If you’ve read Buckell’s previous two novels, Crystal Rain and Ragamuffin, then you’ll know what to expect from a third book in the same setting. If you’re new to Buckell and wondering what you’ll get between the pages then the answer is simple: an action packed, well plotted and delivered story with interesting and likable characters. Of course, that can describe many books nowadays, so why is this any different? Well, the whole setting is based on the descendants of the Caribbean Islands and the culture that comes along with it is fascinating and enjoyable. You’ve also got kick-ass characters. And this time around there’s an even more persuasive reason to read: space zombies.
Chilo, a Venus-like planet, is a great setting for this story. It brings both the space opera element of Ragamuffin and the steampunk feeling from Crystal Rain to create a distinct novel in its own right. The difference between the floating cities that dot the globe shows the separation in wealth and technology, with the poorer cities relying on outdated and constantly repaired equipment while the richer societies are augmented and connect through the lamina all around them.
These differences bring an interesting point to the novel. While the poorer aspects give a familiar feeling, it’s the rich society that I found myself drawn to. The society acts by majority decision by a voting system that all resident are included in. This essentially gives a perfect society that will always be in the interests of the majority of the population. It also comes into play when delegates visit the other cities on Chilo, with the delegate being the eyes and ears for those watching and listening at home. Through this system the delegates decisions are always based on what the majority of citizens want, giving some interesting situations.
The characters carry this story well, and aside from the ever enjoyable Pepper there are no returning ones. Timas, one of the main focal points of the story, is a very good one to follow. Timas must travel down to the surface in aging pressure suits to search and mine for the resources that the city needs – it is a dangerous job done in equipment designed for his enhanced ancestors. The ride he is taken on is much ours as it is his. We find out more about his city and that of the relationship with others and the views each share. In all honesty, the whole set up was believable and enjoyable with a set of characters that bought it to life effectively.
Now for the part of the novel I was looking forward to the most: space zombies! But seriously, I was very interested to see how this could be portrayed in a realistic and believable way. It works great, something that I was very pleased about, but it just wasn’t featured enough. We get the excellent action scenes between the zombies and Pepper early on and the feeling of dread as their plans come to light, but the threat then shifts into the background and it never feels quite as exciting as I hoped for. It still works, don’t get me wrong, I only wish that we focused on them a little more throughout the story.
Apart from that one little personal niggle I found Sly Mongoose to be highly enjoyable. It’s certainly the best book to date in this setting and shows just how versatile a writer Tobias Buckell is. Although this can be read as a stand alone book I would recommend reading the first two before heading into this one – and it won’t be a chore either, they’re both great!