I was expecting something more in the fantasy realm from Tigerman, given Nick Harkaway’s first two novels, and although there is the titular superhero, this book stays much more grounded, more of an existential thriller with military and cloak-and-dagger elements, and for that, it’s a lot of thought-provoking fun.
The story takes place on a mythical island in the Arabian Sea, an island previously controlled by the British and French, among others, but which has become an environmental disaster due to chemical companies pumping toxic waste deep beneath the island. The international community has decided to incinerate everything to ward off potential global disaster, which has brought about two things: (1) people are slowly leaving as the inevitable destruction nears; and (2) there is a shadowy fleet of international criminals and scofflaws moored in the harbor.
Lester, aka the Sergeant, has been brought in to tend to the British Consulate in its final days, officially but unofficially, his last assignment before retiring from the military. He expects everything to be easy and quiet, but of course, that doesn’t happen. He befriends an unnamed boy, a fan of movies and comic books, and worries about what will happen to that boy after things start to blow up, literally and figuratively.
Harkaway takes a clever twist on the midlife crisis, with Lester unsure what he’s going to do with the rest of his life. He knows it might be too late to start a family. He knows he’s really good at what he’s been trained to do but unsure of how he can channel that into something else, unsure if he wants to. Ultimately, he’s just trying to do the right thing, and when he doesn’t have the answer, he simply does what sergeants do until he figures it out or runs out of time.