Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Big Sheep - Robert Kroese

Summary: 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.

Kroese's The Big Sheep is perfect for fans of Philip Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, Terry Pratchett's Guards! Guards!, and Scalzi's Old Man's War. (Summary and image from  I was provided a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.)

Review:  Blake Fowler is the assistant of NOT a private investigator Erasmus Keane. That’s not Keane’s real name, and not even Fowler is quite sure what it is he’s supposed to do.  But if it means playing Watson to Keane’s off-the-wall Sherlock antics, he’s game.  Except for there are two utterly bizarre cases in his lap.  One, a paranoid and confused actress afraid for her life, and more perplexing, a genetically altered sheep is missing.  As things progress on both fronts, it’s clear to Fowler that the two are connected.  How, he doesn’t want to fathom.

This was a much more interesting read than I thought it would be.  While the language was a little salty in places, the dystopian aspects of the novel were so subtle and so craftily sprinkled through the narrative it was totally believable.  Honestly, this is how dystopian fiction should be done. Some of the more minor characters seemed larger than life, and I was a little annoyed about it until I realized that they were larger than life because they needed to be.  Once their motives became clear, the annoyances I had with them clicked into place, forming a more complete picture than I had thought possible.

So many novels feel like they’re quickly tossed together that when I read one that is more developed than I initially expect, I’m pleasantly surprised.  The depth that Kroese has brought to his characters, to the settings, and to the storyline in itself surprised me enough to propel me through the book in a matter of hours. The twists were fairly predictable, but I didn’t care.  I enjoyed the ride enough that it didn’t matter.

Rating: Three and a half stars

For the Sensitive Reader:  There are a few fight scenes, probably a dozen uses of the F word, and some truly unnecessary and vulgar jokes about interspecies relations. Most of these were unnecessary to the story and dinged my rating.

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