First published in April of 2008, Lauren Beukes’s debut novel ‘Moxyland’ saw the Cape Town based TV scriptwriter and occasional journalist putting together a full length novel into the extremely competitive gritty-urban-sci-fi market place, with a novel set in a dystopian not-too-far-off future.

DLS Synopsis:
In Cape Town, the year is now 2018 and society is ruled by the subtly oppressive government that rules its quietly guided people alongside the all-powerful corporate body of a massive commercial enterprise.  Technology has taken on numerous advancements within the everyday lives of this commercially driven western culture.

And here, amongst and within this urban jungle four young individuals carry on with their lives in the only way they know how.

Kendra, a young art-school dropout, pushing forwards with an inspiring and emotionally charged career in artistic photography that is soon to become extremely lucrative.  After signing up to become one of the first ‘lifestyle branded’ individuals, her immune system is given a nano-technological-booster as a reward.  And then before she knows it the up-and-coming artist is thrust into the limelight after exhibiting alongside the ‘Damien Hurst’ of the future – Khanyi Nkosi.

Next up is outrageously over-the-top, socially dysfunctional (in a mainstream sense), drug-taking techno-addict, Toby.  His offensive and out-and-out in your face webcasts are becoming more of a hit each day with the emotionally deprived and culturally bored youth.  His reporting techniques are vague and take somewhat of a second place to that of a general commentary on society.  In being exactly who he is, Toby has managed to meet up with (and become on the outskirts of joining) a small and disorganised terrorist organisation whose mission is to disrupt the government and corporate powers that run their lives.

Tendeka is one of the guys behind this shoddy terrorist organisation.  His quiet homosexuality overshadows the lingering elements of his previous failed marriage.  Although he firmly believes he is fighting for a justified and righteous cause, he still maintains a general air of violence and rebellion that lacks any conviction towards a mature defiance against the oppressive authority.  His ‘inspirational’ speeches rallying the troupes are a haphazard affair at best.  However, he is passionate about the cause and is ready to die for his beliefs.

Last but by no means least is Lerato, the only one of the group who has accepted the corporate lifestyle and is actually becoming quite successful within the highly competitive computer programming / software analyst market.  However, Lerato has a wild side that has brought her into contact with Toby; which in turn ultimately leads her to providing favours involving corporate sabotage for Tendeka.

However, when Tendeka is pushed further and further into acting out higher profile terrorist attacks on the streets of the city, there is only one reaction that can be expected by the government – a total clamp down and investigation into the perpetrators.  Each and every one of these young adults are about to have their otherwise mundane lives turned upside-down within the next few desperate days.  And it will finally be time for them to face the reality that they've been ignoring all their lives...

DLS Review:
With a vast wealth of intelligent and inspired forethought put into predicting the technological advancements and social changes (such as the fashionable changes in dialogue), Beukes has created a novel that, if nothing else, is highly believable in its futuristic likelihood.  Ideas such as the ‘contact pen’ which has minute barbs on its grip to extract DNA from the holder, which is then mixed in with the ink in order to include a DNA fingerprint on the user's signature.  Another is Toby’s ‘BabyStrange’ coat that projects a slideshow of whatever changeable images he wants on the outer-fabric (often a distasteful choice with Toby).

The tale is predominately character driven, with the chapters changing the first-person-perspective from one principal character to the next, throughout the entirety of the novel.  However, this fragmented approach staggers the storyline into a disjointed and reasonably slow paced affair.

The character of Toby delivers some much needed comical relief to the otherwise heavy-handed approach that has been adopted to emphasizing the cultural and technological advancements on show.  On the other hand, Lerato is an instantly likeable character who is by far and away the most intriguing of them all.

As the storyline gradually builds towards what is now surely the most inevitable conclusion, Beukes delivers a finale which is initially somewhat expected and then quietly peters out the rest of the tale.  This is a surprising ending for a book that has been hell-bent on forcing its over-the-top messages and ideas upon the reader.

Although an attempt was obviously made at tapping into some form of emotional response during the final pages of the book, Beukes certainly overestimates the connection the reader has with the characters involved, leaving instead, just a shallow show of character-and-plot-interaction and little else.

All in all, the novel is as disappointing as it is inspiring.  The sheer obvious amount of thought that has gone in to creating this all-too-realistic future is a joy to envisage.  However, this cannot support a whole novel and the obvious overburdence put on this aspect of the book becomes tedious within a short space of time.

The book also contains a four page insight by the author into the writing and possible reality of the novel.  The book further includes some annoyingly ‘want-to-be-street’ stencil designs for spreading the word of Moxyland via urban graffiti.

The novel itself runs for a total of 304 pages.

 © DLS Reviews

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