Tuesday, March 16, 2010

[Review] "Moxyland" by Lauren Beukes

It is Angry Robot Marathon here on Temple Library Reviews, so I am bringing you the whole coverage from A to Z. This is why I am bringing back a review from the past: 'Moxyland' by Lauren Beukes, which remains a recommended and quite captivating read.


Title: "Moxyland"
Lauren Beukes
Pages: 308
Genre: Cyberpunk

Standalone/Series: Standalone

Publisher: Angry Robot

What you can expect: A colorful glimpse in a future not too distant from our grasp and yet a bit unpleasant and perhaps even uncomfortable for our present notions how our society could evolve in the short span of ten years.

Pros: A social critique at today’s fascination and manic attachment to popular trends in not only technological products, but brands as a whole, which I think is refreshing to finally see expressed in a more updated version. I like the author’s style as it conveys a certain sugary high and fizzy quality that crackles and pops in your mind.

Cons: What bothered me a bit is the purposelessness the first half of the novel presented. Apart from minor interactions between just two characters in the beginning I had to guess how all the POV characters’ lives intertwined, which was revealed on a later stage. The feel of a bigger plot frame was missing and ‘Moxyland’ read as a slice-of-life, which is not a flaw on its own, just not what I expected.

Summary: What's really going on? Who's really in charge? You have NO. F***KING. IDEA. Moxyland kicks the door in on the techno-corporate conspiracy that's out to get us...and our freedom. In the near future, an art-school dropout, an AIDSbaby, a tech-activist and a RPG-obsessed blogger 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.

Characters: As I have already hinted “Moxyland” is divided upon four characters, two men and two women, all in their twenties. From a more psychological approach I have spotted the four modern personality archetypes that these characters represent, which fits the sociological profile of the novel.

Toby is the amoral slacker, who practices a hedonistic approach towards life and as such has involved in a world of drugs and video game hacking. Responsibility is a foreign concept for him and the world is a joke. In brutal contrast, Tendeka has taken upon his shoulders the world’s weight and in his feverish attempts to reform society into a fairer mould risks his life as well as of those, whom he tries to aid.

Kendra is the misfit, art school dropout without an exact idea how lead her life. In that regard she goes with the flow and in order to achieve her artistic goals as a photographer becomes a living advertisement via nanotechnology. Lerato on the other hand has her life planned out and with her genius level programming skills has cemented her future. Highly sexual and predatory she enjoys shadow games and out of sheer boredom undermines the corporation that secures her financial stability.

As far as the characters go, although the general blueprint sounds exciting and promises a rollercoaster ride with the protagonists, I can’t help but feel that Beukes couldn’t exactly bring her characters to a finish. The individuality that each protagonist has to possess is missing and each voice overlaps the other. Mild nuances in behavior aside I struggled to keep up with POV changes. This in turn steals away from the overall effect of the story, which as a further result created this inability to establish a connection with the protagonists and care for their life.

The Story: I have to say that the future Lauren Beukes envisions excited me, the world bedazzled me and the cyberpunk vibes buzzed my brain like a sour cherry. Beukes’ style is electric and evocative, which instantly puts her on my watch list of authors. I realize that “Moxyland” is a debut and as such there are bound to be kinks and reading is not always a smooth experience, but there is a foreign and enticing quality to Lauren Beukes, which draws me in.

Her prose aside I enjoyed her world building decisions as well. Perhaps I am a bit archaic in my world view, but I don’t find it natural the way new gadgets that storm the market reach the status of essential necessities like nourishment and rest. People can’t cope without their cells, their iPhones or Blackberries. A day without Internet access seems ludicrous and as much as I resent dependency upon technology, I find myself in the same position. What Beukes does is simply take this new mentality and set of morals and expand upon them, creating a future where disconnection from the service makes you no better than a homeless person. As of right now I feel as if people put a lot more effort into their virtual persona [as in updating MySpace, Facebook profiles and blogging and posting on message boards], so it’s completely plausible to reach a stage, where one’s online identity tops in importance you physical one. In the same vein we already have living advertisements in the face of celebrities, who market designer clothes and jewelry. It only seems natural to progress upon that and infuse machine with a human host for a permanent finish.

The Verdict: In this light the ideas developed in “Moxyland” serve both as a critique of our tendency to lose our senses around the next best thing without much thought and as a warning where this addiction to technology might lead. The novel itself could have hit harder, since Beukes’ experience as a journalist shines through as well as her natural ability to bring cities to life, which is the case with Cape Town. However the strange pacing and the still not enough fleshed out characters dampen the impact upon the reader. Nevertheless, 'Moxyland' is a highly enjoyable read and is certainly worth devoting your time to.


The Mad Hatter said...

I agree with most of your sentiments. I was actually a bit harsher on the book because I thought it could have been so much better, but the characters just weren't there.

BTW I like the new design.

Harry Markov: daydream said...

I read your review too and used it as an anchor to clear my head and sort my thoughts, but was too busy to sit down and comment.

I agree that this had potential in the hands of a more experienced author, but still not a bad book.

And thanks I like it myself as well. :)

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