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Hurricane Fever by Tobias S. Buckell

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Prudence “Roo” Jones never thought he’d have a family to look after—until suddenly he found himself taking care of his orphaned teenage nephew. Roo, a former Caribbean Intelligence operative, spends his downtime on his catamaran dodging the punishing hurricanes that are the new norm in the Caribbean. Roo enjoys the simple calm of his new life—until an unexpected package from a murdered fellow spy shows up. Suddenly Roo is thrown into the center of the biggest storm of all.

Using his wits—and some of the more violent tricks of his former trade—Roo begins to unravel the mystery that got his friend killed. When a polished and cunning woman claiming to be murdered spy’s sister appears, the two find themselves caught up in a global conspiracy with a weapon that could change the face of the world forever.

In Hurricane Fever, New York Times bestselling author Tobias Buckell (Arctic Rising, Halo: The Cole Protocol) has crafted a kinetic technothriller perfect for fans of action-packed espionage within a smartly drawn geo-political landscape. Roo is an anti–James Bond for a new generation.
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Hurricane Fever is a loose sequel to Arctic Rising, and although it spoilers the climax of the prior novel, knowledge of the events of that book aren’t remotely necessary to read this latest thriller from Buckell.

Hurricane Fever focuses on, as the blurb suggests, Roo, an ex-spy from the Caribbean Intelligence Group, who now bums around on a boat with his nephew Delroy, staying below the radar and out of trouble… until Zee, an old colleague, leaves him a voicemail asking a favour: to investigate Zee’s death. And then it gets complicated, as someone claiming to be Zee’s sister (but who very definitely isn’t, as Roo is sure Zee had no sister) comes calling, followed by hitmen who kill Delroy. And then it gets even more complicated. Buckell’s novel is in many ways a formulaic one, following the standard model of the thriller, combining big issues with personal affairs, but the way he does that, and his critique of current politics, makes this a cut above the latest John Grisham or Dan Brown. Between the deft inclusion and explanation of his near-future, post-global warming, climate-changed world and the evocation of a Caribbean both wrecked by hurricanes and made richer by its federalisation, this is a beautifully written novel, and Buckell’s light touch when it comes to exposition works fantastically.

The character work is as fantastic as the worldbuilding, as Buckell’s world is almost a character itself. Hurricane Fever has one of the most vibrant, alive casts I’ve read in a while, while also having one of the older ones – Roo is a seasoned agent, and Kit is seemingly middle aged; the majority of the cast, main and supporting, are black; and every single person is an individual, speaking to some degree in clipped pidgin-English to indicate something of their varied histories and lives. The way Buckell gives this vibrancy to his characters, keeping them human, emotion-driven, but intelligent, really works; and Roo’s reluctance to behave like James Bond while engaging in hyper-Bondish activity is a great touch that makes Hurricane Fever feel far more realistic than, say, Dan Brown’s never-reluctant heroes.

The writing is incredibly powerful, exposing us to Roo’s raw emotion, to the brutality of storms, to the calculating cruelty and madness of the villain, to the beauty and the harshness of this future Caribbean; Buckell makes surviving a tropical storm on a catamaran as exciting as storming a militarised complex, a car chase through a hurricane as vivid and real as repairing and spraying down a boat. Hurricane Fever feels more real than it has any right to, and at the same time hyperreal: the emotion, excitement, narrative drive of the novel all combine to really punch through any ennui and drag the reader through the novel.

I liked Arctic Rising when it first came out, but compared to Hurricane Fever, it’s left standing; this is a truly superb near-future technothriller, and a stunning achievement from Buckell.

DoI: This review was based on an ARC solicited from the author directly.


1 Comment

  1. Paul Weimer says:

    The thriller pacing of the novel is just crackerjack, isn’t it?

    And the tension between the Bond/Not Bond is something I didn’t highlight in my own review, but you can definitely see (there is even a Bond femme fatale in the book, after all)

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