Full disclosure: Koko Takes A Holiday‘s publisher, Titan Books, was kind enough to give us a review copy of Kieran Shea’s debut novel. And boy am I glad they did, because I think I found a new favorite series.
Koko Takes A Holiday is one of the cutest, most violent novels I’ve read in a long time. (If you don’t think the two can go hand in hand, you don’t know much about my taste in things. But you will. Oh, you will.) Big guns, flashy explosions, colorful characters, and all the inventive background flavorings of a futuristic cyberpunk action flick — the whole thing reads like a particularly lurid graphic novel, all of which tickles my fancy very hard.
Koko Martstellar is a twenty-something retired mercenary, now the proud owner of a brothel/bar on a luxurious resort called The Sixty Islands. She’s young, gorgeous, confident, and has her pick of the litter when it comes to sexual companions. Her life is pretty great.
At least, it is right up until the point where a group of security personnel show up to kill her per the order of her old friend, current boss, and the Vice President of the Sixty Islands itself, Portia Delacompte. After that, Koko’s life basically consists of running for her life from various highly trained and very skilled assassins. She isn’t alone in her ordeal; a chance act of kindness leads to Koko enlisting the unlikely (and initially, unwilling) help of one Jedidiah Flynn, a recently fired security officer. Together they do their best to survive a suddenly hostile landscape while piecing together the mystery of why Koko’s friend is suddenly trying to kill her.
For a first novel, Shea’s got a great grasp on writing breakneck action. There’s rarely a moment to breathe from the pace of things, with whip-smart dialogue flying almost as quick as the bullets. I greatly enjoyed the vibrant and sometimes horrifying world Shea painted; being a “manufactured tropical resort known for sex and simulated violence,” The Sixty Islands sounds like a hell of a fun place to visit, but all the government sanctioned murder means I would really hate to have to live there. The romance between Koko and Flynn is a little skimmed over in favor of all out kill-em-up brutality (I thought I was over my eye squick but apparently Shea has found new and exciting ways to freak me out), but that doesn’t keep his characters from having delightfully snarky banter.
There are some questionable aspects, like the concept of depression — here ‘cleverly’ masked as the unexplainable illness “Depressus” — being something you can snap yourself out of once you simply ‘get over it and realize life is worth living.’ The male lead spends his half of the book without Koko being thoroughly depressed and suicidal, but seems to miraculously bounce back almost the minute he meets her and is roped into her fight. At one point, he’s even lectured on his illness by a well-meaning Koko. Of course there are hints of there being more to the so-called affliction than what’s being sold to the public, hints that I hope will be expanded upon in the sequels, but for now the whole thing leaves a faint bad taste in my mouth.
The book also ends a lot more abruptly than I expected; after everything it took to get up to that point, the final showdown between Koko and Delacompte feels anticlimactic. Still, lingering questions are sufficiently answered, loose ends are tied (most of them admittedly pretty roughly), and there’s the obligatory cliffhanger that promises Shit Going Down in the inevitable sequel. All in all, Koko Takes A Holiday is a quick and fun read, and very much deserving of a look see. I already can’t wait to see what Koko will get up to next.
Purchase your copy of Koko Takes A Holiday here.