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Posted by Dan Smyth On Wednesday, September 21, 2011

It’s not often that I let go and enjoy a book just for the ride. I’m more of an intensive reader, who looks for what he wants, enjoys it when it’s there, and complains when it’s not. Simple. Cut and dry. But there’s that something other that comes along every once in a while and just grabs you. There’s something about it. It’s got class. It’s got style. It’s got “Moxy”, kid.

MOXYLAND is Lauren Beukes' first novel, and if you’ve been hiding under a rock somewhere (like I feel sometimes) you might not know that she missed getting the Campbell for best new writer this last year by just a hair. MOXYLAND was a very interesting novel for me. Not only is it Science Fiction, but it’s told through four separate first-person viewpoints. This would normally be a tough row for anyone to handle, but Beukes pulls it off really well.

Kendra, Lerato, Toby, and Tendeka are all young hipsters living in a near future South Africa where technology bumps a go-go and the Government rules with an electronic fist. Everyone’s wired up through their cell phones, and the cops use that to full effect. Screw up once? They tase you hard. Want more? Cell phone privileges revoked, and then it’s game over for you, because on-line presence is so important to the life of the future. The world Beukes has painted for us is filled with internal nano-tech, and viral crowd-control, and bit of the Big Brother a-la 1984. People have become advertisements and sports coats broadcast your picture gallery of choice. Right from the get go, we’re dropped into the middle of this nitty-gritty, chaotic landscape, with street slang tossed like hot popcorn through the air. It’s so hard to just not be dragged into this novel with eyes wide and fingers itching to turn the page.

The pacing of the book was fast and even, with most of the forward plot progression dealing with the efforts of Toby and Tendeka to put one over on the Big Man Government. They’re the street-level rebels that don’t like how they’ve been treated, and can’t handle the fact that the Government has all this power over them. Anything they and their pack of friends can do to throw a finger in their direction, while staying below the radar of the police, is on the agenda for the day. Lerato is Toby's buddy, a brilliant programmer that plays occasionally to the tune of her friends and hacks the corporate firewalls through dangerous backdoors. And Kendra, the art-school dropout, gets caught up in the middle of everything.

As with most first-person viewpoints done well, characterization is great. Each of the four players came across to me as complicated and full. They’re in the middle of their lives, the middle of their story. No farm boys here. No little girls waking up from eternal sleep to find a new world surrounding them. This was one of the most engaging things about this book for me. It was immersive in a way that I have only very seldom found. At the same time though, the multiple viewpoints did take a bit of getting used to. Three of the main characters sounded really similar to one another, with Lerato standing out. The others got a bit muddled for me at first, and only after a while became distinct enough for me to differentiate between them. Regardless, each was easy to read and immediately engaging. Really impressive all, especially given that this is Beukes debut novel.

The piece that kept this novel from being great in my mind is a complete, finished story. The end really left me wanting. There’s a big twist for one character, and a very literal ending for another, but there wasn’t a whole lot that really left me feeling satisfied when it was all said and done. The book is fairly short as it is. I would have liked to see more of the story. More of the world. I wasn’t ready for it to be done. So give it up for Lauren, peoples. She’s definitely one to keep on the radar. Check this book out.

Recommended age: 16+
Language: Some, but not a lot
Violence: Fighting with cops, but nothing gory
Sex: A couple scenes, but they're quick with little detail

Lauren Beukes' Website
Moxyland Website


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