Now THIS is good cyberpunk. Definitely reminiscent of genre classics like Neuromancer and Snow Crash, with the updated tech of contemporary books like Little Brother... but believe me, this ain’t Young Adult. Moxyland, set in future South Africa, has all the hallmarks of a good dystopia: government control, believable surveillance methods, lots of designer drugs, even a virus epidemic. Lauren Beukes is a phenomenal world-builder, and I found her speculation of what the near future will be like both original and convincing. The major concept is that cell phones have become a huge key to everyday life – in addition to the obvious communication, electronic currency is stored on them, they allow entrance to homes, public transit, etc. – and the ultimate punishment for a citizen is to be disconnected and become one of society’s untouchables. There are lots of other future inventions that are clear extrapolations of what is currently possible with today’s technology in here, too.
I found the pacing to be excellent and it was a real page-turner. However, reviewers here seem very divided. Maybe I can help.
You won’t like this book if:
- You dislike stories told from alternating points-of-view.
The novel is narrated by four main characters: Tendeka, a gay, overly-idealistic, militant activist who lost his brother to drugs and is determined to save other young street kids; Toby, a spoiled brat junkie who has been cut off from the family funds for the last time and obsessively streamcasts his everyday life to online fans; Kendra, an art school dropout photographer who has “sold out” and has the worst taste in men ever; and Lerato, girl genius and programmer extraordinaire, who has climbed the corporate ladder but desperately wants out. Chapter titles indicate which character is narrating, and it’s all told in first-person present tense.
- You only like “nice” characters.
These guys are all seriously flawed and most of them are pretty hateable. This isn’t to say they’re not relatable – it’s just that they each probably personify what you dislike most about yourself and sometimes it’s hard to look in the mirror. It's like remembering what you were like as a snotty teenager. Come to think of it, I probably would have loved this even more if I had read it when I was a snotty teenager.
- Future slang annoys you.
There’s a lot of it in here, and no glossary a la A Clockwork Orange either.
- You’re sensitive to violence and/or gore.
There are some pretty graphic and disturbing parts, especially near the end.
Fortunately, I like all of these things, so yay. Hopefully you do too. I’ll definitely be picking up Beukes’ other novel, Zoo City, though I hear it is very different.