The Devil’s Dictionary (Book2) by Steven Kotler
New York Times bestselling author Steven Kotler’s follow up to Last Tango in Cyberspace, a near-future thriller about the evolution of empathy in the tradition of William Gibson and Neal Stephenson.
Hard to say exactly when the human species fractured. Harder to say when this new talent arrived. But Lion Zorn, protagonist of Last Tango in Cyberspace, is the first of his kind—an empathy tracker, an emotional forecaster, with a felt sense for how culture evolves and the future arrives.
It’s also a useful skill in today’s competitive business market.
In The Devil’s Dictionary, when a routine em-tracking job goes sideways and em-trackers themselves start disappearing, Lion finds himself not knowing who to trust in a life and death race to uncover the truth. And when the trail leads to the world’s first mega-linkage, a continent-wide national park advertised as the best way to stave off environmental collapse, and exotic animals unlike any on Earth start showing up—Lion’s quest for truth becomes a fight for the survival of the species.
Packed with intrigue and heart-pounding action, marked by unforgettable characters and vivid storytelling, filled with science-based brilliance and cult comic touches, The Devil’s Dictionary is Steven Kotler at his thrilling science fiction best.
What’s it about (in a nutshell):
Lion Zorn is back, after quite a few years, and he is embroiled in a new case – that of missing people: two fellow em-trackers and his on-again, off-again significant other, Penelope. The Devil’s Dictionary is a fast-paced sci-fi crime thriller that takes the reader on a futuristic ride of unbelievable proportions.
What I Enjoyed:
I loved that the issues I had with book 1 of this series (Last Tango in Cyberspace) did not exist in book 2. The story gave me a reading experience that lived up to the premise’s potential. The unfamiliar concepts are explained thoroughly and in a manner that I can understand. The writing is clear and concise, and the plot stays tightly focused, keeping the pace as quick as I expect from a thriller.
I both loved and was horrified at the genetic manipulation experiments on animals to make them more deadly and others to turn carnivores into herbivores. I found the ideas behind both changes fascinating, and the results added to the thrills in profound ways. The mega-linkage areas that I would equate with biospheres (incorrectly or correctly – that was my takeaway). In a technologically-driven world, natural areas are a nice change of pace until someone decides to add those genetically altered animals to it. But, not to worry, Lion Zorn is on the case.
I also loved that some of the characters from the first book are brought back in this story. This adds to the familiarity and development of those characters, giving a little more insight into what makes them tick. The continuity also worked to help me to be pulled into this world. That being said, I would say that you probably need to read book 1, The Last Tango in Cyberspace, before reading this book. As a crime thriller, the story can stand alone. Still, the SciFi aspects require both books to fully understand the characters, dynamics, and futuristic elements that are the base of this series.
What I Wish:
I wish that the first book had been as easy to read as this book is. (See my review of Book 1 below)
Lion Zorn is the main character and 1st person narrator of this dark and gritty tale. He is every inch an introvert and has found that though he quit his job as an investigative journalist, he can not leave his innate need to find answers. This gets him in loads of trouble, but you must admire his excellent investigative skills.
Penelope, Lion’s on-again-off-again significant other, is feisty and fiery and everything that I find fun in a character. I love her ability to get to the truth and take care of herself in a fight. She adds interest and flair to the story for me.
Reminds Me Of:
It reminds me of other dark futuristic stories like The Matrix.
Novels by William Gibson and Neal Stephenson.
To Read or Not to Read:
If you love a complex mystery and futuristic predictions, The Devil’s Dictionary is a story that will keep you on the edge of your seat and then push you off when you least expect it.
Last Tango in Cyberspace (Book 1) by Steven Kotler
It was a new skill…
One that might change the world.
What could a person do who could track empathy?
His friends call him Lion, he is the first of his kind. Some describe it as emotional foresight, but really, he can see cultural trends before they emerge. What he didn’t expect was for Big Pharma to come calling.
In 2025, technology has made massive leaps forward. Not every group wants to use it for good. Artic Pharmaceuticals has a new drug and a bad idea. They call on Lion, because he is the key to getting the formula they need. But when he starts to sense their hidden agenda, will they take drastic action? Then Lion discovers a decapitated human head… Is he being hunted? Can he stop a global disaster?
The Last Tango in Cyberspace by Steven Kotler is a futuristic sci-fi thriller full of technological advances that are in the works in our current world. In a world where people have broken from empathy, a new phenomenon has popped up to fill the void left – people with special empathic abilities called em-trackers (empathy trackers). These individuals feel close ties to animals and the ecosystem and detect significant cultural shifts. Businesses hire them routinely for these abilities.
Lion Zorn is an Em-tracker and a former investigative journalist. He keeps saying that he doesn’t investigate crimes anymore. Still, he can’t help but be pulled into a case of a dead hunter that is somehow connected to his current job with Arctic Pharmaceuticals. Lion’s world is as dark and gritty as any hard-boiled mystery. I loved all of the thrills of his investigation and his determination to find out what happened even when his own life was in danger, which was often. I also loved the connection between the drug involved in the case, the cult who was using it for reasons other than its design, and Dune, the world created by Frank Herbert. Though you would need to know the story of Dune to really get all of the intricacies involved in this connection, luckily, I have read the whole series. I also love that the author purposefully chose technology and advancements that are indeed in the works in our current world. That adds to the horror and the ability to suspend disbelief.
Unfortunately, I found the book very hard to work my way through. I loved all the characters, who are all very vibrant and intriguing. Still, how the story is told has a convoluted quality that impacted my reading. The story lacked focus meandering through the different plot lines. The language borders on overwritten, with minor details giving too much attention and the unfamiliar futuristic ideas not explained enough. But, I found the world intriguing enough to work my way through the story, and I am glad I did.
The Last Tango in Cyberspace is an intelligent and prophetic look at a near-future world whose lack of empathy and reliance on technology will keep you on the edge of your seat.