Last Tango in Cyberspace

Last Tango in Cyberspace

New York Times bestselling author Steven Kotler crafts a near-future thriller about the evolution of empathy. Hard to say when the human species fractured exactly. Harder to say when this new talent arrived. But Lion Zorn is the first of his kind--an empathy tracker, an emotional soothsayer, with a felt sense for the future of the we. In simpler terms, he can spot cultural...

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Title:Last Tango in Cyberspace
Author:Steven Kotler
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Edition Language:English

Last Tango in Cyberspace Reviews

  • Olivia

    “Last Tango in Cyberspace” is an intriguing sci-fi novel, which follows an alternate timeline from now which is laden with technology. Lion Zorn is an empathy-tracker or em-tracker, who has a heightened ability to empathize which leads to cultural prognostication. He can get a sense for cultural trends and see where they are going before they have gotten there. This does not work on individuals but only on groups. He was a reporter, but now he works with companies to pay the bills by helping the

    “Last Tango in Cyberspace” is an intriguing sci-fi novel, which follows an alternate timeline from now which is laden with technology. Lion Zorn is an empathy-tracker or em-tracker, who has a heightened ability to empathize which leads to cultural prognostication. He can get a sense for cultural trends and see where they are going before they have gotten there. This does not work on individuals but only on groups. He was a reporter, but now he works with companies to pay the bills by helping them em-track.

    Arctic Pharmaceuticals is trying to hire him with some gruesome pictures of a man whose head is mounted on the wall along with the big game he has hunted. Lion Zorn has a particularly empathy for animals and thus has a hard time examining the scene. His gut tells him this is not a case for an em-tracker, but the company is hard to turn down. As he explores the potential case, we explore this world and its new cultures, touching on issues of animal rights and environmental concerns.

    The pacing and style of writing were difficult for me to get into at first. I felt like I could be reading a movie script (and this would make a totally fascinating movie also). Soon, I was completely engulfed in the story. Through Lion, we understand everyone and the many concerns/problems our cultures face. I would highly recommend for fans of movies like Total Recall, Oblivion, and Blade Runner. While this does not take place in the future, it has a similar feel.

    There is a lot of drug use in the book- almost every chapter has one drug or another (most commonly is marijuana). This surprised me, but it certainly impacts the feel of the book and the way things are perceived.

    This was a really intriguing book, and I found the technology and science to be extremely well researched and very fascinating to read about. Notably, in the author’s note at the end, the technology in the book are from things that actually exist or are rumored to exist in labs somewhere. This is probably what made all of it seem much more plausible in terms of realism. The historical and ecological context of the book is also extremely intriguing and gives the story some extra oomph.

    Overall, this is a great new sci-fi book, and I recommend for people who love futuristic stories, mysteries, science, and hints of thrillers. Please note that I voluntarily read and reviewed an ARC which I received from the publisher through netgalley. All opinions are my own.

  • Tonstant Weader

    Last Tango in Cyberspace is a sort “the day after tomorrow” science fiction, taking us just enough into the future to disconcert us and put us off balance, while retaining so much that is familiar. Facebook, Google, Starbucks, Virgin Air, and many other corporations retain their power and influence in this step into the future. The most unfamiliar element of the future is the degree with which bio-hacking has become commonplace. This is not just implanting a credit card chip in your forearm, but

    Last Tango in Cyberspace is a sort “the day after tomorrow” science fiction, taking us just enough into the future to disconcert us and put us off balance, while retaining so much that is familiar. Facebook, Google, Starbucks, Virgin Air, and many other corporations retain their power and influence in this step into the future. The most unfamiliar element of the future is the degree with which bio-hacking has become commonplace. This is not just implanting a credit card chip in your forearm, but more like hacking your brain to potentiate your natural talents.

    Lion Zorn has developed his naturally empathic traits and become an em-tracker, a career as a trend spotter, but on a cultural level. He consults for various people and industries, identifying the next new thing, or more consequentially, the next new movement. He is hired by one of the world’s richest men, the CEO of Arctic Pharmaceuticals, to find someone, a quest that takes him around the globe. Along the way, he also tries to solve the bizarre murder of a big game hunter. “They are hunting the hunters,” he realizes and his past as an animal rights activist informs and fuels his search.

    Steven Kotler drops us right in the story without long explication of how society has changed so the first chapter or two can be a bit disconcerting as readers acclimate, but after that, it’s an exciting thriller with plenty of intriguing characters and potential for a continuing series. Except that is not the point, the point is exploring the power of empathy and its value in saving us, as a species, if we can be saved. Much of the story is concerned obliquely with the rapid extinction of species and our role in it, encouraging greater empathy with nonhuman life on this planet we share. This is important and it’s encouraging to see it become a central theme in a sci-fi thriller.

    The story is weakest when the conversation is used to educate, for example, on how humans became human, why we have values that other primates lack. It’s interesting, but the story is better showing rather than telling. Kotler tries to do this with dialogue, but it’s still telling and becomes a bit didactic, but then Zorn’s favorite book is “Dune” so what do you expect?

    Last Tango in Cyberspace is thought-provoking and well-written. I found myself highlighting so much that was worthy of coming back to think about again. Because of this the reader often confronts opposing needs, wanting to stop and think about what Kotler just wrote and equally wanting to race through the propulsive plot. I generally chose the latter.

    Last Tango in Cyberspace will be released on May 14th. I received an e-galley from the publisher through NetGalley.

    Last Tango in Cyberspace at St. Martin’s Press | Macmillan

    Steven Kotler author site

    ★★★★

  • Lou

    Steven Kotler returns with another unique cyberpunk sci-fi adventure set about five years into our future and explores the intersections of psychology, technology, neuroscience, and ecology with an eye toward realism and the breathless pace of a thriller. Main protagonist Lion Zorn is what makes this enjoyable and kept me reading despite the disjointed and slightly convoluted narrative. He resonated with me in particular because of his quiet, introverted nature. The plot concept is solid and ori

    Steven Kotler returns with another unique cyberpunk sci-fi adventure set about five years into our future and explores the intersections of psychology, technology, neuroscience, and ecology with an eye toward realism and the breathless pace of a thriller. Main protagonist Lion Zorn is what makes this enjoyable and kept me reading despite the disjointed and slightly convoluted narrative. He resonated with me in particular because of his quiet, introverted nature. The plot concept is solid and original with the idea being that Zorn predicts future cultural trends through empathy.

    Much of the technology featured in the book is either in use widely today, in use to some extent or rumoured to be in existence, so this is speculative fiction that isn't so, well, speculative. I know quite a few people have commented on how dense and almost heavy this is to read; I think that's due to the fact that this is a merging of the science fiction and non-fiction genres in the sense that the story is interspersed with tidbits of information on technology and advancement and warnings about it being best to move forward at a slower pace rather than taking one giant leap - it's difficult to disagree with this.

    Last Tango in Cyberspace will not be for every sci-fi nut, but I thoroughly enjoyed it and will reread at a canter rather than a gallop in the not too distant future. Many thanks to St. Martin's Press for an ARC.

  • Tomislav

    I read Steven Kotler’s 2019 near-future thriller “Last Tango in Cyberspace” in trade paperback, which I received as an Advance Reader Copy in the mail, from St. Martin's Press, in a goodreads giveaway. I also received an ebook copy from them through netgalley, in exchange for publishing an honest review on social media platforms (goodreads, bookcrossing, etc.) and on my book review blog. The novel's publication date is expected to be 14 May 2019. It is not part of any form of series, but there a

    I read Steven Kotler’s 2019 near-future thriller “Last Tango in Cyberspace” in trade paperback, which I received as an Advance Reader Copy in the mail, from St. Martin's Press, in a goodreads giveaway. I also received an ebook copy from them through netgalley, in exchange for publishing an honest review on social media platforms (goodreads, bookcrossing, etc.) and on my book review blog. The novel's publication date is expected to be 14 May 2019. It is not part of any form of series, but there are numerous references to Frank Herbert’s

    , which I recommend readers to have previously read, or at least be familiar with. Really, if you haven’t read Dune, you ought to, regardless of this.

    Steven Kotler is an American writer, the author of a number of non-fiction books – futurism, human potential, culture, health – as well as articles in well-respected magazines. This is actually his second novel, the first to be categorized as science fiction. As a reviewer of primarily science and science fiction, I have to report that almost none of the concepts in this book are speculation. Only the synthesized drug known as Sietch Tabor, an extreme empathy enhancer, is total creation. The cover blurbs and even the title imply that this novel is of the cyberpunk subgenre of science fiction, but I think that is misleading. The setting is not even partially in a cybernetic virtual reality, but rather fully in a real reality - albeit one where a lot of psychedelic drugs are used. Thematically, it may even be anti-cyberpunk. What the novel is, is a very stylistic thriller.

    There are aspects of the writing style which I personally find irritating. Numerous sentences and paragraphs which are not actually even sentences. Like this one. Contemporary product and cultural references which surely are transitory and will be obsolete in 5 years. Hits the drugs, sex, and punk rock scene pretty hard. Rasta talk. Take those stylistic trappings away, and what we have is private investigator Lion Zorn chasing down rival conspiracies surrounding a newly designed drug. One of those conspiracies, and the more obvious one, is motivated by the immense profit potential of the drug, and lavish amounts of cash are expended to leverage Lion’s empathy skills to track its formulation down. The other conspiracy is from a unique and innovative perspective, which I will not discuss further to protect from spoilers.

    In the end, while I enjoyed some aspects of the novel, I felt it is probably written for a more cinematic and pop culture audience than myself. More the edgy stepchild of Philip K. Dick, than a William Gibson or Neal Stephenson.

  • Lauren loves llamas

    Content warnings:

    While I went in expecting a cyberpunk, this is definitely more on the thriller end of the spectrum and almost anti-cyberpunk. It’s set in the near future, so while some things are strange, most are familiar. The author also notes that most of the things referenced in the book are things that are either possible now or likely to be possible in the near future. The best I can explain is tha

    Content warnings:

    While I went in expecting a cyberpunk, this is definitely more on the thriller end of the spectrum and almost anti-cyberpunk. It’s set in the near future, so while some things are strange, most are familiar. The author also notes that most of the things referenced in the book are things that are either possible now or likely to be possible in the near future. The best I can explain is that it’s a scifi thriller by way of Dune, animal rights activism, and a ridiculous amount of drugs.

    Lion’s an interesting character. He’s an em-tracker, which means he has expanded empathy to understand not only others feelings and future actions but that of entire subcultures. He’s generally employed by companies to figure out if certain trends have a future – basically, his job is to say either yes or no. When he’s employed by Arctic, a somewhat secretive company led by your typical quirky-but-hip billionaire, he expects it to be just like any other job, but the introduction of a murdered big game hunter makes things personal, and Lion’s left wondering exactly how deep this goes.

    While cyberpunk usually deals with the virtual, this is more focused on reality – Lion’s somehow simultaneously obsessed with digging through surface layers to find what’s real and mind altering substances. I liked the exploration of empathy and how it relates to subcultures, and found the wordbuilding fascinating, if a bit confusing at times, since it seemed very close to the present but with bits tweaked. I’m a big fan of Dune, so I liked how themes from that were introduced into the story, but I wonder if a non-familiar reader would find that confusing. I was also intrigued by how Lion seems to view em-tracking as almost an off-shoot of autism. Lion gets overwhelmed by certain sensory stimuli and basically shuts down – at points, he refers to programming himself with habit loops.

    While I found the premise and ideas behind the story fascinating, the execution itself was more mixed for me. I’m not a fan of the choppy thriller writing style, chockfull of sentence fragments. There’s also a weird mix of excruciating detail (what size coffee he makes every morning) and complete memory lapses (drug induced or em-tracing induced, not even Lion knows which) where chunks of time will pass and then abruptly we’re somewhere else. The combination was a bit jarring and occasionally confusing for me. Additionally, all the female characters are sex symbols, there to be explained at with chunks of info dumping, or as deus ex machina when Lion gets in too far over his head. There’s a bit of a romance, and it was eyerollingly bad from my female point of view. To be fair, though, most of the characters aren’t particularly well fleshed out, though I got a kick out of Lorenzo, Lion’s best friend who communicates with him in Apocalypse Now quotes and plays drums in a fusion band, and Shiz, the rapper who loves Banksy and Dr. Seuss.

    Overall, this read was not really my thing, but it was enjoyable in a weird way. I’ve added a few of Mr. Kotler’s nonfiction works to my TBR as I think they’d be fascinating. If you’re looking for a thriller that’s an exploration of empathy, societal change, and animal rights, and don’t mind a boatload of drug use, you’ll probably enjoy this book!

    I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

  • Jeffrey

    Steven Kotler channels his best William Gibson, in the new sci-fi thriller “Last Tango in Cyberspace”, which plot centers on corporate greed, drugs and eco-terrorism. Unfortunately, Kotler does not completely pull it off. One problem is the meandering plot. Marketed as a thriller, one could wish for more action. Instead, Kotler overindulges in a veritable smorgasbord of near future predictions. From a deep dive into marijuana variants that only Seth Rogan could understand to bar code branded peo

    Steven Kotler channels his best William Gibson, in the new sci-fi thriller “Last Tango in Cyberspace”, which plot centers on corporate greed, drugs and eco-terrorism. Unfortunately, Kotler does not completely pull it off. One problem is the meandering plot. Marketed as a thriller, one could wish for more action. Instead, Kotler overindulges in a veritable smorgasbord of near future predictions. From a deep dive into marijuana variants that only Seth Rogan could understand to bar code branded people to vegan people who are eating grown cultured beef, the novel is full of ideas about the future. And some are interesting. There is a deep dive into animal rights and why people should be more protective. But Kotler tries too hard to fit some of them in. And Kotler also seems to have a fascination with “Dune”, the Frank Herbert, magnum opus, which will play a significant role in the story. Even the title is cited several times in the text, as if the author is trying to convince the reader that the novel is about cyberspace, when in reality it’s mostly about drugs and the cyberspace connection is merely a loose tie-in.

    Judah “Lion” Zorn is an “empathy tracker”, who is able to discern emerging trends in society. Sir Richard, who runs Artic Pharmaceuticals has hired him to track down the leader of a cult, who may have information about a new drug about to hit the market. The drug helps with autism, so Artic’s motives may be good. The problem is that the new drug increases the empathy that people feel for others, including animals. So a noted hunter, who may have taken the drug, is found dead, his head mounted like the other prey he killed on the wall of his trophy room. And there may be cross interests at work. Jenka, who works for Arctic is in charge of “special creatives” is involved. His assistant Penelope, is also a player. The Cult leader will be met on the way but missed but then found again. Arctic Pharmaceuticals motives will, in the best cyberpunk tradition, to be grey at best.

    I found the novel to be a slow slog. It does pick up in the second half, but there is still too much meandering around. There are many sharp science fiction speculative ideas in the story, but digging out the nuggets is not worth the time to discover them.

  • Kerri

    *deep inhale* .... *slow exhale*

    Now... where to begin?

    I just could not get into this book and I feel like there are couple reasons why. Let's go one by one, in order of importance to me.

    First, the characters. I'm one of those people who needs to feel a connect with at least

    of the characters in a story to really appreciate it. I pretty much hated every single char

    *deep inhale* .... *slow exhale*

    Now... where to begin?

    I just could not get into this book and I feel like there are couple reasons why. Let's go one by one, in order of importance to me.

    First, the characters. I'm one of those people who needs to feel a connect with at least

    of the characters in a story to really appreciate it. I pretty much hated every single character in this book. Seriously. All of the characters were just so boring. I feel like I've read about these kinds of characters in a million other books and they just didn't click with me. The only person I found slightly interesting (at first) was Penelope, the rando-love interest, but that interest quickly died. Especially after a certain "twist" near the end. Other than that, I had couldn't have cared less what happened to Lion, our main character, or anyone else involved in this book. Meh.

    Second, the writing style. It just did

    work for me. It seemed so stilted and choppy and just... weird. There were several times were the writing style itself completely took me out of the story because it read like some robot locked in a room had written it. *beepbopboop* "Lion takes the box, the envelope, remembers to say thank you." *beepbopboop* Just... not into it.

    Last, the plot. The plot was the one thing that I could actually get behind in this book. It was interesting and unique. The whole concept of em-tracking and using empathy to, in a sense, predict the future was fascinating! I liked the mystery and the intrigue, as well. A lot of the "twists" were fairly predictable, but it was still an enjoyable ride to the finish. The plot is really the only thing keeping this book at two stars instead of one. So, there's that, I guess.

    All in all, I feel like this book could have done with a little more polish. Develop the characters more, flesh out the story more, and I could have probably gotten past the robotic writing style. In the end, this book just wasn't my cup of tea.

  • Andreas

    I love Steven Kotler. His critical thinking MENSA brain is a tremendous asset for the groundbreaking field of research he has pioneered. He "gets it", his book SUPERMAN that he co-wrote is unbelievable. On top of that he's a surfer.

    However, It's surprising that in this pre cybernetic modern day and age, even if one has access to the latest flow research, hangs out with "elite crowds" in resorts and retreats in the Bay Area, the last thing to be quantified-understood-uploaded-seems to be novel w

    I love Steven Kotler. His critical thinking MENSA brain is a tremendous asset for the groundbreaking field of research he has pioneered. He "gets it", his book SUPERMAN that he co-wrote is unbelievable. On top of that he's a surfer.

    However, It's surprising that in this pre cybernetic modern day and age, even if one has access to the latest flow research, hangs out with "elite crowds" in resorts and retreats in the Bay Area, the last thing to be quantified-understood-uploaded-seems to be novel writing.

    I'm 25 pages in and I got this one for free, I still want my time and money back. I'm so sorry, man.

    Are we in the present? In the present+? I've understood through other reviews that we are in the present+ but where, exactly? It's like reading a diary from a teenager who "pays in crypto", "smokes marijuana cigarettes to access empathy" ... these technologies are not exactly revelatory anymore, not exactly The Matrix here. Then the schloppy Neal Stephenson rip-offs, the plastically constructed characters...

    He tried. It didn't work out. The will for power is strong with this one, but even Mr. Kotler isn't able to pull off the trick to both be a teenager and a sellout at the same time. It just doesn't pass the bullshit test.

    Time to reassess, meditate and if novel writing really is a calling, maybe consider dropping a few of those heavy tools?

    <3

  • Jen Layton

    This book rambles on & on about a lot of everything & nothing. It's like the author was determined to fit every technology that exists in labs or is rumored to exist into the story. The first three quarters of the story was incredibly boring & felt like going in a circle. Lion our main character & empathy tracker seems unable to track much of anything. All he seems to be good at is doing drugs. The character is to high to perceive depth, so high he cannot remember the passage of

    This book rambles on & on about a lot of everything & nothing. It's like the author was determined to fit every technology that exists in labs or is rumored to exist into the story. The first three quarters of the story was incredibly boring & felt like going in a circle. Lion our main character & empathy tracker seems unable to track much of anything. All he seems to be good at is doing drugs. The character is to high to perceive depth, so high he cannot remember the passage of time, so high he cannot remember falling asleep, so high he's not sure if what he is seeing is a hallucination or if it's real, so high... whatever. It seems everyone is an addict in this future.

    There is also a lot to do about animals & how humans are evil meanies to animals. How we shouldn't use animal anything when everything can be made fake. Fake, great, so I guess in the near future we have totally solved our trash problem? 'Last Tango in Cyberspace for Vegans'. BTW, I'm not knocking Vegan's. I have zero issues with anyone who chooses a Vegan lifestyle. My issue is with this awful book.

    How about the details. If you are familiar with Dean Koontz you are then all too familiar with how he will drone on excessively about the sky or weather or some such thing. There are many passages like that in this book, the problem with the majority of them is they make absolutely no sense. They feel completely pointless. Kind of like this book.

    The last quarter of the book is when things finally started to look like they may pick up. References to Temple Gandin & potentially the answers this idiot Lion is supposed to be so good at figuring out. For a tiny bit there it held me, but then back to the drugs & the descriptions. Then the climax or a should say lack of.

    I will never be able to read all the books I want in my lifetime. To think I wasted several days slogging through this mess when I could have been reading something, anything else.

  • Jypsy

    Last Tango in Cyberspace was an unfortunate let down for me. I do like sci fi but not hard sci fi, so this story felt overwhelming and heavy. I was confused and bogged down in the plot. The characters failed to capture my intrest. And, I was bothered and surprised by the frequent drug use. It's a good story for the right reader, but it's not for me. Thanks to NetGalley for an arc in exchange for an honest review.

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