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Sly Mongoose by Tobias S. Buckell
Cover Artist: Todd Lockwood
Review by Bill Lawhorn
Tor Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765319203
Date: 19 August 2008 List Price $25.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Review by Tom Easton / Show Official Info /

Author Tobias Buckell returns to the universe of Crystal Rain and Ragamuffin. Welcome to Chilo, it has unbreathable atmosphere, is extremely hot, and with pressures well above normal. Cities float above this desolate world. Yatapek is a poor dying city. Some citizens sacrifice much to help provide for their families and the city. These xocoytzin are the key to the cities survival, for only they can operate the suits that are needed to keep the mining machines operational. Although given many bonuses, their lives are at constant risk, and one misstep can cause the whole family to suffer.

Cen is a xocoytzin. On a routine mission to repair the mining machine, he sees an alien, one that couldn't be there. His ensuing search is timed with a debris fall that kills his partner. This leads him to question himself and his place in society.

The debris fall was caused by the arrival of Pepper. Pepper has a message to share; the message starts a series of events that may consume all the inhabitants of Chilo. He warns that an infection is spreading that is consuming people at an alarming rate.

Katerina is a member of the Aeolian collective and has been sent as an envoy. Although Aeolians also have cities above Chilo, their technology separates them. As a voice of her people she is on the spot when everything comes apart.

These three characters must find out what has caused the zombie virus. They also need to find a way to stop the spread of the virus and figure out what the creators of the virus are trying to accomplish.

I haven't read the two earlier books set in this universe, but I plan to now. I was able to follow the story and enjoy it without reading the earlier tales. The author easily blends Caribbean culture and space adventure.

I will admit I did have some difficulty wrapping my tongue around a few of the names. Of course many readers will choose their own pronunciations until they learn the proper way to say the word. Don't let the use of strange names scare you, the story is accessible and enjoyable.

The galaxy that created this world is hostile. The aliens are not benevolent. They are also not mindless monsters. Their creations may be horrible, but they are really just tools. I enjoy a universe where humans are not infallible and inevitably triumphant. It is good for authors to note that there may be more out there that is well beyond our current understanding.

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