Lauren Beukes' sci-fi 'Moxyland' is set in an Orwellian society controlled by powerful corporations and a militaristic government which uses cellphones to control the populous. The location: Cape Town 2018.
This debut novel is a breath of fresh air in what is often a stagnant South African literary scene. Beukes dares to look forward instead of backwards and the result is a high-octane, techno-savvy thriller that manages to deliver social commentary in a vehicle that is indubitably hip.
In a word, it's fantastic.
In a world where the best real estate is owned and controlled by corporations and the government clamps down on dissents with genetically modified dogs, there are still hints of the familiar ? Daily Voice headlines, glue-sniffing street kids, Eskom blackouts and Stones pool hall.
Clever slang and techno-jargon bring to life a society in which the distinction between virtual and real worlds is blurred and people have become so dependant on technology that the threat of a disconnect (having your phone disconnected) is tantamount to being left destitute.
In this surreal landscape four narrators vie for our attention. Kendra is an art school dropout, who signs up to brand herself for a nanotech marketing programme because of her fear of cancer. Lerato is an ambitious loner, who plots to defect from her cushy job and corporate employers. Toby, a druggie, spends his time stream-casting his mundane existence through a fancy coat, while Tendeka dreams desperately of becoming a struggle hero.
Cleverly crafted, the novel sets the four on a collision course which will change each of their lives irrevocably, but which ultimately has little effect on the tightly controlled society.
Beukes takes us into a world where individual rights have been sacrificed on the altar of consumerism and we emerge not quite convinced that we have left her hellish dystopia on the pages of 'Moxyland'.