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Saturday, 11 October 2008

Book of the week: Sly Mongoose, by Tobias S. Buckell

Some readers may recall that back in May I ambitiously announced a new Antilles "book of the month" feature. "Every month I'll choose from among the pile of newly arrived books one that seems worth recommending to Antilles readers," I said. "The choice will be entirely subjective." Kei Miller's novel The Same Earth was my first pick, and then it appears I promptly forgot about the whole thing. Mea culpa.

Meanwhile, new books continue to arrive faster than the CRB can actually review them, and it seems more worthwhile than ever to use Antilles to point readers to new and interesting titles. So here I go, second attempt, this time slightly more ambitious: the first Antilles book of the week: Tobias S. Buckell's new novel Sly Mongoose, published in August by Tor.

Sly Mongoose is Grenada-born Buckell's third novel. (Some readers may remember that his last book, Ragamuffin, was one of the CRB's 2007 books of the year.) Buckell is one of a squad of young writers who are changing and expanding our notions of what Caribbean literature can be. In his case, that means injecting Caribbean characters, Caribbean language, and elements of Caribbean thought, history, and culture into the speculative fiction genre. His books are gripping, ripping reads, but also clever--even subversive--allegories. You could say he's engaged in a version of what Louise Bennett famously called "colonisation in reverse".

Buckell wrote about the "Caribbeanness" of his fiction in an essay published in the February 2008 CRB. Lisa Allen-Agostini reviewed Ragamuffin in our November 2007 issue. This page at his publisher's website includes an excerpt from Sly Mongoose, a podcast in which he talks about the origins of the book, even a video trailer. There's also a substantial podcast interview with Buckell over at SciFiDimensions, in which he deftly addresses various stereotypes and misconceptions about the Caribbean in the course of talking about his writing. And of course he has a blog!

Look out for a review of Sly Mongoose in an upcoming issue of the CRB.


John Robert Lee said...

Your comment on Buckell brings to mind the "seminal" work of Nalo Hopkinson in this genre. Robert Edison Sandiford (Bdos) has also produced two or more "comic books"'graphic literature, of erotic lit. The boundaries are indeed expanding.
(BTW: good to see Antilles back after vacation...been keeping track of Walcott and Legendre in Ldon. Thanks. ]

FSJL said...

I enjoyed Sly Mongoose and the intriguing way he gets his characters to interact against the background of Chilo.

I think it makes a satisfactory ending to this trilogy, but I want to see more coming out of this universe. Not to mention more Caribbean-themed science fiction. There have to be more writers out there than Nalo and Toby.