From its title, David Wong’s second installment in the adventures of heiress Zoey Ashe promises an unforgettable, bizarre and brain-bending storyline, and it does not disappoint.
Wong’s futuristic sci-fi whodunit reintroduces readers to now 23-year-old Zoey, whose chaotic life is anything but boring. Having inherited a fortune in less-than-savory businesses from her estranged, deceased father—pseudonym “Arthur Livingston”—her former existence in a Colorado trailer park with her smelly feline friend, Stench Machine, and her single, eccentric mother, Melinda, feels like a lifetime away.
In this sequel to Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits, set in the lawless futuristic city of Tabula Ra$a, Wong reprises the witty, satirical narration that readers that have come to expect from his work. In this world, rules are constantly shifting, rich people are to bodyguards as sharks are to remoras, and hedonistic temptations abound, from gaudy, animated neon advertisements and all-night Cuddle Inns and sex theaters, to brothels and extreme virtual reality experiences.
Wong so completely immerses readers in this vivid, technothrilling setting that new characters feel like old friends, and Zoey is as lovable as ever as she tries to be a “normal” goth-grunge, Halloween-loving party girl and cat mom while still running a criminal empire. Zoey has inherited a team of professionals from her crime kingpin father: the charming, cowboy hat-donning Texan, Budd; the beautiful, lithe and lethal Echo Ling; and the fiercely loyal and stoic sniper Wu. But the public and, more importantly, the internet seem to loathe Zoey, with her unconventional appearance and her inheritance. At this point, she’s escaped more than a few hostage and assassination attempts.
When an animated, organless corpse arrives on her doorstep and accuses her of murder, Zoey and her team must battle rabid conspiracy theorists, vulturistic and violent vigilante journalists and even an ominous secret society to clear her name and unearth the truth. Through it all, tensions grow among the underground crime leaders, and the Unrest Index of Tabula Ra$a continually rises.
Wong’s sequel is a high-energy and flawless segue into a new episode of Zoey’s life and easily proves itself to be a compelling standalone work. This wholly original world feels like a fever dream, with shiny gadgets like color-changing convertibles, mechanized superhuman implants and a coveted 3D printer that can craft both powerful weapons and head-turning Halloween costumes at a moment’s notice. Wong’s biting commentary on social media, internet trolls, fandoms gone wrong, incel culture, mansplaining and the ethics of genetic engineering—not to mention the cyberbulling and harassment that Zoey endures as a plus-size woman with a walk-in closet full of band T-shirts and two missing teeth in her smile—is a testament to the power of pop fiction. His combination of captivating character development, sci-fi satire and dark, clever humor is a revelation.