Sci-fi set in futuristic Cape Town

2008-07-16 00:00

“Corrupting governments with their own agendas, politicians building social controls and access passes and electroshock pacifiers into the very technology we need to function day to day, so you’ve no choice but to accept the defuser in your phone or be barred from certain parts of the city because you don’t have clearance.”

This is Moxyland, a futuristic look at Cape Town where the government controls individuals through their cellphones, and the world of nano-tech rules.

Lauren Beukes’s debut novel was part of her University of Cape Town Masters in Creative Writing programme and her tutor André Brink says that this work, “like Clockwork Orange, has the makings of a cult success”. He would say that, wouldn’t he? But his bias aside, Moxyland is fast-paced, smart and sassy enough to capture the techno-soaked younger generation. It’s subzero cool.

There’s Kendra who chooses to be implanted with a mutation-inducing robotic microbe. Unlike the many other anti-aging nano-techs being used by those who can afford it, this one reacts like a rush of high-class cocaine every time she drinks the sponsor’s drink — Ghost. It also has a few side effects. Pity the sponsors only tell you about the good ones.

Then there’s Toby, an anarchic young man who bemoans his Motherbitch who is always on his case. He walks around the post-apocalyptic Cape Town wearing a BabyStrange, a coat which displays images he records and pod-casts to select websites and, when possible, to the whole city. His aim is to get a thrill a minute, and so he lives on the edge, either in virtual reality, or with his subversive friends.

Tendeka is an altruist at heart. He’s founded a company to help the street kids but seldom gets enough funding to make a real difference in their lives. His sideline is to subvert the government and corporates, and he always seems to be in the wrong place at the right time.

Lerato is an “Aidsbaby” who grew up with her sisters in an Eskom orphanage. She works for Comminque dealing with the non-stop stream on information authorised by the city. She’s also learned a handy sideline in hacking.

Moxyland is cleverly written, and there’s a lot to admire. It’s a must-read for those raised on virtual reality.

Janet van Eeden

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