"Don't be surprised if this bitter brew keeps you up all night."– Kirkus Reviews
Consumerism runs wild in a chaotic, violent future dominated by the corporate superpower Krater Koffee. After an attack on his franchise, employee Argo Jones goes from frontline server/soldier to company commando.
After the ruinous Brand Wars, Krater Koffee is the most powerful corporate superpower in this polluted, privatized, brutalized, and thoroughly GMO’ed consumer-capitalist future. (The mega-business may remind readers of a certain real-life, ubiquitous coffee chain.) Krater refined how to give the teeming masses their coffee fixes via vapor-inhalers—to the point that drinking liquid in an old-fashioned mug is considered a dangerous, rebellious act sometimes enjoyed in underground competitions—“Very illegal, very dangerous….It was an ugly game: two jukers with more bravado than brains sat across from each other and drank freshly brewed coffee. Actual coffee.” In this dystopia, barista Argo Jones is a lifelong Krater employee and true believer, having been sponsored out of childhood poverty by the company and given Krater’s cybernetic implants and combat training to work the front line as a coffee tech/server. But when his franchise location is devastated by a lethal product contamination, management orders Jones into the chaotic streets—where average folk are bombarded by holographic commercials and neuro-implant ad blockers are a necessity—in order to draw out the shadowy subversives thought responsible. The rather basic narrative is largely a running battle between Jones and a South African supersoldier/assassin who, like the Terminator, seems unstoppable. Fortunately, Krater taught Argo how to fight dirty. On this slight framework the author pours bracing swigs of detail, such as Krater corporate memos, PR releases, and employee psych exams. In this nightmare society, cat meat is a fast-food staple, intelligent (and insulting) sea gulls are employed as couriers, and actors are lab-grown in vats. Fans of the cult sci-fi Jennifer Government (2003) will find a similar taste in first-time novelist Hardy’s blend.
A fairly small portion, but don’t be surprised if this bitter brew keeps you up all night.