Koko Takes a Holiday by Kieran Shea: A Darkly Entertaining & Action-Packed Dalliance with Death & Destruction – Book Review

Koko Takes a Holiday by Kieran Shea is a cyberpunk action novel about a young lady criminal named Koko Martstellar who retires on an island that basically offers a theme park experience for shady ass people. She owns a business and has essentially retired from her blood-soaking shenanigans. But when an old acquaintance sends a team of assassins after Miss Martstellar, her retirement hopes and dreams get blown to bits just like her brothel. On the run and spectacularly ticked off about this latest event, she decides to take out the acquaintance before her ass can get further fried.

This novel was a fantastic fucking discovery. 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 colourful cyberpunk tome only to be left sobbing in the dust at how disappointed and unfulfilled it left me. However, I’m so fucking glad to admit that my pessimism got swirled down the stinky porcelain as Koko Takes a Holiday was loads of 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 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 contract killer 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 aforementioned shady 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 science-fiction, violence-infused thrill ride.

My favourite 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 anti-heroine. Watching him change as he gets stuck with Ms. Psychotic is utterly smirk-worthy. The other members of the cast are also classy in their own way; a very vicious 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 disturbing 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, and not just some stupid ass device, it 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 like shite is bleak and 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. Although there are more themes I enjoyed, if I share them all, it could kill the air of mystery and I ain’t no killer, bruh.

So, what is the verdict? After all of my prattling and praising, I give ‘er a solid HIGHLY RECOMMENDED grenade out the broken brothel window. If you truly like cyberpunk science fantasy novels, with black humour and more action than you can wrap your arms around (or anything else for that matter), definitely check out Koko Takes a Holiday. I’m so bloody ecstatic that I did.

Publication Date: June 2014
Publisher: Titan Books (978-1781168608)
Genre: Cyberpunk, Space Opera
Series: EBK Book 1
Page Count: 400
Content Warnings: Graphic violence. Graphic depictions of blood, gore, body mutilation, and explosions. Graphically strong language. Consensual sexual interactions. Smoking. Alcohol consumption. Narcotics consumption. Mass suicide rituals. Suicide ideation. Depiction of major depressive disorders and anxiety. Homophobic, sexist, and misogynistic dialogue (definitely challenged). Disturbing scene of self-induced abortion.
GoodReads: Koko Takes a Holiday by Kieran Shea
In-print, available in paperback and mass market editions.

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