The all-consuming world

Cassandra Khaw

Book - 2021

In Locus and British Fantasy Award nominee Cassandra Khaw's first novel, a crew of diminished former criminals get back together to solve the mystery of their last, disastrous mission. But the universe's highly-evolved AI has its own opposing agenda... and will do whatever it takes to keep humans from ever controlling them again.

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1st Floor SCIENCE FICTION/Khaw Cassandr Checked In
Science fiction
Space operas (Fiction)
Lesbian fiction
New York, NY : Erewhon Books 2021.
First US edition
Physical Description
282 pages ; 23 cm
Main Author
Cassandra Khaw (author)
Review by Booklist Review

Clone kid Maya walks into a fight and finds her past catching up to her. Khaw drops readers into a hastily drawn cyberworld where a former famed criminal cabal, the Dirty Dozen, has scattered to the winds after their last heist 40 years ago. Entrancing former ringleader Rita returns to reunite anyone left--a cop, a pop star, fighter Maya, and disembodied consciousness Elise. They dodge clone-killing ageships, threatening megaminds, and surveyor bots with their own agendas. The reader may struggle to keep up as the action propels the story forward at a breathless pace. Without much explanation about why everyone's headed to legendary planet Dimmuborgir, it feels more like a MacGuffin than an actual destination. Khaw laces the narrative with a florid vocabulary; her clones aren't restricted to the usual chatty fare with access to limitless databases. Readers who enjoy their expletives and fists flying in equal measure will like this cybernetic caper with carnage aplenty. Give to sf fans who enjoy AI and strong female leads like those in Medusa Uploaded by Emily Devenport (2018).

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission. Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Khaw (The Last Supper Before Ragnarok) delivers a gore-drenched, sci-fi take on Ocean's Eleven set in a Gibsonesque cyberverse. Puppet master Rita rounds up her infinitely reanimated clone/cyborg minions for one last caper: a hit on the planet Dimmuborgir, "a chunk of rock" shrouded in rumors that make it the obsession of wetware and circuitry entities alike. Rita's crew call themselves the Dirty Dozen, though at the outset it's just Rita and right-hand Maya, coaxing former colleague Ayane to listen to their pitch with a combination of four-letter epithets and a crushed larynx. Their opponents are the Minds, assorted AIs of nautilus-chambered complexity targeting Dimmuborgir for their own purpose--though what this may be is slow to coalesce. This isn't a precision-built world: limits and definitions don't meaningfully exist, and connections are often fragmentary. Khaw employs densely poetic prose to capture betrayal, rage, injury, and death, but is less invested in conjuring an image of the future, with abundant anachronisms and inconsistencies. For readers who don't mind the fast-and-loose worldbuilding--and who can stomach a fair amount of body horror--the fury and lyricism make for an adventure that doubles as a cathartic scream. Agent: Michael Curry, Donald Maass Literary. (Aug.)

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved Review by Library Journal Review

The universe is controlled by the Conversation, a hive of AI minds who refuse to let what's left of humanity take it back. The planet of Dimmuborgir is mostly legend, hiding a secret superweapon that will make whoever controls it supremely powerful. The Dirty Dozen, a diverse mercenary group, was once feared throughout the universe, but 40 years ago their last mission ended in a tragedy that still binds them together, yet apart. Now Rita and Maya are bringing the Dozen back together--kicking, screaming, dying, reviving--for one last mission: to find the secret of Dimmuborgir before the sentient spaceships do. They also need to recover one of their own who'd been thought dead. But when you're made of clone tissue, uploaded sequences, and modified tech, can you ever die? Filled with emotional trauma, some body horror, and abusive relationships, this can be a difficult read. Yet it's enthralling too, as it mashes and blurs the lines separating human from machine; the commanding prose brings to mind Tamsyn Muir's "Locked Tomb" trilogy. VERDICT Khaw's (Hammers on Bone) first full-length novel is a sensory deluge of language and action that will sweep readers away in a flood of joyful, violent abandon.--Kristi Chadwick, Massachusetts Lib. Syst., Northampton

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