Now THIS is good cyberpunk. Definitely reminiscent of genre classics like Neuromancer and Snow Crash, with the updated tech of contemporary books likeNow THIS is good cyberpunk. Definitely reminiscent of genre classics like Neuromancer and Snow Crash, with the updated tech of contemporary books like Little Brother... but believe me, this ain’t Young Adult. Moxyland, set in future South Africa, has all the hallmarks of a good dystopia: government control, believable surveillance methods, lots of designer drugs, even a virus epidemic. Lauren Beukes is a phenomenal world-builder, and I found her speculation of what the near future will be like both original and convincing. The major concept is that cell phones have become a huge key to everyday life – in addition to the obvious communication, electronic currency is stored on them, they allow entrance to homes, public transit, etc. – and the ultimate punishment for a citizen is to be disconnected and become one of society’s untouchables. There are lots of other future inventions that are clear extrapolations of what is currently possible with today’s technology in here, too.
I found the pacing to be excellent and it was a real page-turner. However, reviewers here seem very divided. Maybe I can help.
You won’t like this book if:
- You dislike stories told from alternating points-of-view. The novel is narrated by four main characters: Tendeka, a gay, overly-idealistic, militant activist who lost his brother to drugs and is determined to save other young street kids; Toby, a spoiled brat junkie who has been cut off from the family funds for the last time and obsessively streamcasts his everyday life to online fans; Kendra, an art school dropout photographer who has “sold out” and has the worst taste in men ever; and Lerato, girl genius and programmer extraordinaire, who has climbed the corporate ladder but desperately wants out. Chapter titles indicate which character is narrating, and it’s all told in first-person present tense.
- You only like “nice” characters. These guys are all seriously flawed and most of them are pretty hateable. This isn’t to say they’re not relatable – it’s just that they each probably personify what you dislike most about yourself and sometimes it’s hard to look in the mirror. It's like remembering what you were like as a snotty teenager. Come to think of it, I probably would have loved this even more if I had read it when I was a snotty teenager.
- Future slang annoys you. There’s a lot of it in here, and no glossary a la A Clockwork Orange either.
- You’re sensitive to violence and/or gore. There are some pretty graphic and disturbing parts, especially near the end.
Fortunately, I like all of these things, so yay. Hopefully you do too. I’ll definitely be picking up Beukes’ other novel, Zoo City, though I hear it is very different. ...more
I actually enjoyed this one more than I expected to. I thought it would be a total novelty act like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and others of thatI actually enjoyed this one more than I expected to. I thought it would be a total novelty act like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and others of that ilk (none of which I've read or have any desire to), but it's actually pretty clever. It's definitely its own story that borrows from the original Cinderella tale at times but completely differs in other parts.
It's certainly entertaining, but far from perfect. For one, Meyer's foreshadowing is extremely heavy handed so every turn of the plot was totally predictable. (Come on, who didn't call (view spoiler)[Cinder actually being Princess Selene from about the very first time she's mentioned (hide spoiler)]?) Weak character development in some cases, including a total cardboard-cutout villainess. The world building could also use a stronger foundation -- I had quite a few plot hole-y WTF questions. Like (view spoiler)[If the Lunars are all so afraid of mirrors, why do they apparently have them? Just to conveniently place on dinner plates and have immediately identifiable by special runes so the royals know they're being tested? That seems like a stretch... (hide spoiler)]. Also, the ending was completely unsatisfying. It wasn't quite a cliffhanger, but I would really appreciate a little more conclusion to the story than that whether or not there are more books in the series.
I will most likely read the next one, though. If nothing else, it was a nice bit of fluff.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Despite a little bit of a slow start, I actually really enjoyed the first quarter of this. We’ve got a crazyThis is the most tedious apocalypse ever.
Despite a little bit of a slow start, I actually really enjoyed the first quarter of this. We’ve got a crazy military expedition to the jungles of Bolivia, scientists fucking shit up, and secret agent men kidnapping little girls from crazy nuns. Oh, and a mutant virus outbreak that kills everyone. Cool.
It goes downhill from there. Just as the novel is picking up steam, Cronin decides to jump ahead in time to a group of colonists going about their day-to-day nearly one hundred years after the apocalypse. BOR-ING. It wouldn’t be so bad except that the whole thing is so inconsistent. The major storyline is a good one, and there are definitely some exciting parts, but these are few and far between with hundreds of pages of nothing in the middle. Cronin splits the book into so many parts that it just feels all over the place. He sure likes to use commas, too – I thought I was bad, but some of his sentences go on for about half a page.
Cronin sprinkles in various epistolary bits which he probably thinks spice up the narrative, but are actually unbearably repetitive and bored me to tears. If you just spent a chapter describing things in real-time, you don’t then need to spend the next chapter describing these exact same events in italicized diary entries from the point of view of a minor character. It’s redundant. There also seemed to be very little dialogue throughout the book, and when there was dialogue Cronin threw in the worst future slang I’ve read since Feed -- and I actually liked that book. “Flyers”? Seriously? And what’s with calling babies and kids “Littles”? With a capital L? Also dumb.
My biggest problem with this book has to do with the characters. There are about 500 major characters, and most of them are never given any descriptive traits or identifiers, preventing me from picturing them in my head and keeping them all straight. Every time a character was mentioned, it took me about 5 minutes to figure out, “Oh, that’s the one who is in love with that other chick whose brother killed that one dude 200 pages ago”. This seriously disrupted my reading, as you can imagine. Furthermore, none of the characters are really fleshed out due to there being so many of them. Cronin seems to have tried to make the characters “real” by making them flawed, but most of the characters are made up entirely of flaws and have no redeeming factors. The whole story is ostensibly about Amy, but we’re never even told anything about her –and not in an “oh, she is a mysterious enigma!” way, but in a “why should I even care?” way.
I kept hoping this book would redeem itself in the end, but the ending sucked too. It just kind of... stopped. Actually I think there was a decent ending in there, but then Cronin kept writing for another hundred pages. Oh well. I hear this is supposed to be a trilogy, but I won’t be picking up the others....more
I was hoping for an explicitly feminist young adult dystopia here, maybe an updated The Handmaid's Tale for the younger crowd. Something empowering, tI was hoping for an explicitly feminist young adult dystopia here, maybe an updated The Handmaid's Tale for the younger crowd. Something empowering, that assured teen girls that yes, sexuality is sometimes complicated, and exploring it is okay if you want to, and waiting is just fine too. Instead, what I got was some wishy-washy future-lite with a trite love story thrown in. Ugh.
Can I just say? I am so fucking sick of love triangles. Or complex polygons, as might be more appropriate here. Maybe I'm getting too old for silly high school drama. I did appreciate the absence of a "love at first sight" storyline. It does, however, feature the "love interest is a creepy stalker (but his dedication is endearing!)" trope.
So anyway, in Julia Karr's dystopian vision, all girls are tattooed with the Roman numerals "XVI" on their wrists upon reaching the age of sixteen. This lets any leering men nearby know they're fair game for sex and violence and whatever other recreational perviness they can imagine. The government and media advertise this as a rite-of-passage all girls should aspire to, and lots of girls embrace being "sex-teens". But not our protagonist, Nina, because she is an innocent, virginal girl we should all emulate! Excuse me while I gag on all the self-righteousness.
Of course, since this is a dystopia, the government and media are responsible for lots of other vaguely sinister things, but I honestly feel like "dystopia" should be in scare quotes because the world-building is so lazy. Cliches abound. Surveillance everywhere? Check. Hovercars? Check. Future-slang and unnecessary acronyms? Check, check. High-tech communication gadgets that sound exactly like cell phones? Check. (Seriously, this was written last year -- you can't even extrapolate from modern technology?) Other than a few such futuristic acoutrements, we're given no information on how society has changed in the intervening decades between the present day and the 2170s, when this novel is supposed to be set. One could almost guess this was a contemporary novel. The rape culture represented here is certainly very similar to what women today live with.
Which brings me to my biggest issue with this book. For what is apparently supposed to be a feminist novel, there is a ridiculous amount of slut-shaming here. Every interaction Nina has with her best friend, Sandy, is a classic example of the virgin-whore dichotomy at work. What's more, the author seems completely oblivious to this. I'll spoiler-alert this, but it should come as no surprise to people who are familiar with how sexual female characters are portrayed in mainstream entertainment: (view spoiler)[Sandy, who is boy-crazy and described as dressing revealingly in the text, gets killed, while our Madonna protagonist decides not to have sex with her boyfriend (despite almost losing control to those eeeeeevil hormones) and lives. Pro-tip: Your dystopia isn't horrifying enough? Just have one of the female characters raped, killed, and thrown in a ditch! She dressed like a hooker, so she had it coming, right? (hide spoiler)]
I wish these awful stereotypes and terrible messages to send to teenage girls could have been at least partially offset by good writing, but that is sadly not the case. The first third of the book largely consists of clunky infodumps in the form of "As you know..." dialogue, the foreshadowing is over-the-top obvious, and all the twists can be seen coming from a mile away. The characters are all pretty one-dimensional and I'm shocked the villain didn't have a mustache to twirl, because he was a walking cliche in every other way. The whole thing was just extremely heavy-handed stylistically.
You know what? This started off as a two-star review, because I really liked the concept and it was a quick, easy read, but now I'm pissed. One star. Goddamnit.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more