J A Garrett

Curiously nerdy posts.

Book review: Koko takes a Holiday.

What a crazy, busy couple of weeks it’s been for me. Between life stuff, and work, my reading and writing time really took a hit. Helping write and revise a degree proposal is a long and arduous process, ladies and gentlemen.

But anyway, I did manage to sneak in a book that turned out to be a lot of fun to read. It’s a little Sci-fi novel called Koko Takes a Holiday.

I really liked this cover. Caught my eye at the bookstore.

The blurb for it reads like this:

Five hundred years from now, ex-corporate mercenary Koko Martstellar is swaggering through an early retirement as a brothel owner on The Sixty Islands, a manufactured tropical resort archipelago known for its sex and simulated violence. Surrounded by slang-drooling boywhores and synthetic komodo dragons, the most challenging part of Koko’s day is deciding on her next drink. That is, until her old comrade Portia Delacompte sends a squad of security personnel to murder her.


Let’s just get this out of the way right now: if you’re looking for a contemplative science fiction novel that reflects on the relationship between man and nature, or man’s relationship with his own self, you’re probably a lot better off looking elsewhere. This won’t remind you much of Ray Bradbury, or even William Gibson. Well, maybe a little on the latter.

However, if you are looking for a novel that is wildly creative, paced like a drag race, and is just flat out fun to read, you’ve come to the right place.

Anyhow, on to the review!

What I liked:

The world building. It’s a funny thing, really. Most sci-fi novels gloss over the world they build, and focus more on the future technology the author has imagined. This book has plenty of both, but goes out of the way to bring up the world, moreso than the pulse rifles and spaceships. I really liked how, given the narration style, the characters just basically treated all that as commonplace.

The world painted in this book is fascinating, and terrifying. The world is basically a bunch of militarized zones, with corporate mercenaries that are engineered from birth to quell any unrest with guns… and lots of them. There are resorts with simulated violence as entertainment, and ships orbiting the planet where it appears many people prefer to live instead, unless they’re lucky and rich enough to live in manufactured biomes. There’s one scene in particular where two bounty hunters are talking, and one mentions that her partner’s weakness is that she has an actual living grandmother. The fact that the other character reacts because the bounty hunter actually has grandparents at all tells us quite a bit about how the bio-engineered soldier of fortune business works in this book.

The effortless way the author fills us in on these details is a treat, and you somehow get a very good idea of Koko’s world despite the crazy fact that the book never bothers to slow down and explain it to you. That takes quite the deft touch to do.

The action. The action scenes in the book are short, curt, and ultra-violent. For instance, every time a merc in this book makes a kill, they make it a point to bite their prey’s eyeball, straight of the socket. Every time someone is shot, the gore is described in painstaking, entrail-filled detail. I love it, personally. There are a lot of novels out there with plots and characters centered on violence, but the actual act itself is horribly neutered. You can’t say that about Koko Takes a Holiday if you tried.

But in contrast, there are two pivotal violent turns to the story where you don’t actually experience it firsthand with the character doing it. The first time is used in an inventive way to introduce the other protagonist, while the second… felt a bit weird.

The pacing. The pacing of this book could be compared to masquerading as the human cannonball in a circus. You wonder how it’s going, and then BOOM. You’re on your way, and you don’t stop until you reach the end.

 No one is safe. You get to witness the story from multiple POVs, which isn’t unusual. What is, is that half of those people end up dying horribly somewhere in the book. It’s not on the George RR Martin level of “no one is safe” (because, let’s be honest, if your name is in the title, you’re probably safe), but it still made for a pretty wild ride when, after learning a character’s backstory, whether it’s about their sailor-boy lover, or them paying for their grandmother’s medical bills on earth, you later see them get their head blown off in a casual aside.

What I didn’t like:

Everyone is a psychopath. Maybe it’s because the crux of the story is based around unfinished business between two otherwise retired ex-mercs, and bounty hunters hired to kill Koko, but it feels like everyone is a badass in this book. Not just a badass, but an indiscriminately psychotic badass to boot. Granted, it does come close to dancing with the dreaded “unlikable character” syndrome, but it is mitigated by the fact that most of the time, you’re aware the person is an antagonist. You’re not supposed to LIKE the bad guys girls, right?

The dangerous part of it is that Koko herself gets close to the same problem. The author avoids this problem in this book, but they’d better be careful in the sequel. I personally don’t mind an unlikable main character, as long as some complexity is there. But you’re playing with fire doing that.

Chapters are notated with phrases rather than numbers. It’s just a pet peeve of mine, but I prefer just numbers, or numbers AND phrases to notate chapters. The otherwise excellent Six Gun Tarot made this mistake, and this book does too. But on the bright side, the chapter phrases in this book actually give you some insight into what is going to happen in it, or are just randomly weird enough to keep your interest. Case in point, the first chapter is called “Let’s hear it for the boywhore“. That’s not a phrase you read every day, that’s for sure.


The verdict:

As I mentioned in the beginning, this book isn’t going to change your outlook on life, or make you think deeply on social issues (though it does have some interesting takes on sci-fi social issues). But on the other hand, it’s not really trying to, either. All it is, is an insane sci-fi action novel that grabs you by the throat, shoves meth into your mouth, and makes you high on sci-fi geekery for 400 pages.

And you know what? It succeeds. Mightily. Looking forward to the sequel.





2 comments on “Book review: Koko takes a Holiday.

  1. thenovelgarden
    October 27, 2014

    I enjoyed reading your book review. I normally don’t read sci-fi but I’d like to start. Your review makes this novel seem like a fun one to try out. What other novels (sci-fi or not) would you say are similar to this one?

    • jagarrett
      October 27, 2014

      Thanks for the compliment 🙂

      Sci-fi is generally something I don’t read a ton of either, but there are some truly great ones out there. I’d recommend these, though, off the top of my head:

      -Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson
      -Neuromancer, by William Gibson
      -Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card

      There are more, but those are the ones I can confidently say that A) are great, and B) I have actually read.

      Hope this helps!

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