Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Review of Koko Takes a Holiday by Kieran Shea (Titan Books, 2014)

Five hundred into the future, the planet is effectively run by large corporations who fight for assets and market share.  Ex-corporate mercenary Koko Martsellar runs a bar and brothel on The Sixty Islands, which specialises in satisfying appetites for sex and simulated violence.  Koko was offered the job by one of her old combat mentors, Portia Delacompte, who has risen slowly up the corporate ladder of an entertainment conglomerate.  In order to progress her career, Delacompte has selectively wiped some of her memory and joined a religious cult.  At some point in the past though she wrote a note to herself to eliminate Koko and to that end she sends a squad of security personnel to the bar.  Koko has not lost any of her instincts and skills, however, and after the shootout flees skyward.  In pursuit is an assassin.  If Koko is going to survive she needs her wits about her and to tackle her old boss.

Koko Takes a Holiday is a kind of cyberpunk tale set in the far (500 years hence) rather than near future.  Shea has imagined a world run by corporate conglomerates and puppet governments, where women are very much the equals of men.  Above the planet are ships that provide residences and specialise in different services. Koko is an ex-mercenary turned bar and brothel owner who can look after herself.  She’s a fun-kind of kiss-ass character, who’s lived through dozens of deadly scrapes and doesn’t take any crap.  Her ex-combat partner and current boss, however, wants her dead, though it’s not immediately clear to her why.  After surviving the initial hit, Koko flees on a self-built craft skyward pursued by an assassin.  There’s a good energy and vibe to the opening sequences, hooking the reader in.  After an initial chase, however, the pace slows and becomes more pedestrian as Koko settles in one place and Shea works in another couple of characters, including a security guard on his last day of duty who is about to take part in a mass suicide due to chronic depression.  The tale unfolds in an interesting enough way until near the end.  The reveal concerning why Koko is being pursued is based on a trillion-to-one chance encounter that was hard to believe and the final showdown is overly linear and over too quickly, in my view.  And the final scene felt too contrived.  All of that was a bit of let down after a cracking start, an interesting enough future world, and an engaging lead character.  If you like cyberpunk it might be worth a spin.

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