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Karma Kommandos
Paul Cook
Phoenix Pick, 212 pages

Karma Kommandos
Paul Cook
Paul Cook received a Ph.D. in English from the University of Utah in 1981 and has been at Arizona State University since 1982 and teaches English Literature, American Literature, the Short Story, the Novel and an online science fiction literature class, Eng 369: Science Fiction Studies. He has also taught courses in Jack Kerouac and the Beat Generation, Carlos Castaneda, and late 20th century music.

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Past Feature Reviews
A review by John Enzinas

Karma Kommandos by Paul Cook had the advantage of being exactly the sort of book I wanted to read at the time I picked it up.

It's a slow intertwining of two stories. The first is the story of Rory Koestler. Rory is a member of the L.A.P.D's Protean Set, undercover cops with the ability to change their appearance recruited from L.A's actors. The Protean Set's reason for existence is a hallucinogen called Chuckle being dealt by a man named Bob Thermopylae. Their job is to capture Thermopylae and get the quarantine of California lifted. The second story is about a Supercomputer named Eidolon Rex that disappears from its lab at Eidolon Technology before reappearing 10 hours later. The stories start to mingle when the scientists discover an anomalous number of Rex's programs containing the name Rory Koestler. Then things get complicated when a third party appears literally from out of nowhere and zaps people into what appear to be cold-induced comas.

Given my experience with author published works, I was not expecting much from this but decided to read it anyway because of the strength of its first paragraph. Fortunately this quality continued through the whole book as Mr. Cook weaved his way between Police procedural, Conspiracy thriller, and Technology forensics. He transitioned smoothly in and out of action sequences and thankfully none of the technology writing pulled me out of the reality thinking "That's just not right". This is not to say that there wasn't plenty of futuristic widgets (from anti-gravity to darkness generators) but rather that no attempt was made to explain those away with pseudo-science. This soft approach to the science are what helped keep this book from appearing dated in this reprinting some eight years after the original.

It's very likely that some of the turn of the millennium sensibilities in the way of late period cyberpunk that the book carries with it are what helped keep me so engaged in the first place. The book carried with it the sort of flavour of Snow Crash with all kinds of plausible but absurd extrapolations of current trends, but without a Neal Stephenson-style "ending" and no cryptography. It was weird and twisted in a lovely way, but, I think that's to be expected when the cops carry anti-personal devices called Tonya B. Hardings and the sky overhead often contains the Retro-Future blimp called The Fairuza Balk. 

Copyright © 2009 John Enzinas

John Enzinas reads frequently and passionately. In his spare time he plays with swords.

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