Novel: Moxyland by Lauren Beukes

Hot damn! Moxyland (2008) by Lauren Beukes is a fast-paced, slangy, idea-rich near future SF novel set in South Africa, and it’s a remarkably assured debut that pushed all my plotty, futurismic buttons. The novel follows four young protagonists through the radically altered future streets of Cape Town. Kendra is a young retro photographer who’s been injected with an experimental nanotech treatment; Toby is a walking reality TV show, promiscuous and opportunistic, looking to make a media splash; Tendeka is an idealistic anti-corporate activist with shady online connections; and Lerato is a savvy hacker working the corporate system from the inside.

These four characters’ lives intertwine slickly in a brisk, eyeball-kicky read that mashes up headline-ripping speculative tropes in a thoroughly satisfying comic conspiracy thriller. Its ingredient list, stirred chaotically by its rebellious young cast, includes all manner of nifty, vivid speculative elements: intrusive street advertising, real-world gaming, the surveillance society, nanotech, ubiquitous consumer electronic IDs, guerrilla PR stunts, bio-art, media sensationalism, corporate manipulation, and on and on. The scenario is bursting with ideas and vividly realized, and despite a rather scattershot early feel as it ricochets from one viewpoint to another, it’s definitely a novel with a plan, executed with enviable deftness. The message is dark, but delivered with enthusiasm and wit. Inventive, exciting, crafty, smart stuff; much looking forward to her next. Loved this book.

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