Tag Archives: Kieran Shea

Book Review: “Off Rock” by Kieran Shea

Off Rock by Kieran Shea

Shea’s third novel isn’t quite as punch-em-up as his earlier stories, but he’s still out there on the ‘gratuitous violence’ spectrum (heralded by one blurb as ‘king of badass’). Don’t expect deep and meaningful.

This story involves the not-especially-plausible escapades on an asteroid mine (or comet or moon—some small rock). During clean up, aging miner Jimmy discovers a valuable load apparently missed by mining operations. He decides to try to sneak it “off rock”, as a retirement stake.

Are you out of your mind, Jimmy??

This cunning plan becomes tangled with several other individuals, including a hit woman and his ex. Stuff happens. Fights. Explosions. Lucky escapes. Etc.

The plot moves along pretty well., The shallow characters and “action packed” story were OK. After all, what do you expect?

I had some serious problems with the future technology, though. This is supposed to be hundreds of years from now. Yet the tech was less advanced than the original Star Trek. The IT is basically the same as in any office today. That’s pretty silly for SF.

There are other massive implausibilities. This mining operation is not only not 100% robotic, but has a crew of dozens if not hundreds. That’s just insane, both technically and economically.

The plot hinges on the supposed value of the seam of gold that Jimmy finds. I’m finding it hard to believe that an economy that is harvesting asteroids for centuries will still care about gold or any other specific metal. Frankly, I took the chunk of gold to be a symbolic “big, valuable thing”.

I guess I’m telling you that this isn’t deep stuff.

On the other hand, we kind of like Jimmy are kind of rooting for him, even if nothing makes much sense.


  1. Kieran Shea, Off Rock, London, Titan Books, 2017.

 

Sunday Book Reviews

Books Reviewed 2015

Here is  housekeeping post, collecting all the books reviewed here in 2015.

Looking back at this list, I see that this year saw Terry Pratchette’s last book (a wrenching experience), and new novels by old favorites Stross, Perry, Macguire, Holt, Gaiman, among others. I also read older but still good histories by Goodwin and Graeber. I read several books about banking, Papal and otherwise, and overlapping works about Italy, fictional and (supposedly) real.

Over the year, I reviewed a sampling of important books about contemporary digital life, including cryptocurrency, the “sharing economy”, social media, and “mind change”.   These works covered a spectrum from enthusiasm to dark worry, giving us much to think about. There are many more I did not have time or energy for. (I will say more on this topic in another post)

Throughout 2015 I continued my ongoing investigation of the question, “what is coworking?”, including reviews of two recent (self published) books about coworking by practitioners. (More on coworking in another post.)

Shall I name some “Best Books” out of my list? Why not?

Fiction:

There were so many to pick from. I mean, with Neil Gaiman in the list, how can I choose? But let me mention two that are especially memorable

Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente
Very imaginative and well written, and, for once, not so horribly dark. This book lodged in my memory more than others that are probably equally good.

Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon
Published a few years ago, but I didn’t read it until this year. A wonderful, intricate story. The flight of the parrot is still in my memory.

Nonfiction:

There were many important works about digital life, and I shall try to comment on them in another post. But three books that really hit me are:

Debt: The First 5,000 Years by David Graeber
From several years ago, but I didn’t read it until this year. Highly influential on the ‘occupy’ and other left-ish thinking. This is an astonishingly good book, and long form anthropology, to boot. Wow!

Reimagination Station: Creating a Game-Changing In-Home Coworking Space by Lori Kane
An exlectic little self-published book about “home coworking”, which I didn’t know was a thing. Kane walked the walk, and made me think in new ways about community and coworking.

Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy by Sam Maggs
Unexpected amounts of fun reading this short book. It does an old, graying nerd no end of good to see that at least some of the kids are OK. Really, really, OK.

List of books reviewed in 2015

Fiction

A Darkling Sea by James L. Cambias
After Alice by Gregory Maguire
Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson
Bats of the Republic by Zachary Thomas Dodson
Book of Numbers by Joshua Cohen
Chasing the Phoenix by Michael Swanwick
Candy Apple Red by Nancy Bush
Chicks and Balances edited by Esther Friesner and John Helfers
Corsair by James L. Cambias
Count to a Trillion by John C. Wright
Diaspora by Greg Egan
Distress by Greg Egan
Electric Blue by Nancy Bush
Forty Thieves by Thomas Perry
Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits by David Wong
Get In Trouble by Kelly Link
Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear
Koko the Mighty by Kieran Shea
Luna: New Moon by Ian McDonald
Mort(e) by Robert Repino
Numero Zero by Umberto Eco
Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente
Rebirths of Tao by Wesley Chu
Redeployment by Phil Klay
Satin Island by Tom McCarthy
Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore
Seveneves by Neal Stephenson
Shark Skin Suite by Tim Dorsey
String of Beads by Thomas Perry
Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon
The Annihilation Score by Charles Stross
The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of the Year Volume Nine ed. by Jonathan Strahan
The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro
The Enchantment Emporium by Tanya Huff
The First Bad Man by Miranda July
The Fortress in Orion by Mike Resnick
The Future Falls by Tanya Huff
The Good, the Bad, and The Smug by Tom Holt
The Mark and the Void by Paul Murray
The Relic Master by Christopher Buckley
The Rook by Daniel O’Malley
The Shepherd’s Crown by Terry Pratchett
The Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu
The Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia Moss by Max Wirestone
The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi
The Wild Ways by Tanya Huff
Time Salvager by Wesley Chu
To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis
Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances by Neil Gaiman
Ultraviolet by Nancy Bush
We Are Pirates by Daniel Handler
Witches Be Crazy by Logan J. Hunder
Zer0es by Chuck Wendig

Non Fiction

Arrival of the Fittest by Andreas Wagner
Blue Mind by Wallace J. Nichols
Debt: The First 5,000 Years by David Graeber
Digital Gold by Nathaniel Popper
Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy by Sam Maggs
God’s Bankers by Gerald Posner
LaFayette in the Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell
Let’s Be Less Stupid by Patricia Marx
Live Right and Find Happiness by Dave Barry
Merchants in the Temple by Gianluigi Nuzzi
Mind Change by Susan Greenfield
Mindsharing by Lior Zoref
Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari
No More Sink Full of Mugs by Tony Bacigalupo
Not Impossible by Mick Ebeling
Pax Technica by Phillip N. Howard
Peers, Inc by Robin Chase
Reimagination Station: Creating a Game-Changing In-Home Coworking Space by Lori Kane
Speculative Everything by Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby
Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin
The Age of Cryptocurrency by Paul Vigna and Michael J. Casey
The Art of Forgery by Noah Charney
The Next Species by Michael Tennesen
The Reputation Economy by Michael Fertik and David C. Thompson
The Social Labs Revolution by Zaid Hassan
The Ugly Renaissance by Alexander Lee
Twentyfirst Century Robot by Brian David Johnson
Women of Will:  Following the Feminine in Shakespeare’s Plays by Tina Packer

 

Book Reviews

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Books Reviewed Third Quarter

Books Reviewed Third Quarter

A bit of housekeeping:  here is a list of all the book reviews that appeared in this blog in Q3 2015.  Mostly new or recent releases, with a few old but good thrown in.

Fiction

Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson
Book of Numbers by Joshua Cohen
Chasing the Phoenix by Michael Swanwick
Chicks and Balances edited by Esther Friesner and John Helfers
Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman 
Koko the Mighty by Kieran Shea
Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore  
The Annihilation Score by Charles Stross
The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of the Year Volume Nine ed. by Jonathan Strahan
The Good, the Bad, and The Smug by Tom Holt
The Rook by Daniel O’Malley 
The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi
Time Salvager by Wesley Chu 
To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis 

Non fiction

Reimagination Station: Creating a Game-Changing In-Home Coworking Space by Lori Kane
Digital Gold by Nathaniel Popper
Let’s Be Less Stupid by Patricia Marx
Mind Change by Susan Greenfield 
Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari
Peers, Inc by Robin Chase
Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin 
The Art of Forgery by Noah Charney
The Next Species by Michael Tennesen 

 

Book Review: “Koko the Mighty” by Kieran Shea

Koko the Mighty by Kieran Shea

 This book is a sequel to Koko Takes A Holiday, continuing the story of retired mercenary Koko Marstellar in a future time with high sea levels, vast swaths of polluted badlands, lot’s of technology, and little central government. The solar system is run by corporate empires and private soldiers, such as Koko.

Actually Koko’s retirement isn’t going too well, as trouble keeps seeking her out. In this case, a seriously dangerous bounty hunter is on her trail, pursuing an old reward. Koko must ditch her cushy retirement to escape and flee and fight.

These stories are kind of cartoonish, sort of graphic novels without the graphics. Oh, wait. That would be “a novel”.

Anyway, there is plenty of fighting, some cool tech (mostly, but not all, military) and sketches of this future society (with emphasis on the pleasure industries). The characters are not deeply drawn, nor are they introspective. Relationships are simple, as is the dialog . This is not difficult reading, nor is intended to be.

There is a lot of violence but it isn’t overly graphic or detailed. Ditto with sex and every other human interaction. There is a lot of weaponry, both simple and high tech. But the weapons are neither the stars of the show, nor fetishized.

(There is a priceless description of how a “no fly zone” works in this corporate world. It’s not what you are thinking, and it’s hilarious.  Worth reading the book just for that.)

This was a pleasant, light read. There is sure to be a sequel.


 

  1. Kieran Shea, Koko the Mighty, London, Titan, 2015.

 

Sunday Book Reviews

Third Quarter Summary

This quarter June – September) featured commentary on papers and web articles, much of it about cryptocurrencies, “remittance” and other sociotechnical topics.

I published an article in  the July issue of Very Much Wow magazine, “You Shall Not Crucify The Internet On This Cross of Bitcoin“, pp. 34-37.

I reviewed quite a few books this quarter in this blog,

Fiction

Adultery by Paulo Coelho
California by Edan Lepucki
Koko Takes A Holiday by Kieran Shea
Lost for Words by Edward St. Aubyn
On The Razor’s Edge by Michael Flynn
Palimpsest by Catherynn M. Valente
Sleeping Late On Judgment Day by Tad Williams
Space Opera ed by Rich Horton
Sweetness #9 by Stephan Eirik Clark
The Intern’s Handbook by Shane Kuhn
The Long Mars by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter
The Martian by Andy Weir
The Outsourcerer’s Apprentice by Tom Holt
.
The Rhesus Chart by Charles Stross
The Spider Woman’s Daughter by Anne Hillerman
The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon

Nonfiction

Operation Shakespeare: The True Story of an Elite International Sting by John Shiffman
The Knowledge: How to Rebuild Our World From Scratch by Lewis Dartnell
The Myth of Mirror Neurons by Gregory Hickok
The Science of Shakespeare: A New Look at the Playwright’s Universe by Dan Falk
You Can Data Boys When You’re Forty by Dave Barry

Early September Fiction

Sort of “ladies day” here, some fiction by and/or about women.

The Spider Woman’s Daughter by Anne Hillerman

Disclaimer: I haven’t read the earlier stories by Tony Hillerman,, though I gather they are pretty popular.

Daughter Anne Hillerman picks up her father’s franchise, with a mystery featuring his characters and the next generation, set in Navaho country and surroundings. The details of the area are nice, though clearly we are supposed to have visited and have clear pictures in our heads.

The characters are interesting, many Navaho including a couple generations of women. Hillerman portrays several families and their extended clan relations in some detail. I assume these portraits are realistic, but have no way to know.

The story itself is pretty illogical. The bad guys are unrealistically crazy-yet-really-smart. The motives make little sense, and the case is much more complicated than seems plausible to me. And, naturally, the police plod around with little clue. Sigh.

Not my cup of tea, but fine for a summer read.

Palimpsest by Catherynne M. Valente

A very strange tale of an alternative world, a magical city only accessible through an arcane virus-like transmission.

I think.

It’s all awfully complex, dark, and I’m sure I didn’t follow everything.

The people are sad and mixed up, and human relationships ephemeral and fragile.

But the writing is beautiful, and the imagery is intense (over the top in many cases) and sensual.

The combination of sad people, broken relationships, and steamy intimacy was quite unnerving. But difficult to put down.

I hadn’t read much if any of Valente, so this was a revelation to me. It’s wonderful stuff, though not a light read.

Koko Takes a Holiday by Kieran Shea

This shoot-em-up, video gamish story is not my usual cup of tea. Overblown military fetishism, combat porn, graphic violence. Who needs it?

Nevertheless, this turned out to be pretty well written, with enough character development, space operatic future cultural descriptions, and generally good story telling. Nothing particularly deep here, but enough to keep me reading.

The protagonist ‘Koko’ is a (she thought) retired mercenary on the 26th century Earth, who is thrown into a life and death fight due to, well, its not completely clear why the big guys are trying to kill her.

Along the way, we learn a bit about how this miserable, worn out, world works. For the most part, it ain’t pretty.

What’s a girl to do? Whatever is necessary, obviously.  You go, girl.

Not a bad read, and certainly plausible for a bit of light summer reading.


  1. Hillerman, A., The Spider Woman’s Daughter. 2013, New York: Harper Collins.
  2. Valente, C.M., Palimpsest. 2009, New York: Bantam.
  3. Shea, K., Koko Takes A Holiday. 2014, London: Titan Books.