Koko Takes a Holiday by Kieran Shea (Titan, June 10th, 2014)-Booze! Orgiastic simulated mass slaughter! More sex than you can shake a, er, stick at, and just about any way you want it! All of this and more can be found at the very adult playground of The Sixty Islands, a manufactured tropical resort. It’s here that Koko Martstellar can be found tending bar and tending her stable of boywhores, as well as enjoying the affection of her favorite, Archimedes. It’s an unorthodox life, but Koko is happy, and glad to be out of the mercenary for hire business. She’s abruptly yanked out of her island idyll when her bar is stormed by a band of ruthless killers, and they seem to be after one thing: Koko. Luckily, Koko hasn’t lost her touch, and she wipes the floor with this pack of predators, but not before racking up plenty of collateral damage. She’s also shocked to find out that the person that’s put out a hit on her is none other than her old mercenary comrade in arms, and, she thought, friend, Portia Delacompte. It’s time for Koko to say goodbye to her bar and run, and she does, with the help of an escape pod she built herself and has managed to keep hidden from her overseers at the CPB (Custom Pleasure Bureau.) Her pod takes her to the Second Free Zone, and eventually she makes her way to a residential barge called the Alaungpaya, and into the orbit of former security deputy Jedidiah Flynn. He could be the key to her survival, and she’s going to need all the help she can get, because a team of hitwomen have been set loose, and they’ve been ordered to terminate Koko once and for all.
You’ll most likely want to set aside a few uninterrupted hours for this one, because if you’re like me, once you start it, you’ll want to read it straight through. While on the run, Koko does indeed transform herself to look like the blue haired beauty on the cover, and if she looks tough, well, she is, but she’s also-and this may sound odd-pretty happy go lucky. She’s bewildered by the fact that her old friend seems bent on having Koko killed, but can’t think of why she would do that. The only thing that Koko can think of is an incident that happened quite a while back, but see, Koko is a loyal friend, and would never give up a secret she promised to keep, so you can see why she’s confused as to why Delacompte would be after her. Deeper motives aside, Koko has to stay alive, and luckily Flynn has a little time on his hands, at least until the next mass suicide event called Embrace. Flynn has been diagnosed with Depressus, a condition, he’s told, that has no cure, making suicide the only option. So, Flynn is a great boon to Koko, since his previous position in security gives him access to some areas that Koko never would have been able to penetrate.
Koko Takes a Holiday is pretty much run and gun from the get go, but Flynn’s condition, his and Koko’s blooming friendship on the fly, and of course, the secret behind Delacompte’s kill order on Koko, give it depth and elevates it above most SF adventure. The setting is 500 years in the future, and Shea does a great job conveying advanced tech and the “feel” of his far future without slowing down the narrative. I can tell you, Shea’s future is not one I’d want to be a part of. He hints at mass environmental devastation and of course, The Sixty Islands that people go to in order to participate in violent sex and simulated mass slaughter scenarios is really not a future that I find endearing. Maybe that’s what makes Koko so damn appealing though. She’s not a simple girl, but she takes pleasure from life, and from her work. She’s very much a doer, and rolls with the punches as they come, and boy do they. The action sequences are fantastic and fairly brutal at times. You really don’t want to know how warriors “mark” their kills. You just don’t *shudder*. That aside, Koko is a great foil for the dour Flynn and maybe she can give Flynn a much needed kick in the proverbial pants…
A bit on Koko’s pursuers: Shea does a great job at fleshing these gals out, and they’re larger than life and very, very scary. There’s one scene in particular where one of the bounty hunters, pretty much in the midst of pursuit, gets a call from her beloved… Eh, I don’t want to give it away, because it’s just so great, and made me laugh out loud. Also, Portia Delacompte makes for one of the most unsettling baddies that I’ve read in a long time. Can Koko and Flynn outrun some of the most brutal bounty hunters in the biz? Will Flynn give into Depressus and seek the final solution? And just why the hell is Delacompte really after Koko? Shea answers all of these questions and does it without any of the stutters that sometimes find their way into debut novels. Koko Takes a Holiday is a nonstop, bloody thrill ride with all of the subtlety of a rocket launcher, and I loved every minute of it. And the ending? Well, you’ll see-it’s a jawdropper. Kieran Shea will blow you away, promise. More Koko please!!