Jul 6, 2009
21 Words or Less: A brilliant debut that paints a harsh but strangely realistic portrait of tomorrow with a grace rarely seen in comparable works.
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Pros: Intriguing ideas, realistic approach, recognizable/relatable characters
Cons: Hands-off approach takes some getting used to early on.
The Review: Reading Moxyland is a lot like watching a painting develop. Early on, when the canvas is mostly blank, it’s difficult to make sense of the individual brush strokes and envision the end result as a cohesive story. Lauren Beukes plunges you into the South Africa of tomorrow without warning, as you follow the lives of Toby, Kendra, Lerato, and Tendeka; four very different twenty-somethings that become entangled in a series of events that will change their lives forever. As each character narrates, you see the interworkings of their future with little explanation or contemplation. While frustrating for the reader at first, the end result is a speculative South Africa that feels more real. When was the last time you thought about how your cell phone worked or delved into the intricacies of xBox Live in your everyday conversation? Those explanations are often a benefit for the reader, but they detract from the authenticity of the story. Beukes manages to riff on the future of communication, video games, corporate sponsorship, modern art, biotechnology, advertisement, crime and punishment, corporate culture, class warfare, government authority, and more, all while remaining within the lives and thoughts of the characters.
Moxyland truly is a Jackson Pollack of ideas, rather than of color. The ideas are everywhere; more often than not intermingling in unpredictable but interesting ways. Cell phones for example, become more than communication devices, becoming wallets, game devices, security keys, and even behavior modifiers (i.e. shock collars). Not having cell phone service in today’s world is an annoyance, in Moxyland disconnection is a form of capital punishment. The ideas come hard and fast, more often than not just giving you just a casual mention or a bit of dialogue to describe an idea another author would frame an entire story around. Becoming a corporate s It’s impossible to tell if one splash of prediction is too much or in the wrong place, but somehow they all seem to fit bizarrely together in a way which is scarily easy to trace back to current trends. It’s a future which is shockingly different yet disconcertingly similar.
In the end, I rated Moxyland 4.5 stars but an uneven 4.5. Early on I was projecting a 3 star book, having difficulty keeping up with the unrelenting flurry of idea after idea. Any book with 4 POV characters is going to take a while to develop, especially within a future setting that might as well be a character on its own. However, once I managed to get acclimated to the unapologetic style with which Beukes conveys her vision of the future, I was captivated for the remainder of the book. I couldn’t put it down and engaged with the world and the characters at the level I expect from a 5-star book. I was afraid that Angry Robot Books had made a mistake; that their flagship novel was a flop. Make no mistake; Moxyland is a work of art.
Posted by Patrick at 7/06/2009 09:27:00 AM