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Last Tango in Cyberspace

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New York Times bestselling author Steven Kotler crafts a near-future thriller about the evolution of empathy. Hard to say when the human species fractured exactly. Harder to say when this new talent arrived. But Lion Zorn is the first of his kind--an empathy tracker, an emotional soothsayer, with a felt sense for the future of the we. In simpler terms, he can spot cultural New York Times bestselling author Steven Kotler crafts a near-future thriller about the evolution of empathy. Hard to say when the human species fractured exactly. Harder to say when this new talent arrived. But Lion Zorn is the first of his kind--an empathy tracker, an emotional soothsayer, with a felt sense for the future of the we. In simpler terms, he can spot cultural shifts and trends before they happen. It's a useful skill for a certain kind of company. Arctic Pharmaceuticals is that kind of company. But when a routine em-tracking job leads to the discovery of a gruesome murder, Lion finds himself neck-deep in a world of eco-assassins, soul hackers and consciousness terrorists. But what the man really needs is a nap. A unique blend of cutting-edge technology and traditional cyberpunk, Last Tango in Cyberspace explores hot topics like psychology, neuroscience, technology, as well as ecological and animal rights issues. The world created in Last Tango is based very closely on our world about five years from now, and all technology in the book either exists in labs or is rumored to exist. With its electrifying sentences, subtle humor, and an intriguing main character, readers are sure to find something that resonates with them in this groundbreaking cyberpunk science fiction thriller.


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New York Times bestselling author Steven Kotler crafts a near-future thriller about the evolution of empathy. Hard to say when the human species fractured exactly. Harder to say when this new talent arrived. But Lion Zorn is the first of his kind--an empathy tracker, an emotional soothsayer, with a felt sense for the future of the we. In simpler terms, he can spot cultural New York Times bestselling author Steven Kotler crafts a near-future thriller about the evolution of empathy. Hard to say when the human species fractured exactly. Harder to say when this new talent arrived. But Lion Zorn is the first of his kind--an empathy tracker, an emotional soothsayer, with a felt sense for the future of the we. In simpler terms, he can spot cultural shifts and trends before they happen. It's a useful skill for a certain kind of company. Arctic Pharmaceuticals is that kind of company. But when a routine em-tracking job leads to the discovery of a gruesome murder, Lion finds himself neck-deep in a world of eco-assassins, soul hackers and consciousness terrorists. But what the man really needs is a nap. A unique blend of cutting-edge technology and traditional cyberpunk, Last Tango in Cyberspace explores hot topics like psychology, neuroscience, technology, as well as ecological and animal rights issues. The world created in Last Tango is based very closely on our world about five years from now, and all technology in the book either exists in labs or is rumored to exist. With its electrifying sentences, subtle humor, and an intriguing main character, readers are sure to find something that resonates with them in this groundbreaking cyberpunk science fiction thriller.

30 review for Last Tango in Cyberspace

  1. 5 out of 5

    Lou

    Steven Kotler returns with another unique cyberpunk sci-fi adventure set about five years into our future and explores the intersections of psychology, technology, neuroscience, and ecology with an eye toward realism and the breathless pace of a thriller. Main protagonist Lion Zorn is what makes this enjoyable and kept me reading despite the disjointed and slightly convoluted narrative. He resonated with me in particular because of his quiet, introverted nature. The plot concept is solid and ori Steven Kotler returns with another unique cyberpunk sci-fi adventure set about five years into our future and explores the intersections of psychology, technology, neuroscience, and ecology with an eye toward realism and the breathless pace of a thriller. Main protagonist Lion Zorn is what makes this enjoyable and kept me reading despite the disjointed and slightly convoluted narrative. He resonated with me in particular because of his quiet, introverted nature. The plot concept is solid and original with the idea being that Zorn predicts future cultural trends through empathy. Much of the technology featured in the book is either in use widely today, in use to some extent or rumoured to be in existence, so this is speculative fiction that isn't so, well, speculative. I know quite a few people have commented on how dense and almost heavy this is to read; I think that's due to the fact that this is a merging of the science fiction and non-fiction genres in the sense that the story is interspersed with tidbits of information on technology and advancement and warnings about it being best to move forward at a slower pace rather than taking one giant leap - it's difficult to disagree with this. Last Tango in Cyberspace will not be for every sci-fi nut, but I thoroughly enjoyed it and will reread at a canter rather than a gallop in the not too distant future. Many thanks to St. Martin's Press for an ARC.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kitten Kisser

    This book rambles on & on about a lot of everything & nothing. It's like the author was determined to fit every technology that exists in labs or is rumored to exist into the story. The first three quarters of the story was incredibly boring & felt like going in a circle. Lion our main character & empathy tracker seems unable to track much of anything. All he seems to be good at is doing drugs. The character is to high to perceive depth, so high he cannot remember the passage of This book rambles on & on about a lot of everything & nothing. It's like the author was determined to fit every technology that exists in labs or is rumored to exist into the story. The first three quarters of the story was incredibly boring & felt like going in a circle. Lion our main character & empathy tracker seems unable to track much of anything. All he seems to be good at is doing drugs. The character is to high to perceive depth, so high he cannot remember the passage of time, so high he cannot remember falling asleep, so high he's not sure if what he is seeing is a hallucination or if it's real, so high... whatever. It seems everyone is an addict in this future. There is also a lot to do about animals & how humans are evil meanies to animals. How we shouldn't use animal anything when everything can be made fake. Fake, great, so I guess in the near future we have totally solved our trash problem? 'Last Tango in Cyberspace for Vegans'. BTW, I'm not knocking Vegan's. I have zero issues with anyone who chooses a Vegan lifestyle. My issue is with this awful book. How about the details. If you are familiar with Dean Koontz you are then all too familiar with how he will drone on excessively about the sky or weather or some such thing. There are many passages like that in this book, the problem with the majority of them is they make absolutely no sense. They feel completely pointless. Kind of like this book. The last quarter of the book is when things finally started to look like they may pick up. References to Temple Gandin & potentially the answers this idiot Lion is supposed to be so good at figuring out. For a tiny bit there it held me, but then back to the drugs & the descriptions. Then the climax or a should say lack of. I will never be able to read all the books I want in my lifetime. To think I wasted several days slogging through this mess when I could have been reading something, anything else.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Tomislav

    I read Steven Kotler’s 2019 near-future thriller “Last Tango in Cyberspace” in trade paperback, which I received as an Advance Reader Copy in the mail, from St. Martin's Press, in a goodreads giveaway. I also received an ebook copy from them through netgalley, in exchange for publishing an honest review on social media platforms (goodreads, bookcrossing, etc.) and on my book review blog. The novel's publication date is expected to be 14 May 2019. It is not part of any form of series, but there a I read Steven Kotler’s 2019 near-future thriller “Last Tango in Cyberspace” in trade paperback, which I received as an Advance Reader Copy in the mail, from St. Martin's Press, in a goodreads giveaway. I also received an ebook copy from them through netgalley, in exchange for publishing an honest review on social media platforms (goodreads, bookcrossing, etc.) and on my book review blog. The novel's publication date is expected to be 14 May 2019. It is not part of any form of series, but there are numerous references to Frank Herbert’s Dune, which I recommend readers to have previously read, or at least be familiar with. Really, if you haven’t read Dune, you ought to, regardless of this. Steven Kotler is an American writer, the author of a number of non-fiction books – futurism, human potential, culture, health – as well as articles in well-respected magazines. This is actually his second novel, the first to be categorized as science fiction. As a reviewer of primarily science and science fiction, I have to report that almost none of the concepts in this book are speculation. Only the synthesized drug known as Sietch Tabor, an extreme empathy enhancer, is total creation. The cover blurbs and even the title imply that this novel is of the cyberpunk subgenre of science fiction, but I think that is misleading. The setting is not even partially in a cybernetic virtual reality, but rather fully in a real reality - albeit one where a lot of psychedelic drugs are used. Thematically, it may even be anti-cyberpunk. What the novel is, is a very stylistic thriller. There are aspects of the writing style which I personally find irritating. Numerous sentences and paragraphs which are not actually even sentences. Like this one. Contemporary product and cultural references which surely are transitory and will be obsolete in 5 years. Hits the drugs, sex, and punk rock scene pretty hard. Rasta talk. Take those stylistic trappings away, and what we have is private investigator Lion Zorn chasing down rival conspiracies surrounding a newly designed drug. One of those conspiracies, and the more obvious one, is motivated by the immense profit potential of the drug, and lavish amounts of cash are expended to leverage Lion’s empathy skills to track its formulation down. The other conspiracy is from a unique and innovative perspective, which I will not discuss further to protect from spoilers. In the end, while I enjoyed some aspects of the novel, I felt it is probably written for a more cinematic and pop culture audience than myself. More the edgy stepchild of Philip K. Dick, than a William Gibson or Neal Stephenson.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kerri

    Before I get into my review, I would like to thank Netgalley and the publisher for giving me access to a free e-ARC of this book. *deep inhale* .... *slow exhale* Now... where to begin? I just could not get into this book and I feel like there are couple reasons why. Let's go one by one, in order of importance to me. First, the characters. I'm one of those people who needs to feel a connect with at least one of the characters in a story to really appreciate it. I pretty much hated every single char Before I get into my review, I would like to thank Netgalley and the publisher for giving me access to a free e-ARC of this book. *deep inhale* .... *slow exhale* Now... where to begin? I just could not get into this book and I feel like there are couple reasons why. Let's go one by one, in order of importance to me. First, the characters. I'm one of those people who needs to feel a connect with at least one of the characters in a story to really appreciate it. I pretty much hated every single character in this book. Seriously. All of the characters were just so boring. I feel like I've read about these kinds of characters in a million other books and they just didn't click with me. The only person I found slightly interesting (at first) was Penelope, the rando-love interest, but that interest quickly died. Especially after a certain "twist" near the end. Other than that, I had couldn't have cared less what happened to Lion, our main character, or anyone else involved in this book. Meh. Second, the writing style. It just did not work for me. It seemed so stilted and choppy and just... weird. There were several times were the writing style itself completely took me out of the story because it read like some robot locked in a room had written it. *beepbopboop* "Lion takes the box, the envelope, remembers to say thank you." *beepbopboop* Just... not into it. Last, the plot. The plot was the one thing that I could actually get behind in this book. It was interesting and unique. The whole concept of em-tracking and using empathy to, in a sense, predict the future was fascinating! I liked the mystery and the intrigue, as well. A lot of the "twists" were fairly predictable, but it was still an enjoyable ride to the finish. The plot is really the only thing keeping this book at two stars instead of one. So, there's that, I guess. All in all, I feel like this book could have done with a little more polish. Develop the characters more, flesh out the story more, and I could have probably gotten past the robotic writing style. In the end, this book just wasn't my cup of tea.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jypsy

    Last Tango in Cyberspace was an unfortunate let down for me. I do like sci fi but not hard sci fi, so this story felt overwhelming and heavy. I was confused and bogged down in the plot. The characters failed to capture my intrest. And, I was bothered and surprised by the frequent drug use. It's a good story for the right reader, but it's not for me. Thanks to NetGalley for an arc in exchange for an honest review.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Tonstant Weader

    Last Tango in Cyberspace is a sort “the day after tomorrow” science fiction, taking us just enough into the future to disconcert us and put us off balance, while retaining so much that is familiar. Facebook, Google, Starbucks, Virgin Air, and many other corporations retain their power and influence in this step into the future. The most unfamiliar element of the future is the degree with which bio-hacking has become commonplace. This is not just implanting a credit card chip in your forearm, but Last Tango in Cyberspace is a sort “the day after tomorrow” science fiction, taking us just enough into the future to disconcert us and put us off balance, while retaining so much that is familiar. Facebook, Google, Starbucks, Virgin Air, and many other corporations retain their power and influence in this step into the future. The most unfamiliar element of the future is the degree with which bio-hacking has become commonplace. This is not just implanting a credit card chip in your forearm, but more like hacking your brain to potentiate your natural talents. Lion Zorn has developed his naturally empathic traits and become an em-tracker, a career as a trend spotter, but on a cultural level. He consults for various people and industries, identifying the next new thing, or more consequentially, the next new movement. He is hired by one of the world’s richest men, the CEO of Arctic Pharmaceuticals, to find someone, a quest that takes him around the globe. Along the way, he also tries to solve the bizarre murder of a big game hunter. “They are hunting the hunters,” he realizes and his past as an animal rights activist informs and fuels his search. Steven Kotler drops us right in the story without long explication of how society has changed so the first chapter or two can be a bit disconcerting as readers acclimate, but after that, it’s an exciting thriller with plenty of intriguing characters and potential for a continuing series. Except that is not the point, the point is exploring the power of empathy and its value in saving us, as a species, if we can be saved. Much of the story is concerned obliquely with the rapid extinction of species and our role in it, encouraging greater empathy with nonhuman life on this planet we share. This is important and it’s encouraging to see it become a central theme in a sci-fi thriller. The story is weakest when the conversation is used to educate, for example, on how humans became human, why we have values that other primates lack. It’s interesting, but the story is better showing rather than telling. Kotler tries to do this with dialogue, but it’s still telling and becomes a bit didactic, but then Zorn’s favorite book is “Dune” so what do you expect? Last Tango in Cyberspace is thought-provoking and well-written. I found myself highlighting so much that was worthy of coming back to think about again. Because of this the reader often confronts opposing needs, wanting to stop and think about what Kotler just wrote and equally wanting to race through the propulsive plot. I generally chose the latter. Last Tango in Cyberspace will be released on May 14th. I received an e-galley from the publisher through NetGalley. Last Tango in Cyberspace at St. Martin’s Press | Macmillan Steven Kotler author site ★★★★ https://tonstantweaderreviews.wordpre...

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey

    Steven Kotler channels his best William Gibson, in the new sci-fi thriller “Last Tango in Cyberspace”, which plot centers on corporate greed, drugs and eco-terrorism. Unfortunately, Kotler does not completely pull it off. One problem is the meandering plot. Marketed as a thriller, one could wish for more action. Instead, Kotler overindulges in a veritable smorgasbord of near future predictions. From a deep dive into marijuana variants that only Seth Rogan could understand to bar code branded peo Steven Kotler channels his best William Gibson, in the new sci-fi thriller “Last Tango in Cyberspace”, which plot centers on corporate greed, drugs and eco-terrorism. Unfortunately, Kotler does not completely pull it off. One problem is the meandering plot. Marketed as a thriller, one could wish for more action. Instead, Kotler overindulges in a veritable smorgasbord of near future predictions. From a deep dive into marijuana variants that only Seth Rogan could understand to bar code branded people to vegan people who are eating grown cultured beef, the novel is full of ideas about the future. And some are interesting. There is a deep dive into animal rights and why people should be more protective. But Kotler tries too hard to fit some of them in. And Kotler also seems to have a fascination with “Dune”, the Frank Herbert, magnum opus, which will play a significant role in the story. Even the title is cited several times in the text, as if the author is trying to convince the reader that the novel is about cyberspace, when in reality it’s mostly about drugs and the cyberspace connection is merely a loose tie-in. Judah “Lion” Zorn is an “empathy tracker”, who is able to discern emerging trends in society. Sir Richard, who runs Artic Pharmaceuticals has hired him to track down the leader of a cult, who may have information about a new drug about to hit the market. The drug helps with autism, so Artic’s motives may be good. The problem is that the new drug increases the empathy that people feel for others, including animals. So a noted hunter, who may have taken the drug, is found dead, his head mounted like the other prey he killed on the wall of his trophy room. And there may be cross interests at work. Jenka, who works for Arctic is in charge of “special creatives” is involved. His assistant Penelope, is also a player. The Cult leader will be met on the way but missed but then found again. Arctic Pharmaceuticals motives will, in the best cyberpunk tradition, to be grey at best. I found the novel to be a slow slog. It does pick up in the second half, but there is still too much meandering around. There are many sharp science fiction speculative ideas in the story, but digging out the nuggets is not worth the time to discover them.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Andreas

    I love Steven Kotler. His critical thinking MENSA brain is a tremendous asset for the groundbreaking field of research he has pioneered. He "gets it", his book SUPERMAN that he co-wrote is unbelievable. On top of that he's a surfer. However, It's surprising that in this pre cybernetic modern day and age, even if one has access to the latest flow research, hangs out with "elite crowds" in resorts and retreats in the Bay Area, the last thing to be quantified-understood-uploaded-seems to be novel w I love Steven Kotler. His critical thinking MENSA brain is a tremendous asset for the groundbreaking field of research he has pioneered. He "gets it", his book SUPERMAN that he co-wrote is unbelievable. On top of that he's a surfer. However, It's surprising that in this pre cybernetic modern day and age, even if one has access to the latest flow research, hangs out with "elite crowds" in resorts and retreats in the Bay Area, the last thing to be quantified-understood-uploaded-seems to be novel writing. I'm 25 pages in and I got this one for free, I still want my time and money back. I'm so sorry, man. Are we in the present? In the present+? I've understood through other reviews that we are in the present+ but where, exactly? It's like reading a diary from a teenager who "pays in crypto", "smokes marijuana cigarettes to access empathy" ... these technologies are not exactly revelatory anymore, not exactly The Matrix here. Then the schloppy Neal Stephenson rip-offs, the plastically constructed characters... He tried. It didn't work out. The will for power is strong with this one, but even Mr. Kotler isn't able to pull off the trick to both be a teenager and a sellout at the same time. It just doesn't pass the bullshit test. Time to reassess, meditate and if novel writing really is a calling, maybe consider dropping a few of those heavy tools? <3

  9. 5 out of 5

    Olivia Farr

    “Last Tango in Cyberspace” is an intriguing sci-fi novel, which follows an alternate timeline from now which is laden with technology. Lion Zorn is an empathy-tracker or em-tracker, who has a heightened ability to empathize which leads to cultural prognostication. He can get a sense for cultural trends and see where they are going before they have gotten there. This does not work on individuals but only on groups. He was a reporter, but now he works with companies to pay the bills by helping the “Last Tango in Cyberspace” is an intriguing sci-fi novel, which follows an alternate timeline from now which is laden with technology. Lion Zorn is an empathy-tracker or em-tracker, who has a heightened ability to empathize which leads to cultural prognostication. He can get a sense for cultural trends and see where they are going before they have gotten there. This does not work on individuals but only on groups. He was a reporter, but now he works with companies to pay the bills by helping them em-track. Arctic Pharmaceuticals is trying to hire him with some gruesome pictures of a man whose head is mounted on the wall along with the big game he has hunted. Lion Zorn has a particularly empathy for animals and thus has a hard time examining the scene. His gut tells him this is not a case for an em-tracker, but the company is hard to turn down. As he explores the potential case, we explore this world and its new cultures, touching on issues of animal rights and environmental concerns. The pacing and style of writing were difficult for me to get into at first. I felt like I could be reading a movie script (and this would make a totally fascinating movie also). Soon, I was completely engulfed in the story. Through Lion, we understand everyone and the many concerns/problems our cultures face. I would highly recommend for fans of movies like Total Recall, Oblivion, and Blade Runner. While this does not take place in the future, it has a similar feel. There is a lot of drug use in the book- almost every chapter has one drug or another (most commonly is marijuana). This surprised me, but it certainly impacts the feel of the book and the way things are perceived. This was a really intriguing book, and I found the technology and science to be extremely well researched and very fascinating to read about. Notably, in the author’s note at the end, the technology in the book are from things that actually exist or are rumored to exist in labs somewhere. This is probably what made all of it seem much more plausible in terms of realism. The historical and ecological context of the book is also extremely intriguing and gives the story some extra oomph. Overall, this is a great new sci-fi book, and I recommend for people who love futuristic stories, mysteries, science, and hints of thrillers. Please note that I voluntarily read and reviewed an ARC which I received from the publisher through netgalley. All opinions are my own.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Lauren loves llamas

    Content warnings: (view spoiler)[graphic violent content, so much drug use (mostly marijuana) (hide spoiler)] While I went in expecting a cyberpunk, this is definitely more on the thriller end of the spectrum and almost anti-cyberpunk. It’s set in the near future, so while some things are strange, most are familiar. The author also notes that most of the things referenced in the book are things that are either possible now or likely to be possible in the near future. The best I can explain is tha Content warnings: (view spoiler)[graphic violent content, so much drug use (mostly marijuana) (hide spoiler)] While I went in expecting a cyberpunk, this is definitely more on the thriller end of the spectrum and almost anti-cyberpunk. It’s set in the near future, so while some things are strange, most are familiar. The author also notes that most of the things referenced in the book are things that are either possible now or likely to be possible in the near future. The best I can explain is that it’s a scifi thriller by way of Dune, animal rights activism, and a ridiculous amount of drugs. “Plus, you find futures for other people, that’s the job?” “Yeah.” “But they’ve always been other people’s futures.” “Uh-huh.” “This time,” says Lorenzo, “the animals, the empathy. This time you found a future that includes you.” Lion’s an interesting character. He’s an em-tracker, which means he has expanded empathy to understand not only others feelings and future actions but that of entire subcultures. He’s generally employed by companies to figure out if certain trends have a future – basically, his job is to say either yes or no. When he’s employed by Arctic, a somewhat secretive company led by your typical quirky-but-hip billionaire, he expects it to be just like any other job, but the introduction of a murdered big game hunter makes things personal, and Lion’s left wondering exactly how deep this goes. “Rilke used empathy as a virus-scan for truth, his way to live the questions. Lion lives bigger questions. His empathy isn’t individual; it’s cultural. He can feel how cultures collide and blend, the Darwinian mash of memes, the winners and losers and what truths remain. He’s like a lie detector for potential futures. An emotional prediction engine for how the we fractures, the us becomes them, and then back together again. And a useful skill for a certain type of company.” While cyberpunk usually deals with the virtual, this is more focused on reality – Lion’s somehow simultaneously obsessed with digging through surface layers to find what’s real and mind altering substances. I liked the exploration of empathy and how it relates to subcultures, and found the wordbuilding fascinating, if a bit confusing at times, since it seemed very close to the present but with bits tweaked. I’m a big fan of Dune, so I liked how themes from that were introduced into the story, but I wonder if a non-familiar reader would find that confusing. I was also intrigued by how Lion seems to view em-tracking as almost an off-shoot of autism. Lion gets overwhelmed by certain sensory stimuli and basically shuts down – at points, he refers to programming himself with habit loops. “A couple of years after Wundt’s invention, philosopher Theodor Lipps wonders why art affects us so strongly. Comes to see the act of viewing art as an act of co-creation. An artist has a primal emotion that becomes an original insight that births a work of art. Viewers tap that source code via viewing, as if the feeling that led to the original insight gets broadcast, and people with the right kind of radio can detect the signal. Tune the frequency correctly and the experience is shared experience, transmitted through an object and across time.” While I found the premise and ideas behind the story fascinating, the execution itself was more mixed for me. I’m not a fan of the choppy thriller writing style, chockfull of sentence fragments. There’s also a weird mix of excruciating detail (what size coffee he makes every morning) and complete memory lapses (drug induced or em-tracing induced, not even Lion knows which) where chunks of time will pass and then abruptly we’re somewhere else. The combination was a bit jarring and occasionally confusing for me. Additionally, all the female characters are sex symbols, there to be explained at with chunks of info dumping, or as deus ex machina when Lion gets in too far over his head. There’s a bit of a romance, and it was eyerollingly bad from my female point of view. To be fair, though, most of the characters aren’t particularly well fleshed out, though I got a kick out of Lorenzo, Lion’s best friend who communicates with him in Apocalypse Now quotes and plays drums in a fusion band, and Shiz, the rapper who loves Banksy and Dr. Seuss. Overall, this read was not really my thing, but it was enjoyable in a weird way. I’ve added a few of Mr. Kotler’s nonfiction works to my TBR as I think they’d be fascinating. If you’re looking for a thriller that’s an exploration of empathy, societal change, and animal rights, and don’t mind a boatload of drug use, you’ll probably enjoy this book! I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Darcia Helle

    I was so looking forward to reading this. I love the concept of using empathy as a kind of tool. And neuroscience in general fascinates me. I expected a great story. But I couldn't even finish this book. Forcing myself to do so would have put me in a foul mood. Fifteen pages in, I wondered what the heck I was reading. We jump right into this ultra-modern world with no preamble whatsoever. I felt like I'd missed something. I stopped to check, thinking this had to be a second or third in a trilogy. I was so looking forward to reading this. I love the concept of using empathy as a kind of tool. And neuroscience in general fascinates me. I expected a great story. But I couldn't even finish this book. Forcing myself to do so would have put me in a foul mood. Fifteen pages in, I wondered what the heck I was reading. We jump right into this ultra-modern world with no preamble whatsoever. I felt like I'd missed something. I stopped to check, thinking this had to be a second or third in a trilogy. Nope, it's a stand-alone. Back to reading. At 22 pages in, I still had little idea of what exactly this main character was doing. Who were the people he kept referencing? This wasn't the kind of suspense that kept me turning pages, but the kind of ambiguous nonsense that simply irritated me. But I kept reading and hoping for clarification. And, so, the main character, Lion, got really high, really often. I found myself tangled in meaningless details that didn't help orient me in time or place. The onslaught of pop culture references felt forced, as if everything a twentysomething might be remotely interested in and every cultural hot topic had to be used somewhere in this story, even if most of it was irrelevant to the story itself. And then we went back to getting high. Because being high makes a person more empathetic? Or Lion just really loves being high. I tried, really I did. But this book is just not for me. *I received a review copy from the publisher, via Amazon Vine.*

  12. 5 out of 5

    Lotus

    I really wanted to like this book for a lot of different reasons, but unfortunately I couldn't. This book has amazing cover art. It's so beautiful that I almost wish it had been saved for a better one. Also, it's very rare that I don't like a science fiction story. Also the idea of an empathy tracker is intriguing. This book had all the makings to be so good, but the actual story was not. I am usually a fan of short chapters because it gives me somewhere good to stop when other responsibilities c I really wanted to like this book for a lot of different reasons, but unfortunately I couldn't. This book has amazing cover art. It's so beautiful that I almost wish it had been saved for a better one. Also, it's very rare that I don't like a science fiction story. Also the idea of an empathy tracker is intriguing. This book had all the makings to be so good, but the actual story was not. I am usually a fan of short chapters because it gives me somewhere good to stop when other responsibilities call. However, I don't like chapters of any length that don't get you further in the book. I want chapters that each add something to the plot. In this book, a lot of the chapters could be easily removed from the book without taking anything away from the plot. I easily reached chapter five in under twenty minutes, yet I had learned nothing that the synopsis hasn't already told me. The content of these short chapters hold a lot of unnecessary information too. This is not an easy book to read. In the above paragraph I explained how fast I was able to go through chapters, yet I was taking my time. While the author clearly has a wonderful vocabulary with a good knowledge of other languages, most readers don't. It takes some time to really process. However, the reader I am did enjoy some references to the origins of words. This book doesn't explain where it's going before they get there. It sounds like an intriguing little writing tactic, but it's not. I spent a lot of this book trying to figure out what was going on. Maybe this was because the author spent to much time working on filling this book with vegan propaganda. If you are vegan, know that I truly think the world of that cause. It's an admirable cause. However, it really had no place in a science fiction book about an empathy tracker. In fact, paired with all the drug use I'm not sure this book advertises well for veganism although that's what it feels like it's trying to do. In short, this was not the book for me. I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for this honest review.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Shelly

    HAPPY PUB DAY! Thank you @netgalley and @stmartinspress for my ARC of Last Tango in Cyberspace 🌟🌟🌟💫 • Steven Kotler's Last Tango in cyberspace was a mixed read for me. I was under the expectation that this was going to be more sci-fi with far out inventions. However, what it ended up being is just the near future (like 20 years ahead). No date that I can recall is mentioned. • Kotler's writing took some getting used to. His use of cinematic writing can confuse the reader at first as it did to me. It HAPPY PUB DAY! Thank you @netgalley and @stmartinspress for my ARC of Last Tango in Cyberspace 🌟🌟🌟💫 • Steven Kotler's Last Tango in cyberspace was a mixed read for me. I was under the expectation that this was going to be more sci-fi with far out inventions. However, what it ended up being is just the near future (like 20 years ahead). No date that I can recall is mentioned. • Kotler's writing took some getting used to. His use of cinematic writing can confuse the reader at first as it did to me. It took my a while before things started to click. Once I got used to this, the reading experience was quite pleasurable. I enjoyed the elements of Jamaican history and Rastafariansim. THe whole concept of empathy was intriguing and took again some time to get used to. I will say that there is no book I've ever read that is quite like this one. You know when something is just oddly nice? The repeated drug use became a bit redundant and could have done well or equally as good without it.  • Overall, I would recommend this book for intermediate to expert sci-fi readers, because although it's not DUNE, it sure does help having read Dune and getting used to that style of sci-fi writing to appreciate this book. Also, lots of Dune references!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Taralee

    To start with I won this book in a early giveaway. I'm a little conflicted about it. I enjoyed the overall message but I felt like it was in a bit of a confusing package. It took me a while to get into the story. A third of the way in and I still wasn't invested. I debated finishing it. I kept going mostly in the spirit of a giveaway. That being said it did come around and I fell into the story after the first third. The writing style was probably just not quite made for me. It had a few twists To start with I won this book in a early giveaway. I'm a little conflicted about it. I enjoyed the overall message but I felt like it was in a bit of a confusing package. It took me a while to get into the story. A third of the way in and I still wasn't invested. I debated finishing it. I kept going mostly in the spirit of a giveaway. That being said it did come around and I fell into the story after the first third. The writing style was probably just not quite made for me. It had a few twists I didn't expect and a few that I saw from a mile away. Based on the animal cruelty and social change messages in the book I would recommend it. In spite of my issues with the writing I think the overall message will stick with me for a long time. I've almost already forgotten the irritation caused by "the lie that is the large cup".

  15. 4 out of 5

    Whitney Pierce

    I received this book from St.Martin’s Press in a Goodreads Giveaway. I will admit that this genre is very different from what I am typically drawn to, but the idea of a book centered around empathy appealed to me. I had hoped that the topic of empathy would be enough to keep me intrigued, but found this book hard to follow at times as well as very slow in the first half. The second half of the book did pick up pace and I think the ending really pieces things together. The concept of em-tracking I received this book from St.Martin’s Press in a Goodreads Giveaway. I will admit that this genre is very different from what I am typically drawn to, but the idea of a book centered around empathy appealed to me. I had hoped that the topic of empathy would be enough to keep me intrigued, but found this book hard to follow at times as well as very slow in the first half. The second half of the book did pick up pace and I think the ending really pieces things together. The concept of em-tracking and extending empathy to include animals was fascinating and thought provoking. Overall, I think the idea of the book was excellent, but it didn’t deliver its full potential.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ann-Marie

    This one will be released in May 2019. My ARC agreement with Netgalley and the publisher allow me to post my review in April. I can't wait. I have a lot to say.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Simon Fennex

    E-arc provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. OMG! THIS BOOK! I requested it solely for that stunning cover which I want to eat up (I didn't, don't fret) :P The Plot was something so original in interesting who kept my focus on the book until the very end. This is the first book I read in one sit and I really advise people to give it a go. Characters were very well developed and I remember them all. I keep thinking about this book even after a week that I've finished it! L O V E D I T!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Faith 09

    It was definitely an interesting read

  19. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    Good cyberpunk is hard to write- I'm sympathetic to that. Unfortunately, this book was still a DNF for me, and I feel guilty about that. NetGalley was kind enough to give me a review copy in return for an unbiased review, but I still feel bad when I don't like something. That said, something about this book was simply trying too hard, as if they could hit all the stereotypical cyberpunk marks and thus score some points on the 'cool' scale. Instead of coming off as effortless, it felt labored, an Good cyberpunk is hard to write- I'm sympathetic to that. Unfortunately, this book was still a DNF for me, and I feel guilty about that. NetGalley was kind enough to give me a review copy in return for an unbiased review, but I still feel bad when I don't like something. That said, something about this book was simply trying too hard, as if they could hit all the stereotypical cyberpunk marks and thus score some points on the 'cool' scale. Instead of coming off as effortless, it felt labored, and ultimately almost made me feel awkward to read.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Elisa

    As an animal lover, I wish there was a way to make humans care about all creatures as much as me. Since this book is about empathy and love for animals, it touched close to my heart and my soul and it made me think in which side I would be if this happened in real life. I did find it a little hard to read because of its hard sci-fi premise. The world in which it is set is still recognizable, and it’s amazing to read that almost all the technology described in the plot exists in real life. There As an animal lover, I wish there was a way to make humans care about all creatures as much as me. Since this book is about empathy and love for animals, it touched close to my heart and my soul and it made me think in which side I would be if this happened in real life. I did find it a little hard to read because of its hard sci-fi premise. The world in which it is set is still recognizable, and it’s amazing to read that almost all the technology described in the plot exists in real life. There are a lot of philosophical discussions that may slow down the action for people who don’t share an unreasonable love for animals, but there is also a murder, traveling and suspense. What I liked the most, however, are the small cultural differences that make this world different from ours. The parts in which the author talks about extinction and cruelty to animals were the hardest to get through. The most enjoyable: the tidbits about animal behavior and empathy. And how can you not love a book dedicated to our canine family? I chose to read this book and all opinions in this review are my own and completely unbiased. Thank you, NetGalley/St. Martin's Press!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Joseph Hurtgen

    Last Tango in Cyberspace is a love song to William Gibson and Thomas Pynchon. Steven Kotler's influences are ever present, like neon kanji at night, floating above densely-packed Tokyo streets. https://rapidtransmission.blogspot.co...

  22. 4 out of 5

    Max

    I received this book in a giveaway. I really enjoyed the concepts in it about empathy. The only issue I had with it was the beginning was a bit clunky and it took a while for the story to grab me. I usually don't have this issue with science fiction. Also, I enjoyed the ending, which is rare for me. I will recommend this book to people, and I wouldn't have felt disappointed if I'd bought it myself.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Corinne Sparks

    This is an epic tale, sure to become a classic in sci fi. It heavily reminded me of Altered Carbon and the writings of Richard K. Morgan - truly masterful manipulation of plot and stellar writing style.. I loved every minute of this, and I especially loved the promotion of animal rights and the politics of a broken capitalist system. The empath, who feels trends in the market, is an asset to any company. However, he has his own identity and problems and opinions. And it's the intermeshing of thes This is an epic tale, sure to become a classic in sci fi. It heavily reminded me of Altered Carbon and the writings of Richard K. Morgan - truly masterful manipulation of plot and stellar writing style.. I loved every minute of this, and I especially loved the promotion of animal rights and the politics of a broken capitalist system. The empath, who feels trends in the market, is an asset to any company. However, he has his own identity and problems and opinions. And it's the intermeshing of these that make such a great book. He feels animals pain. Therefore he can't stand to be around leather, or meats, or people that hurt animals. This makes it hard for him to impartially work within a very dubious company. And all is not quite straightforward with the company, either. Lots of ulterior motives, lots of backstabbing and secrets and action - I loved this book. It's true high (?) Sci-fi, and made even more chilling by the author's afterword, in which he states that everything mentioned in the book is actually either possible or will become possible in a very short time in our future. It's a mesmerising read. Highly recommended.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    I know of Kotler from his non-fiction work, which is excellent. Although obviously a different kind of writing, this is also very strong work, particularly since it is very much in the realm of near-future reality. Out of all of the things I look for in a novel, the plot and tech is what stands out here. Well executed overall. Recommended. Thanks very much for the advanced copy for review!!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    *I received an eARC of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. I am intrigued by the line "all technology in the book either exists in labs or is rumored to exist." 5/3/2019 - Even though I was intrigued by this book, the execution was lacking. I had to DNF at 19%. We are thrown into this world without much of a backstory and I am still not sure what an "em-tracker" even is. I feel like I should know more and be attached to the story almost a quarter of the way through.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    Overly mannered; trying so very hard to be exactly like classic William Gibson that it almost superficially succeeds, but without that spark that the actual Gibson possesses. Also, lots of drug use, which gets it a hard pass from me. Did not finish.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Fraser Simons

    “THIS REVOLUTION IS FOR DISPLAY PURPOSES ONLY.” Last Tango in Cyberspace makes culture a character to be explored in equal measure as the main character. Lion, an empathy-tracker, or em-tracker for short—uses his unique talent to consume curated content provided by clients and extrapolate a future; not at an individual level, mind you, rather as a glimpse at the cultural significance regarding the content in the future. It’s an amalgamation of genetic drifts which hardwires an em-trackers’ patter “THIS REVOLUTION IS FOR DISPLAY PURPOSES ONLY.” Last Tango in Cyberspace makes culture a character to be explored in equal measure as the main character. Lion, an empathy-tracker, or em-tracker for short—uses his unique talent to consume curated content provided by clients and extrapolate a future; not at an individual level, mind you, rather as a glimpse at the cultural significance regarding the content in the future. It’s an amalgamation of genetic drifts which hardwires an em-trackers’ pattern recognition. Hacking their intuition to do a sort of cultural prognostication. “A small robot standing on a busy city street corner, looking around. I SEE HUMANS BUT NO HUMANITY.” Em-trackers methods vary with the person and there are very few known trackers, at least in so far as ones operating in the same capacity of Lion, doing this very niche work for a living. A very good living at that. Lion, in particular, is rigged to make these deductions from words and logos, though it’s gestured that each tracker would be completely different. He processes the content he’s given, reacts, and tells the client if he sees a future or not. It’s usually a binary answer; a “yes” or a “no.” “His journalism days are behind him. No longer does he get paid for the plot. Now, he’s paid for saying yes or no—the sum total of his contractual obligations. His work in the world reduced to one-word responses. When, he wonders, did his life get so small?” Superficially, this book is about Lion being contracted by a major corporate entity to take a look at a crime scene and apply his talents… but this is a very unorthodox application of his gifts and one which ends up taking him down a rabbit hole. Ostensibly it’s a murder mystery wrapped up in noir trappings, something people might expect from cyberpunk. This is where the clear iterations from the sub-culture come into play, however. Within the tropes of a pleasurable whodunit, there’s much more to be consumed. “You can’t scrub everything,” says Lorenzo. “Information gets what it wants, and it wants to be free.” A specific trope that follows noir elements in cyberpunk, the investigator in over their head, is a unique vernacular used. There is typically a colloquial dialect that is foreign to the reader and makes them feel a fish out of water. The reader interprets what these cultural elements are in the future with the remix of certain words or the use of completely fictional words, from time to time. Interestingly, the dialect used in this novel is pop culture itself. Not in the very limited sense of Ready Player One, where games, gamers, and gaming is the language—but in landmark moments in cinema and literature that is reasonably absorbed into the general intellect of society. The most common being the novel Dune. Lion carries it with him all the time and is the cornerstone for the explanation of Lion’s gifts and poly-tribalism, a central component to the way Lion looks at culture in the story. People are intersectional beings with complex identities. Tracing the identity back to its origin is possible with technology these days. Appealing to particular facets of the identity can be a predictor for if something is to be successful and thrive or be consumed by another identity that dominates it. '“Shifting culture requires a confluence of inciting incidents. Something directional that leads to a tribal fracturing and reknitting. Often shows up in language first. In music. Fashion. It can feel a little like hope.” He points at the images. “This doesn’t feel like hope.” I think this approach both hinders and helps Last Tango in Cyberspace. For one, it’s an interesting use of the trope which proved satisfying to read for me, personally. I had never read Dune but it is explained as needed. I never felt lost. However, I could see some people who had read the book and disagree with the cultural impacts asserted in the text having a problem with most of the book, as it draws from it heavily at a personal level for Lion, as well as a fundamental shorthand for what is happening in the plot; ingrained in the theme and a permanent fixture. “Words are just bits of information, but language is the full code. It’s wired into every stage of meaning-making, from basic emotions all the way up to abstract thought. Once you can speak a language, you can feel in that language. It’s automatic. It creates empathy.” The frenetic pacing that accompanies cyberpunk literature is replaced with a sort of artificial acceleration with the structure of the book. Lots of very short chapters, in other words. This allows for expounding on the cultural aspects that are conveyed during the text. You notice what Lion notices. These details becoming foundational to the extrapolations he draws on later. What this means though, is the pacing is somewhat sacrificed in order to get the reader to do the same types of pattern recognition Lion does during the book. It’s clever, but a slow burn. ”Hybridization, he figures, is destined to become one of the ways this generation out-rebels the last generation. How we went from long-haired hippie freaks to pierced punk rockers to transsexual teenagers taking hormones.” For me, the slower pace made it feel reminiscent of Takeshi Kovach in Altered Carbon. Envoys in that novel “soak up” culture in order to fit in and navigate foreign cultures. Lion’s talent feels like it takes that idea and explores it more thoroughly, engaging with it more, and this method allows you to soak up the information as well. If it were frenetic some of the details would be lost, I feel. “Lion glances back at the pigeons. Sees a flicker he didn’t notice before. Remembers that the de-extinction program was a failed effort, realizes he’s looking at a light-vert. An AR projection of an almost. The bad dreams of a society disguised as a good time.” A concept continually being reiterated in the novel is “living the questions.” Something that also subverts first wave cyberpunk, the characters of which are generally on the spectrum somewhere, unlikeable and/or anti-social, and live on the fringes of society in a sub-culture of some kind. Lion, however, is an embodiment of empathy. He is in stark contrast to those protagonists, relating to most everyone and so can assume their point of view. To the extent, in fact, he resolves to not use his talents on other people. “We ache for this feeling, but it’s everywhere. Booze, drugs, sex, sport, art, prayer, music, meditation, virtual reality. Kids, hyperventilating, spinning in circles, feel oneness. Why William James called it the basic lesson of expanded consciousness—just tweak a few knobs and levers in the brain and bam. So the drop, the comedown, it’s not that we miss oneness once it’s gone; it’s that we suddenly can’t feel what we actually know is there. Phantom limb syndrome for the soul.” Last Tango in Cyberspace feels like a love letter to cyberpunk while updating it. In Neuromancer, for example, Gibson’s Rastafarians were a source of major critique. They are also featured in this novel but the author instead traces the cultural aspects and importance of Rastafarian influences on western mainstream culture. It felt as though it was making a point to correct the caricature found in the original source material. Whether or not it succeeds I leave up to someone who’s more educated on that and can speak to it—but the intent is clear. “the failure of language.” “It’s a creative destruction. Out of that failure comes culture. Out of culture comes desire. Out of desire come products.” This led me to the only thing I didn’t like about the novel and a personal pet peeve of mine: authors phonetically using foreign language in dialogue. It’s usually done as a form of cultural appreciation and authenticity, I’m sure… but it results in the author needing to clarify what is being said regardless and it just feels uncomfortable. It’s pretty much always from a Western perspective on a minority culture and usually is the default assumption of what the culture sounds like. Lion is able to converse with them for plausible reasons, often not the case when this is encountered, but it’s always left me feeling squeamish. Just tell me they have an accent, placing them in whatever area if that is relevant. “…what is genuine emotion and what is business strategy. The modern condition.” As Lion navigates the mystery and ping-pongs about the globe consuming the clues surrounding the mysterious death the reader, too, is engaging in this meta-language. Both in terms of how it subverts or remixes cyberpunk tropes, as well as the cultural context and information Lion imparts as his process. All of which is given weight. Hooking the plot into these details down the line as it comes together. Most interestingly of all perhaps, the author goes out of their way to state that all of the technology exists in the world today, or is in a lab somewhere being worked on, at the very least. “The car sees emotions. Signals have been pre-programmed, down to the basement level, below Ekman’s micro-expressions, getting to the core biophysical: heart rate variability, blood oxygen levels. And all from pointing a laser at a tiny vein in the human forehead. The car sees emotions, yet feels nothing. So morality too has to be pre-scripted into the code. Aim for garbage cans and not pedestrians; aim for solitary pedestrians rather than large groups. Empathy programmer, he’s heard it called, someone’s job now.” This makes the future we are presented with prescient in the same way Neuromancer did with the advent of the Internet and the rise of technology in the ’90s. But where technophobia is firmly rooted in first wave cyberpunk. Last Tango in Cyberspace is making a virtue of humanities peculiarities, some of which we barely grasp. While the Internet is not something we may understand, so too are we learning the same of our own minds. Empathy, after all, is not something we gained from modernity. “Rilke knew what was up. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will gradually, without noticing it, one distant day, live right into the answer. What’s truer than that?” And empathy seems to be the thing we desperately need right now, rather than the consensual hallucination that allows us to connect to others while, at the same time, enabling us to dehumanize each other. “Last tango in cyberspace…the end of something radically new. Copy that.” “Pitch black again. Like someone extinguished an angel.” Thanks to Netgalley for providing the unedited version ahead of time. in exchange for an honest review. You can find Last Tango in Cyberspace for purchase here.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Wallace Derricotte

    Steven Kotler explores some very interesting psychology concepts in this novel. Throughout he keeps the story grounded around the concept of the main character being an "empathy-hacker", having the ability to predict future events by getting a feeling for people's emotions. The main character was very well developed, by the end I really found Lion Zorn to be a likeable and interesting protagonist. Some of the supporting characters however were less well-developed. Not that they were less interes Steven Kotler explores some very interesting psychology concepts in this novel. Throughout he keeps the story grounded around the concept of the main character being an "empathy-hacker", having the ability to predict future events by getting a feeling for people's emotions. The main character was very well developed, by the end I really found Lion Zorn to be a likeable and interesting protagonist. Some of the supporting characters however were less well-developed. Not that they were less interesting on the surface, just less fleshed out. And this could have been a design choice by Kotler, as the plot revolves around shrouding many of the supportive characters motivations in mystery. One of my favorite parts of the book is this theme of how quickly new technology becomes ubiquitous in our society. Lion hops in autonomous Uber cars and doesn't bat an eyelash, he mentions that people can purchase stem cell dental implants on a Facebook ad as if its normal. These quips are often quick and not explained in detail. Many other reviewers were annoyed by this, but this was definitely an intentional choice. This novel is only set five years in the future and yet Kotler wanted to drive home the fact that some new tech that is in development will be pretty commonplace which is emphasized by the terse description of some of the technology. It also allows the tech advancements to be in the background and not intrude on the true purpose of the novel which is meant to focus on human-society interactions. My biggest criticism of the book (and the only real reason it didn't get 5 stars from me) is that it really does take a while to get going. I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of people will pick up the the book excited to go through it only to tap-out after the first 100 pages or so. For me, the world Kotler was creating was enough to keep me slogging through the slow story progression in the beginning but I know everyone won't gut through it. Overall this is a solid novel that not only tells a cool story but hits on important issues about human-human and (interestingly) human-animal interactions.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Chris Davidge

    I did get this book for free as an advanced readers copy from St.Martins Press, through Goodreads giveaways, in return for an honest review. So here it goes... The story centers on an empathy tracker for hire in the near future, looking into an unusual death while investigating the emergence of a new drug. Are they connected and how? What's his employers concern with a rising new subculture, the one with the barcodes tattooed on the back of necks? I'm looking to keep this spoiler free, so no real I did get this book for free as an advanced readers copy from St.Martins Press, through Goodreads giveaways, in return for an honest review. So here it goes... The story centers on an empathy tracker for hire in the near future, looking into an unusual death while investigating the emergence of a new drug. Are they connected and how? What's his employers concern with a rising new subculture, the one with the barcodes tattooed on the back of necks? I'm looking to keep this spoiler free, so no real details. There are tons of pop culture references throughout, which was entertaining (I think I got most of them). Frank Herbert's Dune is referenced quite heavily, but you really don't have to be familiar with it to get the main plot points. While the sci-fi aspects and overall feel of the story can be compared to Gibson, I found the tech talk and science part didn't get in the way of the story itself, and helps things move along. The book jacket does note that " all the technology in the book either exists in labs or is rumored to exist" and this is also addressed in the end acknowledgements. In my opinion this added to my enjoyment of the book. I would have liked it a little more "noir" as a detective novel, but overall it was a fun read. The concepts were interesting and left me with things to think about for the next little while. I probably will be checking out Steven Kotler's other non-fiction works and any upcoming fiction. 5/5

  30. 4 out of 5

    Joanna

    This was so much fun to read: excellent world building. There’s a real skill to setting a novel in the very near future: the changes have to be subtle and plausible but also somehow surprising. Kotler’s version is witty and smart and scrupulously researched. Pacing and suspense are skillfully managed. The main character is well drawn, an interesting amalgam of vulnerability and noir guy toughness. His relationship with his best friend is depicted with humour but also surprising grace. Great sens This was so much fun to read: excellent world building. There’s a real skill to setting a novel in the very near future: the changes have to be subtle and plausible but also somehow surprising. Kotler’s version is witty and smart and scrupulously researched. Pacing and suspense are skillfully managed. The main character is well drawn, an interesting amalgam of vulnerability and noir guy toughness. His relationship with his best friend is depicted with humour but also surprising grace. Great sense of place; the guy really knows how to write about coffee, and the scene with the coyote is just beautiful. All in all, it’s such a relief to read a speculative novel that, while it deals with serious issues, does not depict a total scorched earth environment, that you doesn’t really notice that the plotting goes a little off the rails by the end, and that the female characters are not quite as well developed, and that the characters habitually consume a ridiculous volume of recreational drugs but still remain relatively functional, and that the author doesn’t seem to understand how bank tellers work, and that sometimes his job seems really complex and mystical and sometimes he just seems like a really well compensated corporate branding consultant. But no, when you’re reading it, none of this seems to matter because you are happy to live in the world that Kotler has created.

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