Koko Takes A Holiday
We live in a hard world, and through the lenses of cyberpunk, the future doesn’t look much better. The rich are gonna get richer, the poor are gonna get poorer. The environment is screwed. Failing civilizations re-emerge in new forms. Economies collapse. Corporate hegemony is in place. Violence is on the news and up close and personal twenty-four hours a day. The future is gonna get rowdy. And there will be plenty of blood by the time it’s all over.
All of the above and more are present in the novel Koko Takes A Holiday, a debut novel from Kieran Shea.
Koko Martstellar was a combat veteran with a checkered service history. She’d spent ten years working for the corporate syndicates, clearing out jungle hellholes, ruined cities, and in general clearing the way for big corporations to increase their profit margins. So when she gets an offer from a former war buddy to ‘settle down’ in the Sixty Islands – a violent and torrid resort paradise far away from the corporate conflict and re-civ zones – she decides to make a go of a life where the hardest choices are the next boywhore to seduce and what drink should be quaffed right at that moment. And for a while, the savage releases, sultry brothels, and all the alcohol she could ever hope to go blind by seems to be going okay.
However, there is trouble in paradise, and when Koko gets a little too rough with some obnoxious patrons, she finds that her war buddy is no longer protecting her on the islands – in fact, she’s out for blood, and Koko’s going to give it to her. Well, other people’s blood. Not hers.
Because Koko is a stone-cold badass.
And she’ll have answers as to why Portia Delacompte decided to take her out, no matter how many people she has to kill.
Shea’s given us a slice of the world to look at without having to get painfully in-depth with a bunch of half-hearted exposition. You can see there’s a quite a bit going on in the setting, and if you’re familiar with cyberpunk as a genre, it’s easy to see how the moving parts are supposed to work. Corporate guys are bad and amoral, rapidly advancing technology is frequently in the hands of the wrong people, casual violence is the norm, media is a brainwashing tool.
Kinda sounds like now, but way worse. Well with the exception of the flying cities in low orbit and all of the pulse weaponry. Oh, and the ocular implants that corporate mercs like to bite out of each other’s eye sockets after battles.
The book also has great pacing. There’s not a lot of time spent on fluff – Koko seems to move fluidly from action scene to action scene, leaving a trail of broken and dead thugs as her former war buddy’s hired thugs come after her. There’s not a lot of soul searching or melodrama, there’s not a lot of unnecessary description. Shea just keeps the action and plot hooks coming. It’s easily readable in a few sittings, and fun if you dig the cyberpunk genre. you’ll even see a technique or two that harken back to cyberpunk hero Walter Jon William’s Hard Wired in the form of advertisements peppered throughout the chapters.
The characters are also good – each seems to have their own hangups and modus operandi that set them apart as individuals. this comes into play when they die. And die they do. The characters in this book are whittled away with the efficiency one sees in A Song of Ice and Fire novels. Shea isn’t shy about offing characters, and when they go, it can be sudden, rash, bloody, or even hilarious as in the case of one bounty hunter who comes after Koko in low orbit (I won’t spoil it for ya). While one could poo-poo the casual violence of the book, there are moments where the violence is comical in an entertaining way.
There’s really only two things to discuss when it comes to the book’s cons. The first is fairly forgivable and ties in with some of the good. It may only feel comfortable and familiar if you’re a fan of the genre already. It may come off as just another thriller with poorly explained tech. For hard sci-fi folks looking for neat inner working of the technology or casual visitors to the sci-fi section, it may not land the blow Koko would intend.
The second is a bit of a bigger one given that it touches on a sensitive topic for a lot of people. One of the main characters, a former lawman named Flynn, suffers from a disease called Depressus. It basically is just Depression, but it’s resistant to SSRI and other treatments on a long timeline. People inevitably die of it – or more accurately they off themselves – regularly. So regularly, in fact, that one of the low-orbit cities in the novel actually accommodates Depressus sufferers’ wishes by staging mass suicides called ‘Embraces’ that are one part spectacle, one part church service, and one part a drug induced stupor that makes the process seem ‘peaceful.’
Now, this sounds like a sci-fi thing that basically jumps up the condition we know of as Depression by a notch or two, and I was okay with it as a satirical element until it took a turn in the direction I thought it might. In a leter scene Koko implies that Flynn doesn’t have some lame disease – he’s just bored and he needs to ‘live’ more. Now, in this case, who knows – maybe Koko’s right here on this individual basis. Maybe Flynn was misdiagnosed or mistook the symptoms. But I know enough people who wrestle with depression who might hit that scene and simply say ‘no more,’ and set the book aside. Depression is a real thing, and seeing the perpetuation of people telling them to ‘get over it’ (indirectly or not) really chaffs a lot of people who have an honest-to-god diagnosis. It was enough to knock me out of the story for a second when the scene happened and it lost a notch because of it.
This title is a decent read and its flow can keep you in it and turning pages. It’s worth it for folks who need some bad ass women and many, many explosions in their cyberpunk mix.
Available in Print and Digital Formats; Publisher: Titan Books; ; Author: Kieran Shae;
Released:June 10, 2014; MSRP: $14.95 (print) and $6.95 (digital)