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on March 29, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
It’s the multitude of really interesting little details that make “Sly Mongoose” such a vastly enjoyable book. For example, the Chilo-based Aeolians employ a very interesting form of democracy. The Aeolians use a technologically-enhanced representative who broadcasts their experiences to the rest of the Aeolian populace. The Aeolians then vote in real-time on what action they wish the representative to take on their behalf. Or another example would be the overwhelming pressures faces by the xocoyotzin. These young boys must continuously face death in order to ensure prosperity for their family, and they must use whatever means possible in order to maintain their figures. These details are what ultimately provide the richness and innovativeness to the story that makes “Sly Mongoose” such a terrific pleasure to read.

The most significant aspect to the novel is that Buckell’s characterizations have vastly improved since “Crystal Rain” and “Ragamuffin”. His maturation as a writer can be seen in full force here, as his characters have never had this level of complexity before. I found myself caring deeply about Timas and his struggles. This was the first time I’d found myself so emotionally engaged with one of Buckell’s characters. While Pepper is a great larger-than-life character, he isn’t the type of character that one easily identifies or connects with. He is more superhuman than human. (C’mon, I mean he survives a fall through a planet’s atmosphere.) He is however more flawed and complex than he was in the previous novels. For the most part though, Pepper is appealing for his anti-hero persona. The area of new growth for Buckell is in his ability to create characters like Timas, and his mother (as well as the Aeolian avatar Katerina) that finally bring a sense of real humanity to his work.

At its heart, “Sly Mongoose” is an action-packed sci-fi extravaganza filled with remarkably cool battles that includes a final conflict between the Swarm and the residents of Yatapek that’s absolutely killer. A plethora of unexpected twists and turns in the tale will likely keep the reader on the very edge of their seat until the end. For those who have not read “Crystal Rain” or “Ragamuffin”, “Sly Mongoose” works beautifully as not only a wonderful stand-alone novel, but also as an entry point in the series. Honestly, I’d recommend starting here, and catching up with the other novels afterwards. Simply put, “Sly Mongoose” is one of the best reads of 2008. Buckell packs the novel so full of cool and innovative ideas and characters that it’s not just enjoyable, but absolutely unforgettable.
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on June 26, 2013
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
I really love the novels set in empire of the Benevolent Satrapy. They're fast paced and filled with vivid detail. Buckell is a master of the form and Sly Mongoose is a great addition to the series.
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on March 29, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
Nice science fiction background to the story. Maked me interested in author's other books. Secondary characters plot arc could be better.
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on March 5, 2013
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
I enjoyed this story. The blend of high tech and low tech makes an enjoyable read. I read all of the stories I could find in this sequence from the author.
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on February 18, 2013
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
I liked this book. It's far better than a lot of sci-fi out there, so when I say it's not as good as some of the other books in the series, it should really tell you more about the other books than about this one.
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on October 20, 2011
Format: Hardcover
SLY MONGOOSE is based in the same universe as his previous two novels, Crystal Rain and Ragamuffin. But don't let that make you worry. Each book is written as a stand-alone based against a larger backdrop.

The story takes place on the planet of Chilo. Pepper, the sly mongoose man from the earlier books, has just returned to the region of space controlled by the human faction based on the planet New Anegada. He had ventured out of the space to witness the execution of what was believed to be the last of the Satraps--a repressive alien species that has subjugated humans and other species for quite a while. Unfortunately, one satrap has escaped the purge of their one-time subjects and is hiding on Chilo. So its former subjects have sent a weapon to destroy their former dark overlord. And it's a virus that turns people into zombies (quite literally).

Pepper finds himself fighting off the zombies, trying to save the inhabitants of Chilo from death. He's assisted by two teens, Timas and Katerina, who are from two very different cultures. Timas is from a group who are very technologically backwards and xenophobic (for good reason), and Katerina is a living avatar of the ultimate democracy. They don't live on the planet, per se, but rather above it. See, Chilo's uninhabitable on the surface due to severe heat, pressure, and a poisonous atmosphere. So its citizens live in scientifically plausible floating cities. The two teens work with Pepper to convince their clashing cultures to work together to defeat the zombie horde. It's a thrill ride filled with sword fights, air ships, pirates, blood, guts, and ichor.

But the neatest thing about SLY MONGOOSE is the fact that it isn't just a top notch action novel. It's also a very thoughtful novel that deals with such topics as gender relationships, the formation of governing bodies, personal freedom, and eating disorders, specifically, bulimia. Buckell strives to deliver a book that is both profoundly entertaining and deeply thought provoking--an ideal more entertainers should work for. And the great thing is he succeeds. It's very easy to read Sly Mongoose on just a pure adventure-novel level and then put down to find yourself thinking about really serious and pertinent topics, which is what great fiction should do.
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on August 21, 2011
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
Tobias Buckell's third entry in his Xenowealth series is arguably the tightest and most accessible of them all, and might even be a better starting point for new readers than Crystal Rain/Ragamuffin. From the intense nail-biter of a opening scene to its very satisfying conclusion, Buckell puts one of his best characters, Pepper, in a thrilling, high stakes situation that includes floating cities, political intrigue, intergalactic war, and zombies. Yes, zombies! Two kinds, actually; both subtly imaginative spins on the concept that work.

In the midst of an exciting story filled with engaging characters, Buckell also flexes his impressive world-building muscles to further flesh out the fascinating Xenowealth setting, and of the three books, this one offers the best foundation for a movie that would expose Avatar for the shallow, hamfisted hackery it was. Recommended.
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on July 6, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This was fun. I have read all 3 of Buckell's Xenowealth novels, and this was the best. I enjoyed the first 2, but each had their problems from my view. In _Chrystal Rain_ I did not connect with or care about any of the characters enough. This changed in _Ragamuffin_, which had a good protagonist, but it lost me when 2 thirds of the way through the book we moved away from her and back to characters from _Chrystal Rain_. _Sly Mongoose_ has a potent mix of cool tech, over-the-top action, and Pepper. Pepper is in the first two books, but we didn't get enough of his perspective for me to latch on to him. He anchors this book, and is a character worth following. Specific cool stuff: atmospheric re-entry without a ship, cloud cities, semi-sentient air ships, and the Swarm, which is a version of zombies with distributed systems thrown in.

In summary,_Sly Mongoose_ is an effective mix of cool ideas and a character that is worth following.
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on March 18, 2011
Format: Hardcover
What can I say about Sly Mongoose that begins to express my excitement regarding the future of the Xenowealth saga? Well, first of all, let me say that it has my absolute favorite all-time novel beginning. Rather than ruin it by mere summary, I'd instead recommend that you check it out in this 1/3 sample of the book on Buckell's website. Absolutely stunning, and perfectly suits the non-stop action pace of the rest of the book.

Confident in the inspiration instilled in him by Geoff Landis - a NASA scientist whom Buckell credits for the planet Chilo, the primary setting for this half-space opera, half-steampunk adventure story -- Buckell set out to craft the funnest, yet most serious novel of his career yet. While Crystal Rain`s tone is one of adventure and nostalgia, and Ragamuffin`s is one of action and ideas, Sly Mongoose is easily the most daring and reflective of Buckell's longer works. Though there are some surprisingly absurd steampunk and dark fantasy elements in the book - such as the mostly traditional zombies unleashed upon Chilo and its inhabitants, and also the Strandbeests, which are basically handcrafted automatons that scavenge the planet's airships and cities for spare parts -- the overall tone of the book is pretty serious.

The story arc is more or less a "character story," finally giving the reader a deeper look into the character of mongoose-men founder Pepper, the dreadlock-sporting badass that helped launch Buckell's career in "The Fish Merchant." While Pepper was a fairly static character, and seemingly invincible, in previous novels, Sly Mongoose gives readers a very different view of the aging, centuries-old warrior. We see him bleed (more than usual), lose limbs, lament the deaths of innocent humans, and show sincere concern for those around him, despite the facade of pragmatism that the hardened warrior generally exhibits.

Not only does Pepper stretch his muscles (the ones that don't get severed in the course of the book) in this effort, but Buckell does as well. While Crystal Rain was a vessel of Buckell's imaginary universe as inspired by his Caribbean upbringing, and Ragamuffin a vessel for all his far-future ideas, Sly Mongoose is the first work in which Buckell really starts throwing in a palpable tinge of his philosophical beliefs in addition to the more abstract themes common of his fiction.

The colonialism aspect that is so key to his short fiction, for example, comes up quite a lot in Pepper's pondering of the nature of the mysterious alien Satrapy -- which is more or less in shambles following the events of Ragamuffin. Also, there are a few somewhat overt political messages laced throughout the work -- the idea that true democracy would offer action, whereas current national democratic governments are hindered by poor judicial processes; and also the idea that humanity could best serve its kind by joining together, looking beyond nationalism and cultural differences in favor of global improvement and a greater quality of civilization. Perhaps Buckell's political views are yet another reason why his fiction resonates with me as much as it does. That, and the fact that he is an expert storyteller who knows how to craft honest, sympathetic characters that live within a hauntingly believable far-future space opera universe.

While the fourth book in the "Xenowealth" saga, Duppy Conqueror, is reportedly on hold at this time, I feel that I can sleep soundly with the assumption that it will in time be written and released once Buckell's audience and reputation has widened. The fact that he's written, and contributed to, two Halo tie-in books, at least one of which was made a New York Times Bestseller, leads me to believe that he'll do just fine in that regard. His short fiction certainly shows no sign of a decline in quality -- "A Jar of Goodwill" is likely the most successful, most widely acclaimed piece of short fiction published by speculative fiction e-zine Clarkesworld; and Lightspeed Magazine has recently given him wider recognition by reprinting one of his older works, along with an author spotlight interview. I imagine there are few readers of science fiction at this time who have not yet heard of, or enjoyed, the work of Tobias S. Buckell.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on September 18, 2010
Format: Hardcover
The reason this book is still on my mind is that it shows the pros and cons of the opposites of democratic choice. On the one hand are the Aeolians who vote on absolutely everything, all the time. On the other are the Yatapekians who use a more traditional patriachal structure to get things done. But when an imminent threat arrives both people drag their feet trying to figure out what to do about it. That part of the plot struck me as insightful. Even in the face of clear and present danger some people dither around.

So the plot was good but the book is full of cliches, as others have pointed out. I leave you with two things: the main bad-ass character actually acts like a bad-ass and often sacrifices others, or others' opinions of him, to get to a positive solution for the whole. To the point of quickly killing someone when he could have probably just restrained them during a fight. He's totally a take-no-prisoners kind of guy. If there is no point in keeping a threat alive, he doesn't. On the downside, when the ragamuffin-types talk using pidgin (broken English) it's annoying. I know the author is from the Caribbean but it's annoying down there too. And it seems like the "talk" slipped a few times into the editing of the regular paragraph descriptions. And THAT is one of my biggest pet peeves: bad editing.

Still, it's a fun, easy read. I probably would have loved it as a 13 or 14-year-old. Now as a 30 something, it's a decent way to pass a few nights instead of watching bad T.V.
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