I loved Zoo City – read my review here – so when the opportunity to read Moxyland came along, I couldn’t resist. Would it live up to the punchy writing, memorable style and unique South African setting and flavour Beukes treated us to in the amazing Zoo City?
Those of you who have read this book won’t be surprised that there isn’t a blurb – it is set in South Africa in a dystopian near future in multiple viewpoints – Kendra, Toby, Tendeka and Lerato. They are all wannabes – Lerato is a computer whizz who managed to land a much-prized job within one of the all-powerful corporations, but feels restless ; Toby is a poor little rich boy who messes around on the edge of whatever is cool – I found his sardonic and outrageous self-absorption by far the most entertaining voice; Kendra has agreed to be a Sponsor Baby – injected with a substance to make her an ambassador for the drink Ghost; and Tendeka who is disgusted with rampant capitalism and unfairness in the system and wants to overthrow it… It’s a big ask to successfully write a narrative with four viewpoint characters, giving each one clearly different traits – yet keeping the reader sufficiently bonded so one character’s story doesn’t end up constantly being skim-read to get back to a favourite. While I didn’t end up doing this, I did find Tendeka fairly repellent from early on.
However Beukes’ writing is so rich and entertainingly different, I simply allowed the story to unfold while wallowing in the sheer inventiveness of the world unpeeling through these four characters. While normally I’m conscious of pacing and story progression – diving into Moxyland was such an immersive experience, many of these considerations didn’t seem to matter all that much… It was much the same feeling I encountered when reading Zoo City, and also Eric Brown’s memorable book, Engineman – the world depicted has such a strong vibe going on, it takes centre stage.
I do think Beukes manages to produce a more polished storyline – and certainly a more convincing ending in Moxyland, than in Zoo City. I certainly didn’t see the end coming and it was a shock – once I’d recovered, it was fascinating to see who walked away from the apocalyptic climax. And who didn’t…
If you love your science fiction served with a large side order of engrossing cool gismos in a completely different, complex world and you haven’t yet encountered Beukes’ work, then hunt down Moxyland – and Zoo City. I won’t guarantee that you’ll be left with a very clear memory of the plot, but her worlds and some of her characters will lodge inside your head for a long time to come. There really isn’t anyone else who writes quite like her.