Nick Harkaway
Tigerman Cover



Started this book on Saturday January 24th as part of national Readathon day (make #timetoread), and this most appropriate choice drew me in as four hours slipped by. Finishing the book three days later, I found it very good - full of geek and excitement and emotions - but perhaps not Full of Win.

The main characters are the very British Afghan war veteran Sgt. Lester Ferris and the streetwise youth he knows as Robin. This boy provides most of the geek in the book, with references to movies, television and comic books, his evident passion. These two are well developed and interesting, and Lester shows real growth through the story. Supporting characters are also excellently formed - my favorite is Dr. Inoue, the head of a Japanese research project on the island.

The setting is also a character in this novel. Mancreu island is "an unbothered ethnic jumble of Arab and African and Asian, with the inevitable mixture of Europeans". It is also volcanic and, combined with decades of chemical dumping, the volcano occasionally belches clouds of toxic waste. Outside forces have pushed for the island to be cleared and/or destroyed in the near future.

The first half of the book sets up these wonderful characters and situations. The high point is when the Sergeant saves the boy's life in a terrorist-style attack on a local bar, and the aftermath of this incident leads to the title event - Sgt. Ferris takes on the persona of Tigerman. This costume allows him to demonstrate that goodness prevails, even while his hands are tied by his government and allies. It also allows him to become the boy's hero. I loved this part of the book, the wonder of building dreams from cardboard boxes.

Unfortunately the four-color world of comics is far less violent than the real world, and our Tigerman is thrown into increasingly dangerous situations. While his escapes and escapades are not unbelievable, they do draw him further away from the boy. In addition to the violence, there is a fair amount of profanity and a completely unnecessary storyline having to do with dogs. I found this book on a young-adult list, which might be part of my reaction here.

Nick Harkaway is a pretty awesome pseudonym, and he comes from great writing stock - his father is author John le Carré. This is his third fiction novel, and I hope to read another of those, or perhaps his non-fiction "The Blind Giant: Being Human in a Digital World", soon. For Tigerman, four out of five stars.