Book Review: The Big Sheep
By: Robert Kroese
Published By: Thomas Dunne Books
Publication Date: June 28, 2016
Page Count: 320
Source: ARC Kindly Provided by Publisher
Audience: Adult - Science Fiction
The best detective in post-Collaspe L.A., Erasmus Keane, is on the job when a unique, genetically altered sheep goes missing from a powerful corporation’s research lab. Not long after they begin work on the case, a beautiful (and completely paranoid) actress hires Keane and his associate, Blake Fowler, to find out who is trying to kill her. The further Keane and Fowler get into each case, the more they realize the cases are connected and that their actress client might not be wrong about the danger to her life.
Let me start by saying that I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I am a huge fan of genre mashups, and The Big Sheep does not disappoint. Though the title itself is a nod to the hard-boiled detective novel, The Big Sleep, this story reads like something that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Philip K. Dick could have written together. Fowler even narrates the story in a Dr. Watson-like fashion, though he names the cases with a more contemporary flair. “Case of the Concerned and Surprisingly Literate Teddy Bear,” anyone?
The political and psychological fallout together with the ethical dilemmas of future technology in The Big Sheep definitely recall Philip K. Dick’s stories. The setting of The Big Sheep is 2039 Los Angeles, eleven years after a major governmental collapse. Although order has been restored, there is a large section of the city, called the Disincorporated Zone, which has been walled off and is now controlled by various war lords. The lab the sheep was stolen from is into anti-aging research, memory transfer, and all sorts of tech-noir stuff. One of Kroese’s characters has a pretty compelling, if disturbing, legal argument in favor of human cloning!
The only bad point of The Big Sheep for me was how the tone of the novel kept changing. There were many moments in Fowler’s telling of the story that felt like well-written satire of both the mystery and science fiction genres. The story would shift into a more earnest tone, and then back into comic mode. By the end of the book when the villain had the heroes trapped and began a huge monologue about “The Plan,” I wasn’t sure whether that was supposed to be for comedic effect or not. If it was, one of the characters probably should have made a sarcastic remark about it.
The Big Sheep was a lot of fun to read and I’m really hoping there’s another Keane/Fowler mystery in the works.
Los Angeles of 2039 is a baffling and bifurcated place. After the Collapse of 2028, a vast section of LA, the Disincorporated Zone, was disowned by the civil authorities, and became essentially a third world country within the borders of the city. Navigating the boundaries between DZ and LA proper is a tricky task, and there's no one better suited than eccentric private investigator Erasmus Keane. When a valuable genetically altered sheep mysteriously goes missing from Esper Corporation's labs, Keane is the one they call.
But while the erratic Keane and his more grounded partner, Blake Fowler, are on the trail of the lost sheep, they land an even bigger case. Beautiful television star Priya Mistry suspects that someone is trying to kill her - and she wants Keane to find out who. When Priya vanishes and then reappears with no memory of having hired them, Keane and Fowler realize something very strange is going on. As they unravel the threads of the mystery, it soon becomes clear that the two cases are connected - and both point to a sinister conspiracy involving the most powerful people in the city. Saving Priya and the sheep will take all of Keane's wits and Fowler's skills, but in the end, they may discover that some secrets are better left hidden.
Kroese's The Big Sheep is perfect for fans of Philip Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, Terry Pratchett's Guards! Guards!, and Scalzi's Old Man's War.