Koko Takes a Holiday is a fast-paced cyberpunk fantasy with all the anarchic energy of a graphic novel. Newcomer Kieran Shea’s debut novel, set 500 years in the future, moves at breakneck speed, and it’s teeming with colourful characters and a joyfully black sense of humour.
Koko Martstellar is a former mercenary enjoying early retirement as the owner of a brothel on manufactured tropical resort The Sixty Islands – a holiday destination about as far away from Butlins as you can get; heaving with sex, violence and synthetic komodo dragons.
Before Koko can freshen her drink, combat-buddy-turned-corporate-bigwig Portia Delacompte puts a hit on her. Not that Delacompte can even remember why, thanks to selective memory treatment. The resourceful Ms. Martsellar makes her escape to the sky-barges of the Second Free Zone, buys a bunch of weapons and goes underground, with a trio of bounty hunters in hot pursuit.
She meets Flynn, a cop diagnosed with Depressus – an incurable mental condition that demands sufferers join in a mass suicide event called Embrace. Why does Portia suddenly want her old comrade six feet under, and will Koko and Flynn survive the ride?
Shea is brilliant at world building. The universe he’s sketched out for Koko feels real, distinct and more than a bit rough around the edges. He doesn’t dwell on scenes too long, managing instead to nail the balance between descriptive and snappy language. He uses third person narrative, but as each chapter shifts to a different character you really feel like you’ve walked around in their head for a time.
Koko is a fun protagonist to follow: flawed, dry and enjoyably badass. Cyberpunk enthusiasts will love her and the tattered world she inhabits. The novel is also desperate to burst out of its medium, with action scenes so clearly written that you can see comic panels appearing in your mind. If you’ve ever played Mass Effect, you’ll feel like you’re back on the Citadel.
You can easily demolish Koko Takes a Holiday in a few sittings. Its tight plotting and pithy prose make it a fun and action-packed read.