Fish Merchant which makes for an excellent introduction to his character, and follow it up with Manumission which provides a sense of who Pepper is.


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  1. [...] good friend Josh Smith reviews Sly Mongoose here, and after ruminating on the government-as-rape discussion says: Amazingly Tobias is able to [...]

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