What I remember most about Geek Mafia, the first book in this series, was how much fun it was. I went into without many expectations, and found it to be entertaining, exciting, and giddy with its own purpose. I remember it being tight and compelling, and even at the time, I hoped that there would be future books in the series, or at least more by Dakan.
Mile Zero is one of those future books, and I'm surprised with how different it feels. The crew from Geek Mafia is now living on Key West, running smaller scams to keep up their lifestyle, and basically living the Key West lifestyle. It's still entertaining, but it lacks that fun factor that the first book had. It has a good chunk of the same characters in it, but somehow they lack depth. The conversations they have seem trite and forced (no joke: a good portion of the dialogue at the beginning of the book is a lot of "Hey, looking good!", "No, man, you're the money!", and "Where's the party?" type of stuff that doesn't add a thing to the story), and as a result, they don't feel fleshed out. In fact, they feel like they're just caricatures of their previous selves. There was an attempt to bring out Paul and Chloe's relationship with a subplot where they argue over the business and their future, but it, too, felt forced.
The story took a little while to get going, as Dakan seemed to have a hard time deciding whether he wanted to give attention to the story or the Key West lifestyle. At the start of the book, the narrative flipped between the two, and I had a hard time getting a handle on where the story was headed. Luckily, the story gained ground, and by the time I was about a third of the way through the book, I knew I was in it for the long haul, despite some of my reservations. It just wasn't what I was expecting, based on how high my expectations were after having read the first book.
I also got distracted from the story by a few copy-editing issues. I'm accustomed to quotations using double-quotes for the main dialogue, and then single-quotes for dialogue within the dialogue, but this publisher kept using double-quotes. Plus, I'm also accustomed to paragraphs of dialogue not having an end-quote at the end of a paragraph, but then picking up with another start-quote at the next one. It's a good indication of when someone is still speaking, or when one character is speaking a monologue. The publisher didn't use this convention, closing off all paragraphs with double-quotes, and several times in the story, I lost track of who was speaking because I kept thinking someone else was part of the dialogue. Given that the book is basically a heist story, with a lot of people talking at length about how things would go down, it was more than just one occasion where this took me out of the story.
Overall, though, I thought it was entertaining enough to have been worth the read. The idea of following a bunch of techie anti-heroes as they try to make their way through the world is strangely compelling, and I'm looking forward to reading the last book in this series. Based on what I know of it, Mile Zero will segue directly into Black Hat Blues, so for a change, reading the books back-to-back will be more in my favor.