Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Big Sheep by Robert Kroese

The Big Sheep by Robert Kroese

Hardcover, 320 pages

Expected publication: June 28th 2016 by Thomas Dunne Book

Los Angeles of 2039 is a baffling and bifurcated place. After the Collapse of 2028, a vast section of LA, the Disincorporated Zone, was disowned by the civil authorities, and became essentially a third world country within the borders of the city. Navigating the boundaries between DZ and LA proper is a tricky task, and there's no one better suited than eccentric private investigator Erasmus Keane. When a valuable genetically altered sheep mysteriously goes missing from Esper Corporation's labs, Keane is the one they call.

But while the erratic Keane and his more grounded partner, Blake Fowler, are on the trail of the lost sheep, they land an even bigger case. Beautiful television star Priya Mistry suspects that someone is trying to kill her - and she wants Keane to find out who. When Priya vanishes and then reappears with no memory of having hired them, Keane and Fowler realize something very strange is going on. As they unravel the threads of the mystery, it soon becomes clear that the two cases are connected - and both point to a sinister conspiracy involving the most powerful people in the city. Saving Priya and the sheep will take all of Keane's wits and Fowler's skills, but in the end, they may discover that some secrets are better left hidden.

Lets just start with a little love for how genius the title "The Big Sheep" is for a Phillip K. Dick meets Raymond Chandler hybrid novel. I mean that is what this is - a loving cross between Blade Runner, LA noir and a lot of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang sarcasm. All the ingredients are there. I would think for a great many of you I have already sold you on this novel and that is a great thing. Frankly I admit I am bit jealous of this perfect title for the concept.

This is my second time reading a Robert Kroese novel in 2014 I reviewed "Starship Grifters." "I laughed a lot reading it... This is a bizarro science fiction that does get a lot of it laughs from high concept ideas and clever jokes based on long standing genre clich├ęs. One of my favorites was APPLE (A Planet Perpelxingly Like Earth). Funny concept that turned into a great satire of silly sci-fi stuff."

I liked that book but The Big Sheep is also a big leap for the author in the quality of the work. Once again Kroese uses first person narrative told through the eyes of the hero's sidekick. Our narrator for the story Blake Fowler works for an odd Private eye. They are hired for a case of a missing sheep used in scientific research, and of course this connects to their other case. That of a TV star who is getting notes from her teddy bear. One of my favorite moments comes early. Fowler points out that the TV star Pria is crazy. Keane the private eye replies "She most definitely is. But she is also receiving letters from her teddy bear, and that is worth looking into." What a great way to launch into a LA noir!

I was pretty critical of Starship Grifters even though I enjoyed it but this time I felt Kroese nailed the concept top to bottom. there are alot of story elements, high concept ideas and it is tied together with fan service of the genres being crossed. The B story of Priya Mistry was more interesting that the A story of the sheep and wisely the story flowed that way. The setting of the novel clearly Blade Runner influenced but just a bit darker and slightly more post apocalyptic in moments.

The DZ the ruined parts of LA and how they were created are like interesting bread crumbs leading the path to more stories featuring Keane and Fowler. When need to learn more about Maelstrom and Keane's role.

The mystery unfolds predictably but not in a bad way, we know certain moments are coming but they are done with class. When you pay homage those moments are like slipping into a favorite sweatshirt.This book is worth a pre-order, I hope it finds the audience it deserves. The best thing I can say about this novel is that it like a sci-fi Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. The wit- levels are off the chart you''ll be laughing but it more subtle than the authors almost slapstick previous novel. Very well done.

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