The setting's premise is that California suffered great social upheaval and the creation of the "Disincorporated Zone" or DZ resulted in a large chunk of Los Angeles being a lawless territory run by gangs. Life has more or less gone on outside of the DZ with cloning, holographic technology, virtual reality, and so on all adopted by Hollywood to squeeze every last New Dollar from a jaded fame-hungry populace.
The book follows up the previous one with the two detectives asked by their old enemy, Selah Fiore, hiring them for a job. This is unexpected because the last time they met, Selah was trying to have them killed. Money is the great negotiator, though, and hunger is the best pickle, however. Facing bankruptcy and losing their office, Erasmus and Blake agree to take the case to find a physical representation of a cryptocurrency called Iotas. It was given away in a contest years ago and Selah is willing to pay a fortune for it.
Cryptocurrency is something I expect will eventually be viewed in much the same way as Pogs or headbands by the next decade, let alone NFTS, but forms the basis for our story. Like many promises by techbros who foresaw ways of subverting traditional economic forces and rewriting paradigms, it has proven to be a playground of scammers and broken promises.
Indeed, one of the humorous elements of Robert Kroese's novel here is he highlights many vulnerabilities that cryptocurrency suffers and how these could be exploited by bad faith actors. Given the date the novel was written, it's fascinating to realize this work was eerily prescient about the crashes we're currently experiencing due to all of the revelations about pyramid schemes, money laundering, fraud, and embezzlement.
A bunch of cryptocurrency issues doesn't sound like a very exciting cyberpunk detective story, but it really is. A bit like Chinatown, The Two Jakes, and Who Framed Roger Rabbit, the larger issues of white-collar crime are accompanied with much nastier crime on the streets. There's a lot of fascinating sci-fi twists and turns that end in unexpected directions. There's perhaps one twist too many in the identity of one character that is a bit too STAR WARS but, otherwise, I feel this was a really solid sequel.
In conclusion, I really like this novel but note that despite not being listed as part of a series, it definitely requires reading The Big Sheep to get the full effect. It is not a standalone. I hope that Robert Kroese will continue writing noir detective fiction with a cyberpunk twist as it’s my personal peanut butter and jam.