Review of EX-KOP by Warren Hammond (see his website)
Tor, September 2008
Juno Mozambe was a corrupt cop. Now that the ex-chief of police is dead, Juno is out of his job as chief enforcer and trying to make a living with blackmail, private detecting, and anything that will pay the bills. Juno has a lot of bills...mostly starting with the cloned spine he's having grown for his wife. So, when the one honest cop on the force asks for his help, Juno sees a chance to make some money. He doesn't want to lie to her, but Maggie has plenty of money.
Maggie Orzo wants to solve the mysterious case of the mysterious serial killer, even though Juno promises there's no future in pursuing off-worlders. Residents of Lagarta do well not to mess with the off-worlders. Lagarta was poor, a backwater whose fate was made worse by its one-time wealth. But when Maggie's partner busts every finger on Juno's right hand and then threatens his wife, Juno has no choice but to escalate the matter. If Ian wants Juno to back off, Juno intends to do the opposite.
Author Warren Hammond creates a compelling noir world of constant rain, bugs, tent cities, and incredible technology that's simply out of reach for even affluent members of Largarta society. Juno, conflicted between his one-time goals, his need to keep his wife alive despite her wishes, and the evil things he's done along the way, makes for an intriguing and sympathetic character. We know from the start that there can be no total victories on Lagarta, and wonder whether even an incomplete victory is possible in the face of the opposition Juno and Maggie face.
The combination of hard-boiled detective fiction with Science Fiction is an increasingly popular sub-genre, and EX-KOP is an example of how well this can work. Certainly the parallels between Lagarta and third world countries in today's world are obvious. In a couple of places, however, it seemed to me that Hammond took shortcuts. Getting Ian to pay for the decryption Juno needed was clever, but I couldn't understand why Ian would want the files decrypted (or why he never asked for the plain text). I was also expecting a deeper explanation for Ian's transformation from a weak crybaby to the brutal man he became.
EX-KOP is strong science fiction. I'll definitely keep my eyes open for more by Hammond.
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