Release Date: 22nd May 2014
Pages: 372pp Price: £16.99
Author: Nick Harkaway
Publisher: William Heinemann

Rating: * * * *

Nick Harkaway doesn’t really do normal, as any readers of his previous novels The Gone-Away World and Angelmaker will know only too well. Dense and flamboyant, both books were so wildly inventive it was hard to know how Harkaway would top them – and it turns out, he’s instead gone for a change of pace with his third novel, an off-beat drama set on the fictional North African island of Mancreau.

Thanks to a polluted, chemically-enhanced volcano with the potential to exterminate all life on Earth, Mancreau is now a legal no-man’s-land that’s soon to be evacuated and destroyed. Weary British Army sergeant Lester Ferris is there to help keep the peace, and has ended up befriending an enigmatic local boy with a comic-book obsession. However, when a spate of violence breaks out, Lester enlists the boy’s help and creates a masked avenger known as Tigerman…

Harkaway has crafted an engaging story that examines the nature of heroes and the tropes of old-school pulp fiction, mixing sharp characterisation with an energetic portrait of a society heading for apocalypse. He’s also kept the story’s weirder elements largely in the background, instead focussing on the relationship between Lester and his mysterious boy sidekick. Often hilarious but with an undercurrent of dark violence, this is an impressive novel that conceals provocative questions inside an old-school tale of ripping adventure.

FACT BOX:
Harkaway’s most recent published work was Keeping Up With the Joneses, one of the Time Trips series of Doctor Who e-books.