How do I even begin a review for a book like this? I mean, seriously, there was so much…vibrancy within the three-hundred-forty some odd pages that I’m at a loss for creative introductions. While the author, Kieran Shea, claims that this is his first novel (publications in literary magazines aside) I feel the need to call him a liar who will spend an eternity on the bloody ship because goddamn this book was good!
Koko Takes a Holiday was a fantastic fucking discovery, pardon the French. The standard back-of-the-book synopsis had me chuckling enough to think the book would offer badass theatrics and meaty amusement. Usually when I find a book like that, I almost automatically expect not to be overwhelmed by it. I know, I just contradicted myself, but let me explain. When I come across a book that has a synopsis that appeals to me on the level that Koko does, my bibliophilic adrenaline kicks in and I get super excited. As the happy chemical begins to fade, I try to be realistic about the piece so that I don’t get my hopes up. There have been plenty o’ times where I’ve gotten so psyched about a seemingly colorful cyberpunk novel only to be left sobbing in the dust at how disappointed and unfulfilled it leaves me, however. I’m so frigging glad to admit that my pessimism got swirled down the stinky porcelain as Koko Takes a Holiday was so much fun!
Having said that, I think I’ll start with the writing. Brilliant would be an understatement, ill-suited to describe the graphic and stimulating prose that coughs up the eclectic atmosphere of the work. The story revolves around a former mercenary named Koko Martstellar who is foul-mouthed, unafraid and unforgiving in her dalliances with death and destruction. Shea’s writing is an artistic compliment to her personality, almost making you feel like you’ve experienced her swaggering charm in person. It’s refreshingly original and comically clever.
What Shea’s writing reveals to us is a story about a mercenary who leaves behind her life of blood-splatter and brain-splosions for a low-key life as a brothel owner on a man-made resort where people blow shit up for a vacationing-jolly-tastic-good-time. Her serene life of lounging and lushing is rudely interrupted when bounty hunters are sent to collect her pretty little head. The ensuing tale is one of a cyberpunk, fantasy induced thrill ride.
My favorite part of the book, next to Koko’s endearing persona of course, are the characters she encounters along the way. One man has a one-way ticket to a mass suicide ceremony, but his plans are quickly debunked when he encounters the rowdy Sig-toting heroine. Watching him change as he stuck with Ms. Psychotic is utterly smirk-worthy. The other members of the cast are also classy in their own way, a very violent and sadistically satisfying yet creepy way, but classy nonetheless. Our female antagonist has a backstory that I simply couldn’t guess, and I made quite a few of them. While it’s cringe-worthy and dark, it made for a slightly jaw-dropping surprise. I love being genuinely shocked while reading something fast-paced. When it’s written as a sincere contribution towards flowing plot, it just makes me swoon all the more.
One of themes of the book that I really identified with was self-discovery. You see it blatantly in some characters rather than others, but it’s there. While I never blew up spleens and ate eyeballs out of the socket, I did go through a rough patch of crap. Koko Takes a Holiday makes you see that even when you feel shit is black and the cement is hard against your face, there’s always a way out. You just need to get a bit imaginative and think waaaaay outside of the box. While there are more themes I enjoyed, if I share them all, it could kill the air of mystery and I ain’t no killer.
So, what is the verdict? After all of my prattling and praising, I give ‘er a solid four and a half grenades outta five. If you truly like cyberpunk science fantasy novels, with black humor and more action than you can wrap your arms around, definitely check out Koko Takes a Holiday. I’m ecstatic that I did.