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Charlie Human - Apocalypse Now NowHere’s another nice, fresh, and brand new slice of Speculative Fiction from the booming South African SF scene, this time in the shape of Charlie Human’s debut novel; a high-octane Urban Fantasy story called Apocalypse Now Now.

 “I love the smell of parallel dimensions in the morning”

 Baxter Zevcenko is a student at Westside High School in Cape Town. He’s the head of the Spider, as the syndicate dealing in pornography calls itself. The flavours in what pornography is in demand is changing, and the wares are getting weirder; ‘Creature Porn’ is the current hot thing.

Besides being a businessman and entrepreneur in his role for the Spider his life is not going all that well – he has got family problems, his parents are more or less constantly fighting, and he has a disabled brother who is doing a great job in driving him mad; and now Esmé, his girlfriend has disappeared.

 You need know that there is a serial killer on the loose, and now Baxter is a suspect himself, at least for one police officer who investigates him.

 The only person he can find who wants to help him find her, and who claims to be able to, is a ‚Supernatural Bounty Hunter‘ called Jackson Ronin. And with him Bax now learns about all the hidden things in his world which he was not aware of, or didn’t believe in – magic, parallel dimentions, ancient creatures and their gods – it’s all real, it’s all here, and if you know how then you can see it, access it, explore it. You can also, quite easily, end up dead, of course. Or bring about the Apocalypse...

 The story is told in the first person by Baxter; and I quite liked his voice with its mix of introspection contrasting his description of what is happening to the protagonists. This stream of consciousness is interspersed with a number of other areas providing background, or other pieces of the story; like accounts and letters from Baxter’s psychiatrist; but also a parallel thread taking place in a parallel universe (or another time?), mainly around Boers during the war, and their Sieners (hereditary seers); plus a number of faux background articles from magazines and academic journals.

 We have a creation myth, with direct implications on the situation at hand. Not that everything is explained, I actually felt that there were rather a lot of holes in the setup and the backstory, for which I had to suspend disbelief (or at least not reflect too much) to be able to fully enjoy the tale told.

 The same applies to the background to the story which feels, one the one hand, quite well worked out, but on the other not completely logically coherent, even if there is a lot crammed into this story and its setting, which of course makes coherence difficult. There is time travel. There are parallel dimensions, with variant developments, both into the future and the past. There is magic. There are ancient Gods, and their ploys. That he actually makes this work is quite a feat, and it makes for a great tale.

 A lot of the ambience and feel I found to be reminiscent of Zoo City, which might not entirely be a co-incidence. Having Lauren Beukes as friend and mentor cannot have been a hindrance I reckon, given that she’s currently the hottest thing since sliced bread following her break-through from the genre into the general market, and the best-seller lists.

 Although, I presume that Charlie got his contract well in advance of her going stratospheric into the big league with The Shining Girls; this is also fully justified on the strength of the actual offering here – whilst I feel that he still has some work to do to develop his own voice entirely (hey, this is a debut novel after all, let’s cut him some slack) I really rather enjoyed this story, and the way it was told.

So, this is one for your reading pile, or for your Christmas Wish List. And go read some of his short fiction, too, whilst you’re waiting for Christmas to come along (especially the magnificent Dance Dance Revolution)!


More Charlie Human


Title: Apocalypse Now Now

Author: Charlie Human

Reviewer: Markus

Reviewer URL:

Publisher:  Century/Random House

Publisher URL:

Publication Date: Aug 2013

Review Date: 131018

ISBN: 9781780891316

Price: UKP 12.99

Pages: 236

Format: ePub

Topic: Urban Fantasy

Topic: Parallel dimensions


Thanks to the publisher for the review copy.


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