Moxyland by Lauren Beukes
Around the world: 4 of 52 countries (South Africa)
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
You think you know what’s going on? You think you know who’s really in power? You have No. Fucking. Idea. Moxyland is an ultra-smart thriller about technological progress, and the freedoms it removes. In the near future, four hip young things live in a world where your online identity is at least as important as your physical one. Getting disconnected is a punishment worse than imprisonment, but someone’s got to stand up to government inc., whatever the cost.This might be one instance where an audiobook has the potential to lead a reader (listener) into confusion more than reading the print might do. Moxyland is read by Nico Evers-Swindell, best known for his portrayal of Prince William in the made-for-tv movie William & Kate. While he does a good job with the voices and South African accents, the intertwining stories are hard to keep up with, particularly with the way the reader is dumped right into the center of everything already going on.
That's how living in a totalitarian, nearly-post-Apartheid South Africa can be sometimes. The four main characters in Moxyland don't seem to have a grasp of the big picture either, and can hardly keep up with navigating the landscape where your cellphone can punish you, viruses can be used as crowd control, and your body can be turned into an irrevocable product advertisement. There isn't much that is easily discernible as being distinctly South African, except the threads of apartheid that have forever changed the political and interpersonal climate, little turns of phrase like ending a sentence with "good as," and the names. I had read so many Booker nominees and other books set in South Africa, that I really wanted a different experience for this country's pick. Mission accomplished, except it was probably closer to other books I read a lot of, because of the themes.
This has tastes of William Gibson and Cory Doctorow, and the realism is helped by the ten years Beukes spent as a journalist, where she started thinking "What would happen if...?" The world she has created is scary, but not difficult to imagine. After all, some of us are already living it.
Part of this review was cross-posted on SFFAudio.com.