Rating: 7.9 (out of 10)
“Nobody gets my jokes,” laments Kangaroo, the otherwise unnamed protagonist of Curtis C. Chen’s Waypoint Kangaroo. He’s not kidding. The titular spy can’t coax a single laugh from anyone else in the novel, though he hardly lets a moment pass without cracking wise. For the reader, Kangaroo’s prodigious attempts at humor are also more likely to elicit a groan than a laugh. But it doesn’t stop us rooting for him to find one that sticks.
Kangaroo is an archetypal underdog hero, so dogged determination is stamped on his DNA. The fact that he would probably bomb onstage if he tried his hand at stand-up comedy is what makes him so endearing. His disappointment is genuine; so is his need to keep trying.
Kangaroo is a sci-fi spy with a quirky sci-fi superpower – the innate and inexplicable ability to open a pocket (hence the code name) to a parallel universe and store things inside it. The story sees his boss sending him packing on a cruise ship to Mars to get him out of the way during a department audit. Coincidentally (or not), Kangaroo becomes embroiled in a murder mystery that has literal world shaking consequences.
Waypoint Kangaroo is a fun, fast-paced novel full of engaging characters, high-stakes, and some nice twists and turns. The book doesn’t quite stick the landing: the last two chapters wobble a bit, though it still manages to stay on its feet.
A blast from cover to cover and I’m looking forward to the sequel.