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Review: Bang Bang Bodhisattva – Aubrey Wood

Bang Bang Bodhisattva - Aubrey Wood

Genre: Cyberpunk, Sci-Fi

Reviewer: Olivia

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About The Book

An edgy, queer cyberpunk detective mystery by an exciting new trans voice from New Zealand.

Someone wants trans girl hacker-for-hire Kiera Umehara in prison or dead—but for what? Failing to fix their smart toilet?

It’s 2032 and we live in the worst cyberpunk future. Kiera is gigging her ass off to keep the lights on, but her polycule’s social score is so dismal they’re about to lose their crib. That’s why she’s out here chasing cheaters with Angel Herrera, a luddite P.I. who thinks this is The Big Sleep. Then the latest job cuts too deep—hired to locate Herrera’s ex-best friend (who’s also Kiera’s pro bono attorney), they find him murdered instead. Their only lead: a stick of Nag Champa incense dropped at the scene.

Next thing Kiera knows, her new crush turns up missing—sans a hand (the real one, not the cybernetic), and there’s the familiar stink of sandalwood across the apartment. Two crimes, two sticks of incense, Kiera framed for both. She told Herrera to lose her number, but now the old man might be her only way out of this bullshit…

A fast-talker with a heart of gold, Bang Bang Bodhisattva is both an odd-couple buddy comedy that never knows when to shut up and an exploration of finding yourself and your people in an ever-mutable world.

The Review

The Scene



Hooooo BOY.  Buckle up. Here we go. 
A high-octane story in the cultural tradition of Snow Crash, Minority Report and Blade Runner, Bang Bang gives folks in the queer community what they’ve been waiting for: a look at the cyberpunk world through their eyes. 

In worldbuilding, Wood has taken cues from all your favorite wouldn’t-live-there-if-you-paid-me futures: the tech that argues with you has shades of The Fifth Element, the use of bionics and implants is reminiscent of Repo Man. And the harsh reality of gigging for a living and running on ice? Well that, we’re living right now. Mixed together, they make for a world I really enjoyed reading, but definitely don’t want to visit.

The Crowd



Wisecracking, fast-moving Kiera is the POV character we’ve been waiting for. She’s clever, quick-tongued, a little bit of a spaz and an absolute sweetheart. She’s the type of quick-thinking trans girl who’ll yell ‘I got a dick!’ when a skeez wolf-whistles, just to watch him walk into a wall. She’s thirty years old, sick of the grind, and sweet-natured under the armor her world impels her to wear. Her foil is Angel Hererra. No wait, sorry, he changed that name, and that face, to get the world to give him a bit less of a hard time. It sort of worked…sort of. But it cut him off from part of himself too. And that’s never a good thing.

On their side are a clever assortment of allies: the android studying law, the classy dame with all the threads to the underworld in her hand, and the indentured servant who really just wanted a better life. Underpinning the story is the sweet support of Kiera’s polycule, waiting at home with snuggles and bingeable TV. Cueing up the ominous music for this piece are Detective Flynn, who gives new meaning to being a dick, and several other impressive baddies. The characters, even those who aren’t fleshed out, are well-written and interesting. The ones who get more time on the page are rounded into wonderfully whole people.  Most of them don’t fit society’s definition of ‘people’ for some reason. And with every move, they prove why they should.

Writing Style


Fast paced and sometimes brutal, this work is full of bright one-liners and witty zings. Like it says on the dust cover, it definitely has echoes of The Big Sleep going on, along with Snow Crash and similar zany takes on a dark future. But the author pulls on this setting like a favorite coat and wears it with style, making it fresh.  I particularly enjoyed the showcasing of authority using legalism as a weapon against people who don’t fit: it’s a nasty part of the LGBT and minority experience that needs to be addressed. But I enjoyed watching our characters find their way around it even more!

The Moves



I’ll say this up front: I was not expecting these twists and turns. And I bet you won’t see what’s coming either, not until it’s right on top of you! Or, in most cases, right on top of Kiera. Poor kid.

(cue Kiera shouting ‘I’m thirty, dammit!’ in the background)

In the classic neo-noir style, you have your crime, you have your sleuth, and you have your unknown criminal. But the twists and turns that take us from ‘oh crap a dead body’ to the last page are nothing like you expect, and everything you want to read.

Overall Rating

A high-octane race through Cyberpunk City, with pit stops for queer love and solidarity. 

The Reviewer

Olivia Wylie is a jack of all trades and a master of none. Trained in horticulture, she writes ethnobotany and horticulture under her own name and queer climate change fiction with a hopeful twist under the pen name of O.E. Tearmann. She lives in Colorado with a very patient partner and a rather impatient cat.