It's nothing. An injection. A prick. No hospital involved. Like a booster shot with added boost.
–Lauren Beukes - Moxyland - c.2008
Set in a fictional, futuristic Cape Town in South Africa Moxyland is a book that I’m somewhat conflicted about. I read Beukes’ Zoo City back in 2012 and really enjoyed it. So much so that I bought this book straight away. But then I never got around to actually reading it. Still, when this year’s Sci-Fi Experience rolled around I knew that would be the perfect reason to get around to some of those sci-fi books that have been languishing on Mount TBR, so I dug around the kindle and found it.
It is told from the perspective of four different characters, with alternating chapters. They don’t all know each other, but their worlds and experiences cross and effect one another’s. The first, Kendra is an art school drop out. She’s a photographer, and has recently been gaining some attention for her old school use of film. This means she is being given the opportunity to be a walking advert for a soft drink company, Ghost. She is injected with nanobots which are supposed to enhance her physical and mental abilities, as well as to prevent illness. Of course, they also mark her with a glowing logo of Ghost to let everyone know who her sponsor is. I think that she was my favourite character.
The other characters include Lerato, an all-grown up AIDs orphan, she is getting on quite well in life. In her professional life she is very successful, but she is still looking for the next opportunity. She is very driven, ambitious, and self-serving. Tendeka is almost her opposite in many respects. He is idealistic and poor. Devoting his life to improving the lot of others, but he isn’t always the smartest at figuring out the motivations of others. The fourth character is Toby, who is basically an asshole. He runs a video blog, streaming content through his coat of all and sundry. He is often the connecting thread between the others.
Just like in Zoo City there is no introductory waffle and set-up, the reader is thrown straight into the world and all the world-building is done through the characters and plot, you barely even notice that a lot of it is there and yet soon enough you know what is going on. Or mostly, because the characters and in the dark a lot of the time, so so are you. Big business and government don’t really want you to know what is going on because knowledge really is power, and we all fear the unknown, so keeping people uncertain is keeping people in fear and so under control.
As I said, this book left me conflicted. For the first half I was quite meh about it all, but by the end I was utterly captivated by it. And I’m not quite sure when that shift happened. The ending is dark though, but then again, so is the story and the themes it is dealing with. It is one that I’d recommend.