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Koko Takes a Holiday (EBK) Paperback – June 10, 2014
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"If you’re looking for a fun, violent, blood-and-gore sci-fi romp, you should check it out." - Pixelated Geek
"Shea just keeps the action and plot hooks coming." - Hey Poor Player
"Kieran Shea's first novel is action-packed, fast-paced, violent, and full of cyberpunk fun. It's a brilliant ride that makes for a quick read, perfect for summer vacation." - Daily Crate
"Personally, I can’t wait to see Koko Martstellar in another book soon. If it’s even half as good as Koko Takes A Holiday it’ll be another hellacious ride I want to take." - Pop Cults
"The sheer breakneck speed of Koko Takes a Holiday, and the pseudo-cyberpunk posturing of Shea’s prose, are more than enough to propel you through this book cover to cover." - Giant Freakin Robot
"Plenty of explosions, bullets, wise cracks, and surprises will leave you wanting more. And the best news is that Koko the Mighty will be out in Summer 2015. Yippee-Ki-Yay… this book completely rocks." - Geek Dad
"An extremely fast-paced chunk of science fiction space operetta with attitude...Shea is a name to look out for, and I can only see his work getting better and better." - Adventures in SciFi Publishing
"Fans of far out there science fiction works similar to what movie fans would expect from a Quentin Tarantino flick will feel right at home." - BGG Magazine
"It’s no secret that I loved Kieran Shea’s debut." - My Bookish Ways
"This book looks absolutely bonkers, and it’s one that we’re itching to read." - BuzzFeed Community
"Koko Takes a Holiday is a nonstop, bloody thrill ride with the all 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!!" - My Bookish Ways
"Reminiscent of Takeshi Kovaks from Richard K. Morgan’s Altered Carbon with a dash of Tank Girl attitude, Koko is memorable character. The violence is quite extreme, so the squeamish should probably look elsewhere, but this is a fun gender reversal of your typical shoot-em-up" -Library Journal
"Wild ride....breakneck pace...great fun" – Booklist starred review
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The writing in this one was fine, but the characters weren't tested nearly enough. Sure, they were in physical danger at times, but Koko always seemed to get out of it quickly and far more efficiently than her enemies, and I never believed she was in any real danger. She had no novel solutions to problems either; it was always just: shoot them first, or fight better than they do. The enemies seemed deadly when introduced but came off more like pushovers when fighting Koko.
There is a big difference between an "okay" book and a "great" book. There wasn't enough tension, characterization, well-written action, depth, twists, or coolness factor to push this toward five stars.
But it's not just the action and hardcore characters that stand out to me. First of all, this book is comprised almost entirely of really strong, awesome, albeit maybe a little unstable, female characters. And maybe you're like, MEH WHATEVER I KNOW A STRONG WOMAN SO WHAT THIS IS DUMB but then maybe you and I won't get along anyway, ya know? It's not that the men are incapable in this, it's that the women Koko Takes A Holiday focuses on are so incredibly fierce, so unflinching, that I'm blown away every time. To say Mr. Shea writes his women as men would be a disservice to the talent he applied to the characters. No, it's not that they're men, they're just in roles that would typically belong to men, yet they're amazing women by their own right.
Second, this book tricks you. At first it reads like an amoral, violent, unrepentant bang-up violence fest but, in the end, it's life that matters. Life is the entire point. During my first trip through Koko I loved it, but I felt like it was murdery to the point of being a little jarring. It didn't seem to matter that people died; none of the perpetrators felt anything about it. At least until [spoiler moment] which stands as such a sharp contrast to the rest of the mayhem. It tore at me, in that moment, the reverence for that one life when it really, truly mattered.
Point C, his prose. There's points during every read-through that I find new turns of phrase and wording and clever bits of text that I find myself looking at them like a confused dog and wondering how Shea can be a mortal human like the rest of us. They're beautiful. I find it to be an immensely clever book without a dull moment. Shea's writing reminds me at times of Ray Bradbury for the brilliance of his phrasing, yet that's not quite apt. It's like the same level of skill, but he stands apart in his own talent.
So there. I absolutely love Koko Takes A Holiday. It's a rocket-fueled ride of chaos that'll melt half your face straight off. Can't recommend it enough.
I will admit that the post apocalyptic, hedonistic future the author paints is not my cup of tea. I certainly don't fault him for that, though.
Putting that aside, I found that I was too conscious of the fact that I was reading someone's writing as opposed to simply losing myself in the narrative. Mr. Shea was very obviously trying to convey a particular aesthetic, but I think his deliberateness in that regard is what ultimately removed me from the characters and their plight.
Every so often the story is interrupted by "media feed" scripts; basically short chapters that resemble transcripts of television commercials in this alternate future. They are purely for world-building and don't particularly advance the plot, which is not necessarily their purpose. It's an interesting idea, but it can also be very jarring. Sometimes it works. Other times it feels like the world is being shoved into my face; "LOOK HOW DEBAUCHEROUS EVERYTHING IS!" -- in all-caps, no less.
If you can look past all of that, it's a fun romp.
Koko as a heroine is great, as is Flynn as the sidekick. There's a definite amoral take on future earth that is sometimes funny and sometimes sad, but always violent.
Top international reviews
This sounds like heavy criticism but it's not. This is done with style, panache and gusto. It's pacey, tight and fun. Recommended.
It definitely feels like it would be a good graphic novel, with the pacing of the chapters and the way action is set up reading a lot like a panel to panel shot. Dialogue is sparse, characters feel a bit incomplete, but it never bills itself as a cerebral book, so I ended up being alright with it. I think it would actually be superior as a graphic novel, but it's bombastic and fun in this medium too. No worries.
Although billed as an "Altered Carbon with a dash of tank girl", it's more the reverse. Where Altered Carbon is filled with a very structured analysis and commentary on larger issues currently and may arise with more technology, Koko Takes a Holiday does so only fleetingly. I wouldn't go so far as to say the "style over substance" is true, as one of the characters, Flynn, is basically a walking talking commentary as the everyman in America. Buying what doctors and governments selling him, Flynn thinks he has a disease called "Depressus", from which there is no cure. He's also the embodiment of a lot of "femme" type characteristics. A welcome change up in the genre, with Koko and her rival being hyper-everything individuals that are also pretty well in line with their feelings, expressing them as they happen in often pretty visceral extremes.
As good as subverting a couple tropes are and having a cool female protagonist, I'm finding when the female protagonist is not stereotypical and written by a dude, their headspace reads like a dude, go figure, right? But the problem for me is the fact that if the protagonist isn't a doe eyed female, their instead the last action her, along with their labido. I haven't read any characters with a happy medium and it makes it feel like subverting the trope is no longer very interesting and satisfying, even though I recognize that they're trying.
That said, I still enjoyed the story a lot and I'll be checking out the sequel. I'm hoping the next one will be a bit more focused on "non-sterile" prose. That's what I'm calling it anyways. Basically when women write, the world is a lot more organic from what I can tell and I enjoy it a lot more. Whereas when men write emotion is often removed and the prose are very rigid, telling you exactly what is going on but does not help for world-immersion or getting into a character's headspace. Altered Carbon remains my favourite male written cyberpunk story because it does not suffer from either problem. I think the next book will have some more interesting prose, there was a couple, I snapped this one in particular as one I liked, if more like this show up, I'll be elated.
“...glimpses through the clouds of numerous and enormous Second Free Zone residential arks and barges lumbering through their selective tracks like a slow-motion game of hide and seek played by listless, blunt whales.”
For a fun ride with a little sprinkling of, but nothing new, societal commentary. Check it out, if nothing else it's like watching an action flick with a bunch of tropes subverted. I'll give it a 3/5.
Shea almost tries too hard, is too cool for school, too well greased for this romp to be enjoyable. The fight scenes are kinda lame when compared to the legions of military fiction out there or the likes of Richard Morgan's Altered Carbon. The plot is...frankly boring and the ideas in this novel seem tired, well trodden and offer nothing new to the genre.