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Lauren Beukes MoxylandLauren Beukes is a South African writer, journalist, and scriptwriter. Moxyland is her first fiction novel, her second one (Zoo City) is due out this month, which would explain why Moxyland was given away a promo copies at this year's Eastercon (UK national SF Convention). She also has a non-fiction book (Maverick) to her name.

Moxyland is told in 4 threads, each of them following a protagonist as they move through a (dystopian?) near-future South Africa.
We have Kendra, a photographer and rising Artist. She works on old, decaying analogue stock, which leads to a further layer in her art from the sometimes damaged film stock. She has just been selected as a 'Ghost Baby', a (corporate-marketing) representative for the introduction of a new soft drink; all Ghost Babies are up-and-coming, hip bright stars.
Toby is a Punk, in attitude if not in attire. He's a drop-out, a wanna-be streamcaster, wearing a BabyStrange (a coat covered in recording equipment, and playing video). He's a menace, the kind of person you want to punch into next week once in a while (and Ten does so, at one point). And a serial seducer, which gives him access to areas and resources which would normally be closed to him.

Tendeka (short Ten) is a political activist. He runs a youth club, a football club, is married to a refugee (despite being gay) whose residency depends on this. And he's behind a long-running series of sabotage acts against corporate advertising boards.
Lerato is a programmer, and a corporate citizen with all the amenities and mod cons this brings. Through Toby (guess what the connection here is) she aids Ten with his sabotage acts. She's an Aids Orphan, desperately on the way up, and habitually hacking her employer's environment to that end.

Each of those have their own voice, their own language, and their own (and very different) motivation to be involved in what is happening, and for their association with the other players. The book is told in chapters which tell the story, sequentially, from each of the character's view points (i.e. there is no overlap – that bit is quite neatly executed by Lauren).

The most interesting part of the book is the (very much recognizable) near-future society described – everything is handled through mobiles: money, access control (including buildings and flats), tickets on transport etc. The phones also contain a 'defuser' – essentially a taser which can be activated by the Police and other agencies. Nice, isn't it just? And not having a phone means you're a have-not who cannot go anywhere, and has to exist in the margins of society; so Disconnection is a major threat of punishment.
Besides the mobiles we get other tech – mainly nano-technology, both for modified police dogs ('Aitos') and in healthcare, as creams or injections. The latest development is nano-healthcare which interacts with consumer products – Kendra NEEDS to drink a Ghost at regular intervals…
South Africa has developed back into a two-tier, segratated society; this times it's the corporate haves (with access to technology, separate transport systems, health care), and the have-nots. The overall effect is scary, or, as one reader put it: "our very own bright and shiny dystopia is only ever one totalitarian government away". Gulp.

The book itself is achingly hip, or at least tries to be, in topic, language, references etc. This jars frequently, and, together with the uneven pacing and the frequently rather 2D characters rather spoiled my reading enjoyment. Her writing works much better when she just spins her yarn, and lets the story unravel itself; at such moments the book rolls along and pulls you in.
The book is a mixed bag, but definitely a promise for the future (well, Zoo City should be out by the time you read this, so give it a look!). A writer with a good feel for language – if she ups her game then she'll be one to look out for.

Title: Moxyland
Author: Lauren Beukes
Reviewer: Markus
Reviewer URL: http://thierstein.net
Publisher: Angry Robot
Publisher URL: http://www.bookarmy.com/angryrobot
Publication Date: 2009
Review Date: 100423
ISBN: 9780007323890
Price: UKP 7.99
Pages: 304
Format: Trade Paperback
Topic: SF
Topic: Slice of Life


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