As a kid, I remember one of my favourite stories was the Rudyard Kipling tale called "Riki-tiki-tavi", about a brave and resourceful mongoose. From what I could tell from reading the story as a child, a mongoose was a weasel or rodent-like mammal not that much bigger than a martin or a fisher. What makes them so unique is their absolute fearlessness when it comes to facing down the mighty King Cobras of India. The mongoose takes advantage of its speed and agility to elude the deadly bites of its opponent, until it can manoeuver itself into position to grab the snake from behind and snap its neck.
Ever since then I've had nothing but admiration for those little mammals and their bravery. Finding out later that they not only will take on Cobras above ground, but will follow them down into their tunnels as well, only made them that much more impressive. This was one tough and brave little animal willing to go up against creatures many times bigger than it and from whom the smallest of bites would mean death. Even today any reference to a mongoose, no matter how oblique, attracts my attention.
So when I was offered the chance to read and review an advance copy of Tobias Buckell's forthcoming release Sly Mongoose, I jumped at the opportunity. I was even only slightly disappointed when I found out that it wasn't about a sentient race of mongooses, but that the Mongoose of the title referred to the elite fighting force of a Rastafarian government in space.
At some point in the future, Earth had made contact with an alien race called the Sataraps and proceeded to sell millions of their people into slavery in exchange for technology. Eventually the descendants of those slaves revolted and were able to defeat their overlords and form their own societies. Instead of unifying under the banner of their species, a good many developed their own societies while others created a type of imperial federation known as The League of Human Affairs.
That the League's main interest seemed to be forcing the independent human governments to join them resulted in the world of New Anegada creating its elite force of warriors, The Mongoose, to help protect the other free worlds from the League. When Pepper, one of the founders of the elite fighting unit, literally falls out of orbit and through the protective shield keeping the city of Yatapek on the planet Chilo safe from the boiling hot acid of the world's atmosphere, it's not because he was trying to set a new record for free fall.