Curiously nerdy posts.
My sci-fi kick continues! This time with a sequel that I’ve been looking forward to. Koko the Mighty, by Kieran Shea.
This is the sequel to one of my favorite books of 2014, Koko Takes a Holiday. I loved the original book. It was a frenetically paced jaunt that walked the fine line between giving you a look at a cool futuristic world – where mercenaries are bred from birth, people live in colonies orbiting the Earth, and get their jollies from simulated carnage – without ever compromising on the breakneck pace of the plot. The book hit all the right notes for me, and ended with an obvious cliffhanger, so I’ve been looking forward to this book for some time.
The blurb reads like this:
With an outstanding Ultimate Sanction bounty still on her head, Koko Martstellar (ex-mercenary and saloon madam extraordinaire) and Jedidiah Flynn (former orbital sky-cop) have narrowly escaped death in paradise. Rescued during a storm, Koko and Flynn are taken in by what amounts to a self-sufficient outlander cult. To save Flynn’s life, Koko barters her warrior skills and assists the de-civ group in fending off their most imminent threat: a horde of genetic-mutant raiders. However, even with the group’s foes bested and their idealist lifestyle somewhat enticing, being among the outlander de-civs doesn’t sit well with Koko. In spite of the de-civ group’s hospitality and Flynn’s arguing that they have it pretty good, Koko suspects something is amiss. People within the outlander group’s interlocking compounds keep disappearing with flimsy explanations—people like the girl who died on the cliff before Koko and Flynn’s rescue—and soon the group’s leadership assesses Koko as a threat to their secret agenda. As the mystery unfolds, Koko’s limits and loyalties—perhaps even her love for Flynn—will be tested.
And as if that isn’t enough, bounty agent Wire has managed to track down Koko and, after a little politicking, is preparing to lead an army of genetic-mutant raiders in a last-man-standing battle against the cult . . .
The little recap at the beginning. I wish more authors would do this. TV shows and movies do the “previously on…” thing all the time, just to jog your memory on all the important bullet points before you jump back in. And in the case of TV, you only have to wait a week at most between episodes. With books, you generally have to wait at LEAST a year between volumes, and with some authors, that’s if you’re lucky. Oftentimes, readers tend to address this problem by re-reading before the next book comes out, but that seems like overkill to me.* It’s much simpler to just do a small recap. This one was about a page and a half long, covered everything you needed to know just in case you didn’t read the original novel, and then sends you on your way with a cute little “Purchasing the original book warmly suggested”. Perfect.
*I’m aware I’m odd, but I rarely ever read novels more than once. Even from my favorite authors. Part of it is because I have an extremely accurate long term memory. The other part is that I feel like there are simply way too many good books out there to read for me to go over the same ones over again. So those folks that talk about reading the entire Harry Potter catalog seven times? I don’t understand them at all.
The style. Unique is a word that as a writer, you have to be VERY hesitant to use. But so far in my reading journey, Shea’s writing is like a fingerprint. The present tense (for some reason, it feels like only science fiction is willing to be done in present tense), the seemingly effortless flow that probably is the product of hours of careful editing, the creative style of formatting to simulate advertisements within the book… it’s all incredibly innovative to me, and just works every time.
The language. I’m a sucker for perfectly placed little similes at the perfect spots. This book had some great ones, my favorite one being “her teeth chattering like a Geiger counter”.
The action. The action in this book is so fluid, and easy to read. In contrast to the last book I read, it was like wiping the fog off a mirror. Everything is crisply written, and also, just as importantly, incredibly brutal. When I’m reading a story about a bounty hunter hunting down another intergalactic badass, I expect people to be shot. The scene where Koko takes out multiple foes with just a paring knife was just wonderfully violent poetry. I dig it, and this book delivers again.
The ending. It’s yet another cliffhanger, but I didn’t expect anything about it. Much of it came out of left field, and sets up a scenario for a third book that promises to be very fun to read. Not to mention it’s a great role reversal when it comes to gender. Not that this book didn’t do plenty of that by itself.
It felt… rushed. Without spoiling anything, the entire book is basically: Koko goes somewhere, crashes, gets stuck there, deals with weirdoes that she finds, then has to fight off the bad guys. If that doesn’t sound like a meaty read to you, you’d be correct. Honestly, when I spell it out like that, it resembles the plot of a novella or even a short story moreso than a full fledged novel. It just needed more… everything. The writing is still crisp, snappy, and enjoyable, it just oddly feels like there’s nothing to much to do with it.
Koko is mighty. REALLY mighty. The title character is a grade A badass. And to be fair, she’s always put through a tremendous amount of adversity. But it never really feels like she’s in peril, or in way over her head. She’s always got an answer to everything. It’s fun to read, but kind of takes away from the suspense of the story. I’m hopeful that the sequel is taking a step toward giving the character a real challenge, for once. But if not, that’s fine too. I’ll still read it.
I have to be honest. This book is simply not as good as the original, mostly because of the incredibly bare boned plot. I wanted to love it as much as I loved its predecessor, but there’s not enough here to do that. That being said, it’s still a good book, and a really fun read. It’ll never win any literary awards, but not every book has to ponder the human condition to be worthwhile.
Sometimes, you just want to read about a bounty hunter that bites out eyeballs from their victims’ sockets. At least I do. And this book delivers on that.
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