Review: Sly Mongoose by Tobias S. Buckell
In broad strokes, I’d describe Sly Mongoose by saying, “Alien zombies invade the floating cities of Chilo, a Venus like planet.” That would be like calling Pepper an old guy with a hat. Speaking of Pepper, he starts the story by deorbiting with nothing more than a space suit and a hobbled together heat shield…
The never-ending carpet of dreary clouds visibly rose to meet him. Not a lot of time left for details. “About that rescue effort: one little problem,” he said. “I don’t have a parachute.”
… Just like gravity in that initial descent, external forces drag Pepper through the narrative. For someone that spends much of the book as a hostage or an invalid, he gets in his fair share of ass kicking.
The intense pressure of the atmosphere at “sea level” means that pretty much anything will float if you fill it with a comfortable breathable atmosphere. Thus we encounter some pretty wild things, from psedo-living clockwork flying scavengers to floating factories, pirate ships, and simple bubbles that remind me of the ziploc bag emergency space suit from Ragamuffin.
The technology that supports life on Chilo is interesting, but even more so are the societies that chose to populate the floating cities. On one hand we have the ultimate extrapolation of democracy. If you have ubiquitous access to information (the lamina technology featured in Ragamuffin) and can vote at the speed of thought, every citizen can have their “voice” heard on every governmental decision. On the other hand we have some of the Azteca from crystal rain who know that their anscestors committed atrocities under the thrall of aliens posing as their gods. Both of these groups have their own reason to embrace xenophobia, so when the zombies and aliens and alien zombies all start mixing it up the results are as chaotic as you might expect.
Zombies are great, cause they’re scary and yet absurdly amusing. We see this just as much in George Romero’s classics as in Shaun of the Dead. Zombies are inherently a parody of life. Buckell’s zombies also come together into a hive mind, reminiscent of the Borg. The juxtaposition of their very logical decision making process with that absurd parody of life makes for a fun read. Buckell weaves themes of trust, duty and pride into a fast paced thrilling yarn. Go read the first chapters. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. (chapter 1) (chapter 2) (chapter 3) (chapter 4)