I am a huge fan of Nick Harkaway – all of his novels have a flow and a magic to them that’s difficult to quantify, but once you start you can’t put it down. One is never quite sure where it’s all going, but it’s such a good read, you figure it will all sort itself out at the end.
Prior to starting Tigerman I was reading another book – which I will review in another post – but suffice it to say that it was painful. Awful characters, hard edged writing style, the flow was..argh, the story was…ooof, the wording…aaugh. It was the reading equivalent of a dentist’s drill.
I put that one down and picked this up and …oh..what a difference. Like a breath of fresh air, a soft blanket, a story that just sweeps you up and takes you away and makes you care about what happens, the characters, everything.
Bit of trivia – Nick Harkaway ( a pen name) is the son of the writer John le Carre (also a pen name).
But on to the our story: Sergeant Lester Ferris is our main man and as a British Army Sergeant, he is the backbone of the British Army with certain expectations of levelheadedness and pragmatism. He’s been through some tough times in Afghanistan and other parts of the world and is now in need of rest and to that end, he has been given the post of “brevet British Consul” on the island of “Mancreu” in the Arabian ocean. Mancreu is an island under a death warrant: a chemical plant has managed to contaminate the island to such a fundamental level that mutated bacteria is erupting from the very core of the island. The response of the World’s community is… to nuke the island back to bedrock or beyond.
With this kind of future in store, the island’s society and its people are gradually coming unglued. People are leaving the island, abandoning their homes, crime is increasing and weird behavior is increasing. Meanwhile, a fleet of black ships has taken residence in the bay: it hosts international forces of illicit soldiers, mercenaries, smugglers, drug dealers and other shady types.
Against this background, Lester manages his Consul job by doing as little as possible, taking daily tea with the locals and making friends with “The Boy”: a very clever, but mysterious street urchin who calls himself “Robin” and who is very enamored of comic books super heroes and Western pop culture. Lester has grown close to “the boy”, about whose family (or lack of) he knows nothing. With the end of the island coming soon, Lester contemplates the possibility of adopting the boy and becoming his father.
After a tragic event, the boy manages to convince Lester to take the guise of the superhero “Tigerman” and to act the part of a vigilante to find out what happened. As it turns out, the reality is more complicated than anything Lester had anticipated.
The level of excitement and action ramps up considerably at this point and the story – which started out a bit slowly, really takes off. A bit of spy thriller, a bit of an action story, a bit of a superhero tale – mysteries are solved and other mysteries uncovered. Excellent tale.