Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Moxyland - a scary vision of the near future

The first few pages are always heady. The author invites you into the world he or she has created - will you like it or loathe it? Will it be convincing or confusing?

Lauren Beukes has created the latest in a line of dystopian visions. In part, we have the violent control of Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four; but the underlying culture is closer to Huxley's Brave New World or even Jennifer Government by Max Barry. And for more commentary, see Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman or How Should We Then Live? by Francis Schaeffer.

It has a harder edge - commentators have muttered things like "Post-cyberpunk". I dodged Coupland, though I think he was recommended to me, so I can't really judge. But Beukes has certainly captured the zeitgeist and sharpened it. It is a world of recreational drugs, sex and sexuality, where corporations act as they see fit with little regard for the law - or more accurately, pretty much as the law - where the rich have got richer, and the poor have got poorer but have been rendered pretty much impotent through being disenfranchised.

We meet four characters, whose lives intersect - Kendra, Toby, Lerato and Tendeka. All have issues with the status quo on one level or another. From the history of dystopic worlds, we know that this is not a good situation to be in. Will they survive? Can they learn to love Big Brother? Or can they overthrow him?

This is good SF - the extrapolations are all too real, all too obviously deriving their heritage from the world we see around us. The language is - well, put it this way, if you are going to have a problem with the "F" word, I wouldn't recommend this book (even so, I think it's not a bad idea to get it off the cover ...). But the book should take an honourable place in the catalogue of dystopian visions.

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