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edge staff writer


‘Zoey Punches the Future in the D--k’ a different sort of sci-fi

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One of the great things about having literary tastes that tend toward the omnivorous is that you never know when the mood to read something in particular will strike you. Sometimes, you want to read some high-minded lit fiction. Other times, you’re up for some lowbrow genre fare. Sometimes, it’s a biography or memoir; other times, a work of pop science or philosophy.

And sometimes, well … you just want to get weird.

When those times arrive, you could do worse than checking out the works of David Wong. His latest is the coarsely-named “Zoey Punches the Future in the Dick” (St. Martin’s Press, $27.99), the sequel to his delightfully profane and bizarre 2015 novel “Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits.” This new book is a sharp and satiric continuation of that story, yet it also manages to largely stand on its own – a relative rarity for genre series.

It’s smart sci-fi that delights in playing dumb, hiding sophisticated ideas and themes behind bizarre set pieces and all manner of creative profanity. It’s also a rip-roarer of an adventure tale, packed with high-concept twists and turns. All in all, it’s a hell of a lot of fun.

Zoey Ashe is still coming to terms with all that has happened in the last year. Not long ago, she was living in a trailer with her mom and trying not to get fired from her job as a barista. Now, thanks to an inheritance from the father she never knew, she sits at the top of an organized crime conglomerate built around his control of the lawless high-tech desert city of Tabula Ra$a (and yes, that’s a dollar sign). She is the head of an empire that employs tens of thousands and has billions in assets – and she is not at all comfortable with her qualifications (or lack thereof) to be there.

She’s got help, of course. Her father’s former team – a group that Zoey has collectively dubbed “the Suits” has largely stayed in place to assist her in running the show. The enigmatic Will Blackwater, a man feared by anyone with any sense, was her father’s right-hand man; now, so is he Zoey’s, despite his seeming distaste for the gig. He leads the team that protects and guides Zoey – even when (ESPECIALLY when) she wants neither.

Her place at the top has ruffled feathers all up and down the food chain. Zoey’s father was the biggest power broker in Tabula Ra$a, but he wasn’t the only one – some of his former competitors might be looking for a way to take down the unprepared newcomer. And many at the bottom have turned their anger at their position in the hierarchy onto her, with a growing online movement devoted to mocking and deriding her every move – usually via meme-driven mockery and misogyny.

But when those two factions – the high and the low – start to bleed together, Zoey and the crew realize they might be in for some trouble. Particularly when one member of the anti-Zoey online community known as the Blowback turns up dead, only to have said corpse turn out to be robotically controlled by outside forces and accusing Zoey of its murder.

This plunges Zoey and her team headlong into the chaos that comes when the online and real worlds collide. In a city where everybody is on camera all the time, where nothing means anything if it isn’t streamed for the world to see, there are people out there who have decided to make it their mission to destroy Zoey. Some choose to do it via hateful images and increasingly outlandish conspiracy theories, while others … well, there are some who have the capability to do physical harm even to someone as well-protected as Zoey.

Despite wanting nothing more than to right her father’s wrongs and help the community of which she is now a leader, Zoey is left with no choice but to figure out who is behind the myriad plots against her before someone close to her winds up getting hurt.

Like I said – weird.

What’s so surprising about “Zoey Punches the Future in the Dick” is how smart it is. I mean, there’s a reference to dick-punching right there in the title – and to be fair, there’s plenty of action and humor that fits squarely with that sentiment – but underneath all the science-fictional trappings, there’s some pretty heady stuff.

We’re talking about thoughtful explorations of the nature of gaming communities and society’s current trend toward celebrity worship and the toxicity of the self-styled men’s rights movement – all of it unspooled by way of a crisply-written, over-the-top genre adventure. Oh, and it’s really funny to boot. Wong’s got jokes, for sure, but he also has a strong grasp of situational comedy as well. It all adds up to a dynamite reading experience.

And again – you don’t have to have read the first book to enjoy this one. There are some reference points you’ll need, but you’ll pick them up pretty quickly in the context of the first few pages. Wong gives you everything you need to enjoy the book right up front, regardless of how much (if any) experience you have with the series.

“Zoey Punches the Future in the Dick” is something different, high-concept ideas in lowbrow clothing. It’s a read that’ll work on whatever level you want it to, opening the door to deeper insight while also operating as straightforward comic sci-fi. Basically, if you want David Wong to punch your brain in the dick, you should check this one out.

Last modified on Thursday, 29 October 2020 10:38


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