TGON Reads: Kangaroo Too

What do you get when you put a spy on the Moon and give him superpowers? A Kangaroo! Or, at least, the hero of this new series, whose name happens to be Kangaroo. It’s a codename for a secret agent in the future who possess the ability to open portals to another dimension known as “the pocket” and physically move objects into it. We follow Kangaroo around as he zips about the galaxy trying to patch up terrorist attacks the come with the aftershocks of wars between Earth and the humans who settled Mars.

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The cover art to Kangaroo Too by Curtis C. Chen. Released in July 2017. Photo courtesy of curtiscchen.com

Former software engineer Curtis C. Chen pens this bizarre set of novels that began with last year’s Waypoint Kangaroo – a Locus Award finalist in the First Novel category.  This series came to light about the same moment that Sylvain Neuvel’s Themis Files did and was maybe overshadowed by the giant robots, but not too strongly. Unlike Themis, there is no end in sight to Kangaroo’s tale which should give science fiction fans something to look forward every time summer rolls around.

In the last book in the series, readers met Kangaroo. Besides his pocket, Kangaroo’s superpowers include a snarky sense of humor, a trove of twentieth-century pop culture references, and cybernetic implants studded throughout his body for communicating back with HQ and enhancing his senses. He contacts Oliver the Gadgets Guy through a cell phone embedded in his shoulder (at least it’s not in his stomach), from which we get small play-by-plays that explains which cool new computer software he’s about to use with the machines in his head. It’s a fun way to introduce nova into the series that are probably some of the best science the book has to offer.

However, the series never bores the reader by spending too much time on technology. The Kangaroo books offer constant, stream-of-consciousness action at a snappy pace. Like any good spy book, each story begins in the small details of another mission. Kangaroo Too shows us one part of the hunt for Sakraida, the villain who engineered the events of Waypoint Kangaroo, as Kangaroo and his physician Jessica Chu (codenamed Surgical) visit the colonies on the Moon in order to gain intel from an old colleague. From there, the plot wraps around itself again and again with the consistency of a ball of rubber bands. It opens in a firefight, then transitions into the spying scenes, and then Surgical gets charged with murder. From there, the espionage gets thicker, Kangaroo gets snarkier, and it all builds up to a shoot-out with an army of robots.

That hefty plot leaves a lot for the reader to chew on, so side dishes like internal conflict or poetic language remain at a minimum. Sure, Kangaroo’s character changes as we stretch across books, but peripheral characters sit too long in roles that seem just too convenient. Surgical, grieving a recent loss, refuses to discuss anything about her life with Kangaroo. At times, her consistent arguments with Kangaroo only seem to reinforce the fact that these two characters do argue with each other. Kangaroo calls his boss, Lasher, “a father figure” with all the confidence of Anakin Skywalker talking about Obi-Wan Kenobi, and none of the conflict or real connection between the two. Oliver remains a chatbox in the corner of Kangaroo’s HUD, but never contributes strongly to the story.

The story, however, moves. I finished this book in a matter of days. Kangaroo spends enough time snarking and making the world around him explode that the end of a chapter feels like a pause rather than a story break. The pocket continues to impress me, as well. As far as superpowers go, Kangaroo truly possess a bizarre one, which has concrete rules that make using it actually a challenge.

Three out of five stars: these books are fun. I’m eagerly waiting the next several. Also, please somebody adapt this into an online series before that becomes lame.

Recommend for: Fans of spy novels and thrillers exhausted by the Tom Clancy and James Patterson empires. Hop aboard.

Pages: 306

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The cover the first book, Waypoint Kangaroo, published last summer. Photo courtesy of curtiscchen.com

Author: Aaron Heil

Follow Aaron on Twitter @AaronJamHeil or see all the different stuff he's into on Goodreads.

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