Bad-Ass Female Protagonist: Check
Male Trigger Happy Prostitutes: Double Check
Cyberpunk has taken some interesting turns over the years, hasn’t it? While the Cyberpunk movement was paramount and strongly present in the eighties and nineties, it has died down tremendously in the early 2000’s which many believe is due to the dot-com bubble popping. But when it was at it’s peak, there were numerous movies such as Blade Runner (Based on Phillip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?) and The Matrix, novels and manga such as Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira and William Gibson’s Neuromancer, architectural structures like the CyberPort in Hong Kong and even Cyberpunk music. But there is some good news; Cyberpunk is making a slow resurgence into popular culture across the spectrum of not only entertainment, but technologically as well. One of the more recent technological advancements that correlates with one of the primary themes of cyberpunk would be augmentations or implantable technology. Hyperallergic recently had an article describing how Chaotic Moon, an Austin Texas based software firm has recently been prototyping electroconductive tattoo paint called ‘Tech Tats’ which can pick up on the wearer’s health status such as body temperature and hydration. Other companies such as EpiCenter in Sweden is currently using implantable RFID chips as a means of allowing workers to not only enter the building, but access the vending machines and the copiers as well.
Introduction aside, today’s review is Kieran Shea’s Koko Takes a Holiday, a tantalizing read of sex, overt violence and cyberpunk delights. Released in late July 2015 by Titan Books, this book has gotten overall well received reviews from the both readers and critics alike, with reviewers such as SFF Punk calling it “A fun, action-packed, page-turner.” The book has also had a sequel released later in late August 2015 as well, entitled “Koko the Mighty“. So, put on some cyberpunk music, grab the closest thing to a pulse pistol you have, and let’s take a look at Koko Takes a Holiday.
The story would take place five hundred years into the future and follows Koko Martstellar, a former corporate mercenary turned brothel owner for a luxury resort known as The Sixty Islands, a tropical paradise that is essentially nothing but sex and hyper-violence. There, she spends her days running the business, drinking, and having sex with her favorite of boy-toys, Archimedes. However, after settling a dispute in her bar that leaves two patrons dead, she finds herself on the run from the Central Pleasure Bureau (CPB)and hired mercenaries as she has to confront her former friend and ally, Portia Delacompte.
Along the way, she teams up with Jedidiah Flynn, a former security deputy on the Alaungpaya, a residential barge, who has contracted a disease called Depressus, this novel’s version of severe depression which is glorified into a mass ritual suicide. Together, they have to try to survive the worst that Portia Delacompte and her assistant Vincent Lee can throw at them.
Personally, I enjoy the story. From the very beginning, you have the main character being thrown into a situation that is quickly spiraling out of control and she has to scramble to figure out what she has to do. The action is almost constant, with gunfights, close quarters combat and grand escapes taking up almost half the book, but it also gives ample room for not only the story, but the world building and the character development. Each of the main character’s stories are told as the reader takes in not only the backstory of Koko and Portia, but also Flynn’s, Heinz’s and the mercenaries, and Vincent Lee’s story as well. The one complaint that I have with the story would be the ending, which without spoiling anything ends in a lackluster final conflict. You would think that it would have been more emotionally fueled and close, but it is more detached than anything else. Also, there is obvious sequel-bait at the end of this book, which while there was a sequel released a month after this book, it should have not been so obvious.
The characters of this novel, while well developed and memorable, borderline almost too dangerously to common tropes that are often found in Cyberpunk/Noir style novels. Koko is the antihero who wants to live a decent life after leaving her mercenary days behind her, who is thrust back into danger. Flynn is the ex-cop who suffers from mental illness and just wants to be happy. Portia Delacompte is the cutthroat ex-mercenary turned business executive who wants to move ahead. While the characters do fall into the common cyberpunk tropes, each person in this novel is believable and well developed, even the side characters and their momentary interactions with the main characters. The reader also feels for Koko’s loss of Archimedes as well as Vincent Lee’s reluctant loyalty towards Portia.
I would have to say that I would have liked to learn more of what drove Portia to do what she has done in the novel before and after the events of the book, but what can you do? Maybe Kieran Shea will write a spin-off novel of Koko and Portia’s days as mercenaries.
The World Building
Kieran Shea brings both the Sixty Islands as well as the Alaungpaya with his writing, giving his interpretation of what the future could bring, where Earth has become desolate and controlled by corporations, religion has fused together into a hybrid faith that has a power influence on all business and the people, and people indulge in every carnal pleasure they can find. One of the core concepts that is prevalent in cyberpunk is the idea that corporations control everything, even politics, and it is shown throughout this novel with some portions directly mentioned how the governments of the world were more or less puppets to these companies. Though one thing that I felt was overlooked was the differences in wealth that is a common underlying theme in cyberpunk. The reader sees that there is an excess of wealth, but there is little to show the impoverished people in the future. But if I am right, that might be shown more in the sequel.
Koko Takes a Holiday is a novel that isn’t afraid to shy away from the action while keeping the characters interesting. Despite the one or two grievances that I have with the book, it was enjoyable and kept me reading for the entirety of the 332 pages span.
Koko Takes a Holiday is available on Amazon and in bookstores everywhere.