Tigerman by Nick Hakaway
How does an author follow up an award winning book? By writing something completely different but equally compelling. This is the trick that Nick Harkaway has pulled off with this, his third book.
Lester Ferris is a sergeant in the infantry who winds up on the island of Mancreu after a tour in Afghanistan. This is a former British colony in the Arabian sea that has been given over to the NATO and Allied Protection Force of Mancreu (NatProMan). Technically Lester is the senior officer of the United Kingdom’s Mancreu command and senior consular member. But the whole island is imminently going to be demolished due to an extinction level threat from outgassing of toxicity and mutant bacteria from volcanic vents. Previous outgassings have had some unusual properties and are totally unpredictable.
Lester has established several fair weather friendships but none so important to him than with ‘the boy’, a comics book obsessed, internet savvy local youth who calls himself ‘Robin’. He is also friends with the NatProMan man in charge, the Japanese scientist studying the island and a local café owner. The island has become a bit of a backwater, due to people Leaving (yes with a capital L) and the UK government basically abandoning it. This has led to a fleet of illicit ships floating just off the island, listening stations, black-ops and all sorts of other shady dealings that governments can treat with plausible deniability.
Lester’s job is basically to keep the consulate ticking over and “not get involved” apart from to do some basic policing and representing Britain in a nominal way. When violence starts to spread and Lester gets more involved with the boy it becomes ever more difficult for him to remain aloof and he feels the need to become involved, which the boy encourages. It isn’t long before the legend of the Tigerman is born.
Tigerman, although ostensibly built like a superhero origin tale and drawing on comic book colour (“full of win”, “We are made of awesome”) is an endearing paternal tale and a complex character study. In fact Tigerman only just dips its toe into genre and if you’re looking for full on SF&F then this may not be the place to look. However it is a great read and Mancreu and its colourful cast of characters is a great place to visit for the duration of this book. It has things to say about politics and the state of the world making It a more reflective book than the previous two, but all the more powerful for it. It is also a book, like Gone Away World where, when you get to the end, you are tempted to start all over again. That, I feel, is the sign of a great book.
Overall - Harkaway just seems to be getting better, if you like his other books go and get a copy