Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Tigerman [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by Nick Harkaway.
Tigerman is decidedly less sfnal than other Harkaway novels I have read (The Gone-Away World and Gnomon), but it is in large measure an indulgence in costumed vigilantism with the superhero mythos firmly in its sights. In the third chapter, a twelve-year-old boy uses a rolled up copy of an Invisibles comic book to attack a bandit. And I think that Tigerman is to Aidan Truhen’s (i.e. Harkaway’s) later Jack Price books very much as Grant Morrison’s The Filth was to his earlier Invisibles work. It’s a matter of worrying at the same questions and catastrophes from two different perspectives: the criminal (The Invisibles; Jack Price) and the cop (The Filth; Tigerman).
“His perceptions of copperhood were formed by the dream of England, still. A copper was a bloke in a slightly silly hat who walked the beat, talked to shopkeepers about the price of fish, and sorted out young ruffians.” (59)
Protagonist–and eventual secret identity–Lester Ferris is an English infantry sergeant serving as brevet consul, the sole vestigial authority of the UK in the former colony of Mancreu, an island slated for eradication by the UN Security Council because of its contamination by chemical and biological hazards. Seen through a wide lens, there are many curious parallels here with The Wicker Man (1973), although this book lacks the movie’s happy ending. And of course the folk horror setting is changed for a 21st-century neocapitalist backdrop of ecocide and digital mediascapes.
Tigerman is a fast read in about twenty longish chapters, each digestible in a single sitting. It has a lot of strongly-drawn characters, none of them entirely realistic, and many quite over-the-top. There is a major twist that I was able to anticipate just a few pages ahead of its official reveal. I suspect that was by the author’s design–a pleasant experience for readers.