In June of last year I interviewed Curtis C. Chen on Episode 20 of the GSMC Book Review Podcast. Curtis is the author of a series of science fiction books about a character named Kangaroo. Well, Kangaroo is his code name, we as readers haven't yet learned his given name. Kangaroo is a spy with an unexpected ability. The 2 books that are currently out are Waypoint Kangaroo and Kangaroo, Too.
Kangaroo isn't your typical spy. Sure, he has extensive agency training, access to bleeding-edge technology, and a ready supply of quips and retorts. But what sets him apart is the pocket: a portal that opens into an empty, seemingly infinite, parallel universe. Kangaroo is the only person in the world who can use the pocket, and he's pretty sure his agency only keeps him around to exploit this superpower for their own purposes.After he bungles yet another mission, Kangaroo gets sent away on a mandatory "vacation." While trying to make the most of his exile aboard an interplanetary cruise to Mars, two passengers are found dead, and Kangaroo risks blowing his cover to investigate. However, it turns out he's not the only spy on the ship—and he's just starting to realize that there is a massive conspiracy to unravel.Now, when a hijacker takes over the ship and threatens to crash it into Mars, Kangaroo has to stop the disaster which would shatter the delicate peace that's existed between Earth and Mars ever since the brutal Martian Independence War. A new conflict could devastate the entire Solar System. Billions of lives are at stake and it's up to Kangaroo, and Kangaroo alone, to save them.Weren't vacations supposed to be relaxing? (Source)
On the way home from his latest mission, secret agent Kangaroo's spacecraft is wrecked by a rogue mining robot. The agency tracks the bot back to the Moon, where a retired asteroid miner—code named "Clementine"—might have information about who's behind the sabotage.Clementine will only deal with Jessica Chu, Kangaroo's personal physician and a former military doctor once deployed in the asteroid belt. Kangaroo accompanies Jessica as a courier, smuggling Clementine's payment of solid gold in the pocket universe that only he can use.What should be a simple infiltration is hindered by the nearly one million tourists celebrating the anniversary of the first Moon landing. And before Kangaroo and Jessica can make contact, Lunar authorities arrest Jessica for the murder of a local worker.Jessica won't explain why she met the victim in secret and erased security footage that could exonerate her. To make things worse, a sudden terror attack puts the whole Moon under lockdown. Now Kangaroo alone has to get Clementine to talk, clear Jessica's name, and stop a crooked scheme which threatens to ruin approximately one million vacations.But old secrets are buried on the Moon, and digging up the past will make Kangaroo's future very complicated... (Source)
As the first book description says, Kangaroo isn't your typical spy. The pocket aside (and that's atypical enough), he's not the smooth, always together, one-step-ahead-of-the-game type of agent that is often portrayed, but he's also not that character's counterpart of the bumbling, never-knows-what-they're-doing character, either. He's both of those and neither. He's what I would imagine a lot of agents would be like: skilled, intelligent, a little headstrong and stubborn, and human. He makes some questionable choices, occasionally leaps before he looks, but also has a very ingrained sense of values, and his own strong code of ethics. He also has a huge advantage with the pocket. A. because it gives him the ability to store things he might need on missions, and B. because he's the only one who has it, making him invaluable to the agency.
- Science Fiction
What I enjoyed:
- There is a lot more to Kangaroo than meets the eye, and we've only scratched the surface of his backstory in these two books. I'm looking forward to more of his adventures and finding out more about him.
- The books are set in a not-too-distant, but unspecified future. Curtis creates a world that is at once recognizable, fantastic, and yet still believable.
- These books made me appreciate science fiction. I've always loved watching science fiction, but have had trouble reading it because I felt too bogged down in the complicated science parts. Curtis manages to find the balance between explaining that science while still making it enjoyable and understandable for those of us for whom science might not be our best subject.
- The books are fun and funny. Serious things are happening, but Kangaroo has a snarky, cynical sense of humor perfectly suited to the situations he finds himself in.
- "But it’s not the guns that really put me wise to Fakey Impostorov. I can also see into his body, and simple checkpoint guards don’t have an unmistakable spiderweb of ground-to-orbit comsat antenna surgically implanted in their left shoulder. If this guy’s not a field agent for a national intelligence outfit—a spy like me—I’ll eat my shoe. And shoes taste terrible. Trust me, I know. Long story." -Waypoint Kangaroo
- "I’m Kangaroo because
I have a universe-sized secret pouch. I call it “the pocket” because I named it
when I was ten years old; Science Division calls it a “hyperspace shunt”
because they don’t know any better than I do how it works or why I have this
ability. They’ve been testing me for more than a decade, and we’re still no
closer to any real answers.
My code name is KANGAROO. That’s the only name I have within the agency. Not because my face resembles a large marsupial mammal, or because I used to be an Olympic hurdling champion—though I have, oddly enough, used both of those ploys in bars to get through some sticky social situations. Well, I tried, anyway. They are both apparently too ridiculous for anyone to believe." - Kangaroo, Too
Amazon Author Page: Curtis C. Chen
GoodReads: Curtis C. Chen
To hear the interview with Curtis, please click here.Once a Silicon Valley software engineer, Curtis C. Chen now writes fiction and runs puzzle games near Portland, Oregon. His debut novel Waypoint Kangaroo is a science fiction thriller about a superpowered spy facing his toughest mission yet: vacation. The sequel, Kangaroo Too, lands our hero on the Moon to confront long-buried secrets. (Source)