Waypoint Kangaroo, by Curtis C. Chen, was published in 2016.
The first sentence is: “My left eye doesn’t lie.”
The story is narrated by Kangaroo, a spy with electronic body modifications.
His code name is Kangaroo because he has a universe-sized pouch. He calls it “the pocket”. He’s had the pocket since he was 10 years old. No one knows how it works. He can store anything in it. (The book explains, in detail, how he can find anything in a pouch the size of a universe.)
An operation in Kazakhstan went wrong, and Kangaroo’s partner was killed. “As they say: The best laid plans of mice and kangaroos often go awry.”
Largely because of the botched Kazakhstan job, Kangaroo’s department is facing an audit. The department is protective of Kangaroo. He’s not the best spy, but he’s the only spy with a universe-sized pouch. They don’t want other agencies questioning Kangaroo, so his boss orders Kangaroo to take a vacation. The next day, Kangaroo is on his way to a cruise ship heading for Mars. Kangaroo has never been on vacation.
Kangaroo takes the false identity Evan Rogers, an Interplanetary Trade Inspector, and becomes just another tourist on the Princess of Mars luxury liner Dejah Thoris.
Kangaroo begins to suspect that several of his fellow passengers are fellow spies, probably sent by his bosses to watch over him. It seems that a spy can’t really take a vacation.
Kangaroo finds that aboard the Dejah Thoris it’s actually impossible for a spy to take a vacation.
Waypoint Kangaroo is a spy thriller/science fiction adventure/murder mystery hybrid. There’s also some interplanetary war history to tie things together.
Waypoint Kangaroo is filled with humor. There’s humor at the start of every chapter:
Dejah Thoris – Deck B, officer’s briefing room
30 minutes after room service delivered an unsatisfying omelet”
Waypoint Kangaroo is also filled with hard science. The Dejah Thoris creates an artificial gravity by constantly accelerating toward Mars – until it gets halfway to Mars. Then, at the halfway point, the crew provides the passengers with adhesive slippers as the ship’s engines are shut down, and the ship loses its gravity. (“Weightless Day” is one of the selling points of the cruise.) Then the ship flips over, and artificial gravity is restored as the ship constantly decelerates the rest of the way.
I enjoyed reading Waypoint Kangaroo, and I thought the story was fascinating and clever. I thought it was written well.
I also felt it was slow moving, maybe a little too slow. Or, maybe not. It’s the type of book in which three or four chapters can contain a single conversation, and the time stamps at the start of each chapter are sometimes measured in minutes.
I liked this book a lot. It also has one of the best final sentences I’ve read it a while.
Why I chose this book:
This book found me, I suppose. At NorWesCon 41, I went to a book reading by Tina Connolly. Her reading required two people (it was in the form of a play), so she had Curtis C. Chen helping her. I thought that was nice of Mr. Chen, helping out a fellow author like that, so I made it a point to seek out his reading.
Curtis C. Chen’s reading was the next day. He read from his new book, Kangaroo Too. I liked what I heard.
Immediately after the reading, I went to the Elliott Bay Book Company table in the Dealers’ Room, and bought Waypoint Kangaroo. Since it was available only in hardcover, I decided to hold off on buying Kangaroo Too, until I’d decided how much I liked the first book.
I had another book with an animal in the title lined up, but Waypoint Kangaroo sounded more interesting.