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Book Review: Tigerman by Nick Harkaway (2/5)

13 Jun

This is my book club’s last selection before our summer recess. To be honest, I forgot we had one more or I would have started it early. I scrambled to finish this over the weekend and turned the last page Saturday night. I wanted to like it more than I did but I’ll get to that shortly.

Cover image via Goodreads

Tigerman by Nick Harkaway

Summary from Goodreads:

The island of Mancreu is the ideal place for Lester to serve out his time. It’s a former British colony in legal limbo, soon to be destroyed because of its very special version of toxic pollution – a down-at-heel, mildly larcenous backwater. Of course, that also makes Mancreu perfect for shady business, hence the Black Fleet of illicit ships lurking in the bay: listening stations, offshore hospitals, money laundering operations, drug factories and deniable torture centres. None of which should be a problem, because Lester’s brief is to sit tight and turn a blind eye.

But Lester Ferris has made a friend: a brilliant, internet-addled street kid with a comic book fixation who will need a home when the island dies – who might, Lester hopes, become an adopted son. Now, as Mancreu’s small society tumbles into violence, the boy needs Lester to be more than just an observer.

In the name of paternal love, Lester Ferris will do almost anything. And he’s a soldier with a knack for bad places: ‘almost anything’ could be a very great deal – even becoming some sort of hero. But this is Mancreu, and everything here is upside down. Just exactly what sort of hero will the boy need?

There were parts of this book that had me really excited. An island nation that’s going to be destroyed: cool. A shootout and a revenge plot: cool. A love story: cool. But between these things, I was completely uninterested. The author wrote in long stretches of internal monolog or a lot of movement with minimal dialogue. It made the plot drag between moments of high action and it didn’t keep my attention.

I liked Lester a lot, which is one thing that kept me going. He didn’t feel like a hero but he was one, at least to the boy. He had legitimate fears and concerns and I felt it was very realistic that he would start to feel for the people of Mancreu. The way this love made him act made sense and he was very aware of the fact that he ‘shouldn’t’ feel that way but none the less did.

Kaiko was my favorite character. I liked that she was a strong female in a scientific role but she was still funny. She wasn’t afraid to speak her mind when she needed to and stood up for what she believed in. She was a stark contrast with Africa/Laura who was more of the stereotypical woman in power. I liked that Kaiko wasn’t yelling at everyone all of the time. She was funny and smart, a delightful combination.

The situations the characters were in wasn’t very relatable and that made it hard to get into. So much of their thoughts and actions were influenced by the volatility of the island and it’s a situation I can’t relate to. I think the reason I liked the relationships in this book best is that I could relate to them. I could understand Lester and Kaiko’s emotions or Lester and the boy’s feelings for each other. These were the most interesting for me.

Nick Harkaway
Image via

I liked the first adventure of Tigerman the best. I thought it was well written because from Lester’s point of view, what he does is very routine or in an attempt to not die. When the footage is reviewed, he comes off as something completely different and I liked seeing how in his head, it was obviously a shoddy job to make the best of a bad situation, not a highly planned operation.

I disliked the riot scene. I thought the way it ended was very unbelievable. With such a small island and so few people left, it seemed strange to me that there would be a mob. Everyone probably knew each other so the mob wasn’t faceless or attacking unknown people. These people all knew each other. If I could be on my 2,500 person college campus and know about 25% of the students, surely the residents of that island knew each other.


Tigerman had to realize why he was a hero. He wasn’t trying to save the island or find justice. He wanted to protect one person, the boy. It was an admirable goal to be sure and I think it took a completely different direction than he originally envisioned. I was glad he was aware that this was his goal the whole time and why he wanted to be a hero. It made sense why he kept going back.

Writer’s Takeaway: This book didn’t hit a balance between dialogue, action, and reflection to me. There was too much inside Lester’s head and too much description of the action. I needed a better balance and more dialogue to be sure. The book had a lot of long paragraphs of Lester deciding to do something and I could have done without those.

This book missed the mark for me. Two out of Five stars.

Until next time, write on.

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