Book Review: The Last Iota by Robert Kroese
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Science Fiction
Series: Book 2
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books (May 9, 2017)
Length: 320 pages
The Last Iota is definitely one of those awesome and rare instances where a sequel surpasses its predecessor. All the elements that made The Big Sheep such a rollicking good read are back, and this time the mystery is even bigger, better, and more impressive than before. The humor has been cranked up a notch as well, thanks to the often witty, sardonic back-and-forth exchanges between the two main characters. Just to give you an idea of how much I enjoyed myself, I was still wiping away the tears of laughter as I sat down to draft this review.
It is the year 2039, eleven years after the great Collapse which decimated the world’s economy and caused a large chunk of Los Angeles to be abandoned by the American government, turning it into the Disincorporated Zone. Picking up shortly after the end of the first book, the story once again follows Blake Fowler as he struggles to keep his and his partner Erasmus Keane’s private investigation firm afloat following the fallout from their last assignment. Things have gotten so desperate that they are forced to take a job from an old adversary, the famous actress and movie mogul Selah Fiore. The Hollywood star is paying them a large sum of money to track down one of the nine rare commemorative collectible iota coins that were minted post-Collapse, back when the dollar was tanking and the powers-that-be were pushing hard for the use of a new virtual currency. But since the iota coin itself has little value, as it is only a physical representation of the iota currency which is all virtual, why would Selah be putting so much of her effort and resources into recovering just one? Even without the prospect of a large paycheck, Fowler knows that Keane will agree to take the job, if nothing else to satisfy his own curiosity.
Meanwhile, Fowler’s missing girlfriend Gwen has recently resurfaced, claiming to have been hiding in the Disincorporated Zone for the last three years. After finding out about his new case, however, she suddenly takes off again, presumably back to the DZ. Perhaps not coincidentally, her re-disappearance also occurs simultaneously with a series of online auction sales for iota coins, all to the same anonymous buyer. Someone else is out there is snapping up the coins, and they’re going to great lengths to do it. The mystery deepens further when Selah turns up dead, and Keane and Fowler are framed for her murder. Soon it becomes clear everything is linked to the coins, and our protagonists must somehow decipher the puzzle of the nine iotas before their enemy can get their hands on the last one.
Besides being hilariously funny and full of exhilarating plot twists, the premise behind The Last Iota is also incredibly fascinating. If you told me last week that I’d be on the edge my seat reading about the dollar index and currency markets, I would have laughed in your face. And yet, Robert Kroese has managed to make these concepts a huge part of his story, while at the same time making it easy for a complete banking and finance noob like me to understand. Most impressively, he made everything sound so exciting. After all, I’ve always asserted that the best reads are not only fun and satisfying, but they also leave you feeling like you learned something interesting and new. I found myself enthralled with the mechanisms and potential behind virtual currencies, and the events described in this book inspired me to read further on the subject after I was finished.
As well, the characters continue to be very well drawn, and I love the dynamic between Keane and Fowler. With the former’s genius and the latter’s tactical knowledge, together they make a formidable team. Still, while it’s hard not to compare their relationship to that of a modern-day Sherlock Holmes and Watson, the complexities behind their partnership go far deeper than that. Calling them friends would be stretching it, and sometimes they even feel like opponents who are sticking together simply because they both need something from the other. And yet, neither is it strictly business. Keane may be an eccentric, and Fowler may be keeping secrets, but at the end of the day a strange kind of trust exists between them, and against all odds they make it work. As a reader, I can hardly complain about the clash of personalities either, not when their interactions often result in such amusing banter and scenarios.
Compared to the first book, The Last Iota also features a tighter, more logical plot, and the twists are even more shocking and unexpected. My attention was gripped by the intensity of the story as the hunt for a simple coin gradually snowballed into a life-or-death race to unravel a conspiracy threatening to throw the world into another Collapse. Within this narrative Kroese has injected all the central features of classic noir and then some, combining mystery elements with imaginative world-building and social ramifications to create something that is entirely unique and stands on its own.
The result is a truly fascinating and unforgettable novel, one that was a distinct pleasure to read. I have a feeling the author has a lot more in store for us now that a strong foundation for the series has been established, and it will be interesting indeed to see what Keane and Fowler will be up to next. To the last line of the book, all I have to say is: Hell yes, I’m ready for another round!
More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of The Big Sheep (Book 1)