In South Africa, the future looks promising. Personal robots are making life easier for the working class. The government is harnessing renewable energy to provide infrastructure for the poor. And in the bustling coastal town of Port Elizabeth, the economy is booming thanks to the genetic engineering industry which has found a welcome home there. Yes--the days to come are looking very good for South Africans. That is, if they can survive the present challenges:
A new hallucinogenic drug sweeping the country . . .
An emerging AI uprising . . .
And an ancient demigoddess hellbent on regaining her former status by preying on the blood and sweat (but mostly blood) of every human she encounters.
It's up to a young Zulu girl powerful enough to destroy her entire township, a queer teen plagued with the ability to control minds, a pop diva with serious daddy issues, and a politician with even more serious mommy issues to band together to ensure there's a future left to worry about.
Click here to watch a video review of this book on my channel, From Beginning to Bookend.
Set in South Africa in the year 2064, The Prey of Gods unveils the otherworldly circumstances that draw five unusual characters together. Muzi is a teenager who just got his hands on a hallucinogenic drug that causes unorthodox side effects. Nomvula is a little girl with golden eyes and an epic secret. Stoker is a councilman by day and something entirely different by night. Riya is a world-famous pop singer with tremendous daddy issues. And Sydney delights in consuming the fear that emanates from dying humans.
Those old movies have become her escape from this dull excuse for an existence. She watches her television now, rapt in her hovel of an apartment as the corny, old-time music crackles through her stereo speakers. She laughs at the slapstick comedy and tries to put her crappy day at the nail salon behind her, while avoiding thoughts of the custodial overseer job she’ll go to this evening.
“Please,” comes a weak voice from the man currently stretched across her coffee table, “I beg of you. Let me go.”
And then there’s that distraction.
Sydney’s surprised he still has the strength to speak, much less the will to live with all the hell she’s put him through – skin flayed like a tuna, legs bent at half a dozen impossible angles. She tunes his moaning out and savors the fear lapping at his skin like viscous waves breaking on the beach after an oil spill. She absorbs it – foul, thick, and dark.
With wry humor and captivating plot pacing, Drayden blends science fiction, fantasy, mythology, an urban setting and paranormal entities to create an exceptional debut novel.
The Prey of Gods is the perfect read for anyone in the mood for something weird, something fantastic, or something that weaves the best elements of multiple genres into one spellbinding book. - Special thanks to Harper Voyager for providing a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Nicky Drayden’s debut novel The Prey of Gods is an exciting and adventurous book with a highly original setting, and a very singular hybrid of urban fantasy and sci-fi tropes. The novel is set in a future South Africa where advanced technology and economic opportunity are improving the lives of its citizens across racial and class lines. But ancient gods and demigods walk among the population in secret, and one in particular feels the need to assert her will on the population. A virus ostensibly engineered to cull a local infestation of antelopes called dik-diks, and a new hallucinogen called Godsend are the vehicles she plans to use, but a handful of pesky humans and a fledgling demigoddess have the ability to disrupt her plans. But things get frustrating about halfway through when it becomes clear that the author has chosen to sideline, and in some cases, ignore altogether, several of the more intriguing (and disturbing) developments in the first third of the book. Some of these choices are utterly confounding – and at least one of them unforgiveable – and does disservice to the fascinating characters and world she created. It’s an imaginative novel, and worth reading for its unique world-building, even if it lacks cohesion in the execution of its various story threads.
In a near future South Africa, an ancient goddess launches a plan to regain her lost glory by any means necessary...
The Prey of Gods isn't one of those books that is easy to sum up. My little teaser is the bare bones but it's a lot more than that. Told in five more or less parallel threads, it is a story about identity at the heart. Sure, it has awesome things like free-willed robots, goddesses, and a cross-dressing senator with some golden pipes, but it's about identity at its core.
This book gripped me from the first page. It's future South African setting leaped to life. I had no trouble believing in the characters or the world. Muzi struggles with his impending manhood ritual and his feeling for his best friend, Elkin. Nomvula struggles with her mother, a nearly catatonic woman who rarely speaks. Wallace Stoker struggles with his future in the government and his other identity, a golden-voiced diva named Felicity Lyons. And Riya Natrajan, pop idol, struggles with her secret past and secret illness. Oh, and there's the murderous goddess, awakened AI robots, a drug called godsend, and all those pesky dik-diks running amock. You know, run of the mill stuff like that...
The Prey of the Gods is one of those loaded books, like a baked potato with every imaginable topping in existence thrown on it - great concepts, interesting characters, and stellar writing. The pace is great and the twists kept me rapt. It was the best sf/fantasy novel I've read in a long time. 4.5 out of 5 stars.
UPDATE 27 November 2017 Hey! Guys! Even the LA Times agrees with me about this book!!
I am not going to pretend this is a review. I read this book at least three times in different incarnations before it was accepted by Harper Voyager because Nicky's my bud. I was knocked on my fat spreadin' butt by her warm, deluded thanks addressed to me in the Acknowledgments. But I can tell you the simple, god's-honest truth: If I didn't like this book, I'd send her a nice email thanking her as prettily as possible and let the matter rest.
This book, y'all? This book is THE SH...STUFF. This is what you hope to find when you go shopping, vaguely dissatisfied by everything, critical of every cover, impatient with the puffery that probably isn't much to do with the contents. This is what happens when you're just taking a risk...c'mon, $2.99 on Kindle, you spent more than that on your coffee admit it...and stumble upon gold.
A setting that feels as real as your cube-neighbor's garlicky lunch. A premise that feels as right as walking in on your mom snogging your dad, be damned with that gross old bore she's married to. A story that doesn't say hello, just grabs your earlobe and drags you along behind it wherever the hell it damned well pleases.
Nicky's voice is her own, her story is her own, and her love for the craft of writing is just her. You probably won't have a chance in this life to have tea and turkey jerky *retch* with her, poor bastard, but this book is the next best thing.
Crazy, original, fun, a little outrageous and a rollicking rollercoaster ride!! Great debut! This was a genre bender that was definitely more fantasy than science fiction. I tend to prefer science fiction so…
Listened to Audible. Prentice Onayemi was spectacular!! He's one of the best narrators out there!!
PS: This is the coolest book cover ever!! Love it!!
A glorious mash-up of great characters and bizarre science-fictional and mythic plotting leads to a wild and unpredictable book with a wicked sense of humor.
The character on the amazing cover is meant to be Nomvula, a young Zulu demigoddess that's a POV character in the book, but I think the expression on her face is that of the author when presenting this book to us: sheer evil delight in what she has wrought.
This is a multi-POV character book with various fascinating characters from around Port Elizabeth in South Africa in the mid-21st century. We have Nomvula, a young Zulu girl from a township who is just being introduced to her power as a demigoddess. Sydney is a much older and more evil demigoddess who is just about to seize an opportunity for great power. There's also Kuzi, a mixed race young boy who is about to become a man and his best friend Elzin. There's also Kuzi's robot companion who has the seed of independent sentience and a politician with a destiny and a secret life. Finally there's an aging pop star with secrets of her own. There's a lot going on here and each of those characters play a critical part in the frantic and complicated plot.
This book is mad. Fun, but totally mad. The characters are brilliant and while their actions are always believable, the plot just keeps throwing curveballs. In fact, if there's a problem with this book, it might be that it's just a little bit too weird for many readers. It's funny and action-packed, so perhaps that will be enough to carry readers along. There's also that it really defies easy categorization. It's definitely fantasy, but it has plenty of science fictional and horror elements as well.
A really good start as the author's first traditionally published piece.
Absolutely fantastic. A SFF novel (effortless mix of magic and machinery) set in a near future South Africa where new tech and old gods collide. The story has multiple protagonists including a just-emerging gay couple and a politican with a secret life as a drag singer coming to realise she's a transwoman, also a service robot, and a girl-god coming into her powers. It's gleefully inventive, supremely diverse, rich, incredibly atmospheric with a terrifically well realised setting, and totally compelling. A stonkingly good read, which I really struggled to put down while not wanting it to end. Highly recommended.
Wow, what a debut novel! This one had been languishing in my tbr for years. In my attempt to avoid all spoilers I'd still somehow formed the impression that this might be dark and difficult. While there are dark themes, Drayden's style is so crisp and vivid, I said to my fellow buddy readers that it's like she writes in 4k. It's easy to slip into her writing and enjoy the wild, immensely imaginative ride. Because that's what this book feels like....
I loved the first half of this book, but the second half threw too much at me, I think. I kept reeling from an onslaught of stuff that hadn't had precedent yet, so it felt like it went for cool rather than consistent. Still, glad to have read it!
Things to love:
-The first half. Brilliant pacing, great unfolding of the world, characters, and hinting at future events. I was enthralled, couldn't put it down.
-The world. A fascinating blend of mythology and technology to make a unique magic and potential for calamity, in a distinctly South African-flavored setting.
-The characters. Such breadth in life experiences and struggles. I was really looking forward to digging into this more.
-Humor. Dik-dik jokes, wry observations, initially this was quite funny.
-The very end. This was a sweet ending place.
Things that overloaded my senses:
-The second half. It was just an unending list of over-the-top crazy random happenstances.
-No consistency. Some magic seemed to tie back to the myth, some didn't. Some had penalties to their use, some didn't. There was apparently a power continuum, but I didn't see it. Plot points that we started with were dropped off and new things happened well into the point you thought things would be getting resolved.
-Overall writing. Again, just in the back half! Dialogue became wooden, descriptions got lazy, all power going to the imaginative wackiness.
-Incomplete inclusion. There's a lot of nods here to people who have chronic illnesses, or are queer, the specific and uncomfortable racial tension in South Africa and so on that was really great. But while the first half had me thinking we were really going to celebrate these differences, the back half felt more like it turned them all into tropes and freak shows. I didn't like that feeling.
Half a great idea, half a wild rollercoaster ride. I think it's wholly imaginative and quite compelling for the things it does well, but I think the back half was just not to my tastes.
I knew the moment I saw this beautiful book that I would be buying a physical copy just so that I could occasionally look at it. It has to be one of my favorite cover arts ever. But this gem of a book is not just a pretty face, The Prey of Gods exceeded every expectation that I had going in. It is a wonderfully unique, strange, and yet familiar story. Drayden managed to take a well used plot and created a story that is so different and impressive that I am still thinking about these characters days after having finished the book. I went in thinking that I would get an interesting fantasy romp featuring a little girl in South Africa with the potential for some cool powers and maybe a little AI or other advanced technology thrown in for added entertainment. What Drayden delivers is a story that is nuanced and has so much depth that I was left amazed at what she was able to do in such a short and tightly woven story.
Every major character in Prey of Gods represents the struggle for love, acceptance, and a sense of belonging that everyone faces at some point in their lives. Each character is vying for those human necessities in different ways and for different reasons. Each character is searching for that sense of home that is found not in a place, but in other people who will love them despite their individual flaws and shortcomings. Drayden has created a world in which love, adoration, worship, and even fear can, for some, literally fill a hunger that can not be sated in any other way. A world where when some receive those tributes whether voluntarily given or not, the receiver becomes more powerful; and without it they can't survive. In Prey of Gods the reader not only gets to see the awakening of self awareness in people of varying ages, from a ten year old little girl to a middle aged man struggling with his own identity; but we also get to see what happens when sequences of zeros and ones turn into sentience along with the fallout of new conscious choices.
I could easily do a long review describing the significance of each of these characters that begin as strangers, but whose lives eventually converge so dramatically. However, it would be hard for me not to ruin the experience for other people. Each character is so unique with so much to explore, and this is just the first book! What I will say is that The Prey of Gods is hands down my favorite book that I have read so far this year. Just writing this review makes me want to re-read it already. I will be anxiously waiting for the next book by Nicky Drayden.
In future South Africa, there’s a demigoddess. Not a powerful demigoddess, but a washed-up demigoddess: Sydney has lost all her magic and now works in a salon doing nails, but she has a plan to regain her original status: kill lots of people for their blood. (That always works for me.) Hoping to keep Sydney from achieving her goal is a pop diva, a queer teen with powers, a politician, and a young Zulu girl who has also recently discovered she has a little magic in her. Now add robots, genetic engineering, hallucinogens, and the weirdest interspecies coupling since Roger and Jessica Rabbit, and you’ve got yourself a fantastic tale! This book is so much fun and full of so much weirdness, it makes me cackle with joy.
Go read the first chapter of The Prey of Gods, which is up on Drayden’s website. I’ll wait here. Okay, you’re back. What did you think? Wild, right? When’s the last time you read a chapter that ended with a crab and a dolphin having sex? And believe me: the rest of the chapters (the next one features a robot coming to consciousness watching that cross-species sex scene, FYI) keep the surprises coming. Set in South Africa, The Prey of Gods is an imaginative, raucous, queer-as-hell adventure where each turn is unexpected but utterly delightful. It’s part urban fantasy with gods (think Gaiman’s American Gods or Wigmore’s The Wind City) and part robot uprising (think Westworld or Terminator). There are demigods expanding their powers, a new club drug giving humans a taste of their own divinity, robots coming to consciousness, a trans politician-turned-diva, a pop star with MS, queer teens, and more.
This book was a mess but it was an entertaining and imaginative mess. First you need to forget about the cover. The cover could have been a picture of "flying demons in sequined dresses and secret robot armies". However the current cover makes you think that the book is about a revolt of big robots led by a small girl. Instead it's about small robots that are like laptops with legs, demigods and goddesses, an hallucinogenic drug, a DNA-altering virus, mind control, terrorist acts, a transgender politician, an over abundance of dik-diks and a lot more. The "lot more" is my main problem with this book. The author has too many ideas and insisted on putting every single one of them into her first book. I also had a problem with plot holes, god-like powers that crop up conveniently but are applied inconsistently and unnecessary character backstories (there is some weird parent/child stuff going on and the entire circumcision episode needed to have been snipped (pun intended)).
I'm not saying that I didn't like the book. My rating was headed for 4 stars until the last 25% of the book really went off the rails. I thought that the author was quite clever, sometimes funny, occasionally silly (i.e., a monster's concern for her chipped nail polish) and showed a lot of promise, but boy did this book need an editor with a stronger hand, and maybe a whip and chair to wrangle this book under control. I'm sure that the author's next book will be better if she learns to exercise some restraint.
I received this via Goodreads Giveaways in exchange for an honest review. All my opinions are my own. ---
Wow... one of those highly-anticipated (of mine) reads that lived up to what I was hoping it would be :).
This is a crazy, weird, bizarre ride that drew me in from the first page... overused expression? *shrugs* To some maybe but for me, this was a journey I didn't want to leave for real life (Dang human body needing sleep too, how dare it?!).
We get POVs from a few different characters (Nomvula, Sydney, Stoker, Muzi, Clever, Riya, Mr. Tau) but it never feels crowded. Each character has a part to play, how big or how small you shall see:). Clues and hints pop up along the way as we get to know everyone involved and what the world around them is like.
No one character is perfect, they have their vices/flaws/beliefs what have you and some you won't like very much at the beginning. And the chapters of one may confuse you at first, but just stick with it.. it'll become clear later on.
The writing in this... It was delightful and compelling. Miss Drayden blends everything beautifully, no element feels out of place, even the more... bizarre? offbeat? weird? ones. That made me love it all the more and kept wishing the book wouldn't end.
At one point I wanted to kick Muzi (and on a separate note, Riya a couple times.. even though I could see her reasoning) and yet was proud of him at the same time.
The way the mythology was done was very creative.. .and had me wondering which demigod power I would end up with (Possibly Dolphin... or maybe the crab). That could have been a whole book in itself in my opinion.
The ending... had my hope going for everyone involved, and a smile on my face... then, that last page. Holy Crap! I turned the next page hoping for more after that in vain :(.
I want more! Will there be more? *looks to Miss Drayden hopefully*
Would recommend, hope you enjoy it as much as I did :). Happy reading!
Bonkers, and jam-packed with so much: demigoddesses, one young and the other embracing her full evil side, a new hallucinogenic drug hitting the streets, a temperamental pop star with a big secret, a high school-aged boy and his best friend, little robots and their sentience journey, a major gene mod corporation, a Councilman with a secret life, pesty creatures infesting the area.... They all come together in a multi-Pov'ed, crazy, action-packed, horror-tinged, kooky, violent story with imagination and plot bursting out all over.
4.5 stars rounded down. This totally worked for me but I get why it doesn't for everyone. Great setup with a weird mix of fantasy and sci-fi with gods, neo-gods and robots. A large cast of believable characters all trying out their new found powers and intelligence. Did everything make sense? Heck no but it was fun watching Dreyden try.
Recommended to people who like a bit of craziness and can handle some hand wavy explanations.
I had been wanting to read this novel for years but finally got the chance to do a buddy read, which is super useful. Reading's better when you have friends ;)
It was not as I expected actually. Looking at the cover and the setting I was hoping for Chappie-like story, a strict SF. Yet this one is a mix. Being an Afrofuturism novel, now I learn that I should expect spiritual aspect to play an important role. (More on this can be read in Nisi Shawl's crash course on Black SF: http://www.nisishawl.com/CCHBSF.html)
It is not a weakness obviously, it just caught me by surprise (or maybe I just did not pay much attention to the blurb LOL). The SFF mix worked well enough, and also gave me one particular combination that I have not seen in other works.
There are six POVs, all of them have their own distinct voices so it is not hard to step into their shoes when the chapter switches. The pacing was fact and even, boring is not a word I would use to describe the novel. However, the amount of madcap stuff are ALOT and it would take a while to digest the whole thing. Even though some readers could finish it in one sitting, I'd suggest to phase the reading. It worked for me especially since I listened to the audiobook. The narrator is fantastic, enjoyed the accent, the humor he embedded in his words, and he even sang a bit (one of the POVs is a pop star).
I am not sure why this is not a five-star read. Probably because I was feeling kind of depressed after reading it. The book has some darker parts that are not easy to forget, almost eclipsing the brighter ones. But anyway, I still consider it to be an exciting read that one should not miss. My future would have more Nicky Drayden's books for sure.
This is a completely bonkers, plot-driven book (which I was super into) but I think has just a few too many elements woven into the story that it ends up being a really messy book. But I gotta say, I got pretty pulled into the world. I even missed my Metro stop and didn't realize it until I hit a chapter break and was two stops down because I was so pulled in.
In this near futuristic version of South Africa, technology and robotics are booming fields. The economy is doing quite well and new innovations by humankind involving genetic engineering promise to make life better for everyone, especially the poorer class. In this rich world full of science and progress, there's a looming supernatural threat in the form of an ancient demigoddess who is trying to regain her old powers and wreak destruction on mankind. In this bizarre work, we follow two demigoddess sisters, one who is trying to take over the world while the other is trying to put a stop to her evil sister's power-hungry ambitions, one teenager who's coming to terms with his latest discovery of a hallucinogenic drug, one pop-star diva who is struggling to find a balance between her daddy issues and her immense fame that has people idolizing her, and a councilman who is trying to make it in the competitive world of town politics while balancing out a secret life as a drag queen on the side.
When starting this book, I didn't expect it to be as much of a roller-coaster ride as it was. I had heard that it was an interesting blend of science fiction and fantasy, but did not expect the fantastical elements to be as bizarre. We go from a believably futuristic world full of robots and advanced technology and a bustling city life to a very chaotic world where people turn into monsters, where a purely evil demigoddess flaunts her power by bringing Armageddon upon South Africa, and where our characters have to go as far as taking a trip into another dimension where dead people end up going in order to find some form of closure. We even have a very interesting subplot where hundreds of robots in the city plan an uprising against their owners and try to reclaim their rights, with some of them going as far as wanting to enslave their former masters.
If you're going to be enjoying this book, you need to be ready for some very bizarre content! The book just kept getting weirder and weirder and I was so confused by the end, but equally amazed at all the different levels of unpredictable craziness happening everywhere. It's quite difficult to sum up the overarching plot in this one because so many weird things were going on, but it was all so preposterously entertaining for me so I ended up enjoying it more than I thought I would. If you're going to read this, please be extremely willing to suspend your disbelief and go along the ride Nicky Drayden puts you through in this debut work of hers.
I don't think this book is for everyone, since it does seem to be a combustive mash of weirdness and absurdity, which might deter many people from the story, but if you're into this type of thing, like I am, this might be a fun ride!
“Please disregard the previous disregard message. Sender undoubtedly has its CPU stuck up its posterior access port.”
There are time when all the pieces come together. Sometimes that is because the pieces are made to be together; a dark lord chasing the orphaned farm boy and the like. But to make all the pieces come together when said pieces are a virtual grab bag of randomness takes a bit more skill. Robot uprising, pissed off demi-god, young girl with the power to naturally nuke a town, hallucinations that are real and not real and real again. All tied together in a neat little...oh who I am kidding, it was a glorious mess. But a glorious mess that all works out if one is really paying attention.
The Prey of Gods starts with a young man worrying about the state of of his private parts and mentally cussing out the man who decided circumcision should come by ritual in the teens rather than infancy. We can go ahead and call his story the sanest plot line of the book followed by a politician with a secret wannabe pop star identity. From there all the crazy elements are introduced one by one, then moved around in a wonderful whirlwind until everything important comes together in flash bang of a conclusion. Yes I just mixed metaphors like a boss, but that is only because I wanted to get in on this crazy game.
Make no mistake one would have to enjoy a health dose of weird to enjoy this book. I wish I could recommend this book with no reservations but there are still a good number of people who don't enjoy Bas Lag so obviously some will be put off by people discovering their inner sexual crab. Assuming that is you then you have permission to skip reading this review but please know you are missing out.
Are all the boring people gone?
Beyond the weird The Prey of Gods is a book that has a whole lot to say but makes the reader work to decide what exactly that is. In a near future where things generally seem to be getting better there is a bit of optimism. Yet a pissed off ancient demi-goddess threatens to tear it all down; a decidedly fatalistic look at was an optimistic future. Another character goes from young innocent to monster before possibly making the turn back. Hell the entire pop star's story-line had enough going for it to be its own contemporary novel (minus the mystic drug dealer, perhaps).
I suppose the real question is how many times in a year I can call different books 'debut of the year' and get away with it (by my count this might be the third). The Prey of Gods has the depth, excitement and action, and just enough humor to make up for its apocalyptic body count. Each character's point of view feels unique and not one character of the diverse cast feels unneeded. It may requiring altering ones mind to accommodate the insane set up but the payoff is worth it in the end.
Another highly anticipated debut that didn't disappoint.
A riveting, genre bending story that takes place in South Africa. Mixing African myth and modern tech, it's a story of old gods awakening and powers long buried, coming to the surface in the six main characters we follow. Each has their own separate story, like a mosaic novel, only to eventually blend together as they come in contact with each other's lives. Deeply impressive and imaginative, I rushed through this one. I'll definitely be reading more of Nicky Drayden!
Captivatingly advancing multi-POV story with imaginative concepts of tech and magic, which ties together the paths of a lively cast of characters through clever interactions. Entertaining and energetic read with great build-up.
I loved the energy of this story. Drayden does a wonderful job with her characters, who all have their demons but also irreverent moments. (Can you get a better horrific image than the furious demigoddess living her mundane life at the nail salon and stuck in traffic, then coming home to the captive man she's slowly torturing to death?).
This is also a very good attempt at a mosaic novel, building the stories of individuals, which then coalesce into a unifying story for the book as a whole. Therein lies the problems too: I think this many POVs is very ambitious. It doesn't quite work, as plot threads and back stories seem to get dropped (e.g., the dik-dik virus, Papa Fuzz, Riya's father), some transitions were confusing (e.g., the real world to the afterlife), and the pacing of the overarching story was a bit off (I was ready for the climax about 100 pages before it actually happened).
Nevertheless, this was fun and pretty audacious. I loved the world and the characters and I would read more follow-up on Elkin, Muzi, Stoker, and the boys right away!
And one final note: Queer rep! Muzi and Elkin are gay or bisexual and Stoker is trans (IMO, a fantastic character and the one with the best personal arc in the whole book - this woman gets it all and I'm rooting for her wildly!)
This was wonderfully bizarre. The Prey of Gods is a sci-fantasy novel set in South Africa and possibly the weirdest books I've ever read, so weird it's difficult to review it properly. If you think I'm exaggerating, this book contains:
• weird hybrids, including whippet/iguana and rhionhawks (rhino/lion/hawk) combinations • a demigoddes running on bot belief • implied crab/porpoise drug-induced sex • an invasion of dik-diks and a lot of dik-dik jokes • also, circumcision • AI uprising, but in a religious way • mass murder by angry 10-year-old • a pop diva who fights with songs • shapeshifting • virus-carried superpowers • resurrection and bodyswap • apocalypse?
Every time I thought this book couldn't possibly get weirder, it did. Not always with the best results, as sometimes the characters' decisions didn't make any sense and plot developments seemed to come out of nowhere, but it was so surreal and completely nonsensical I didn't even question them that much? Like, suddenly that character's mother is a controlling snake monster? Cool, I guess.
But this doesn't mean The Prey of Gods didn't explore any interesting themes. Family is really important here, as the motivations of many characters have something to do with it - controlling parents, grieving and neglectful mothers, fear of disappointing family expectations, being disappointed by your own family. Also, this book buried the bury-your-gays trope in the best way. Resurrect your gays, always.
I really liked the characters, even though sometimes their decisions made no sense. The book followed five PoVs: • Muzikayise "Muzi" McCarthy, a teenager of Irish and Xhosa descent, who is in love with his best friend Elkin (yes, there's a m/m romance) and may have a really interesting power; • Sydney Mazwai, an ancient demigoddes who wants to become feared and powerful once again, and must feed on the human beings she's torturing without being late to work - the nail salon is important; • Clever 4-1, an "alphie", Muzi's bot, who is realizing he can think, and therefore he is; • Stoker, councilperson by day and drag singer by night, realizes she's actually a trans woman during the course of the book and changes her name to Felicity. • Nomvula, a 10-year-old Zulu demigoddes who really likes fixing things and just wants to be loved; • Riya Natrajan, a pop idol with multiple sclerosis and a complicated family situation.
Sydney was the only character who didn't convince me - she went from complex antagonist to flat supervillain in just a few chapters - but I really liked the others, even Riya, who was very unlikable (I didn't love the theme of pain as a superpower, though). Nomvula was a realistic representation of what would happen if a child got superpowers - children are scary sometimes. Muzi and Elkin had an interesting arc and I loved them. And I really liked how Felicity Stoker's storyline showed that you're never too late to question your gender. It's not common to see this kind of story with characters in their 40s.
"Darkness whispers, beckons her forth. She is nothing but shattered bone and spilled blood. Nothing remains of her except the dullest of sparks, swirling in the nothingness, fading. She clings onto it, coddles it, knowing that it could not possibly be enough to save her, but believing it so anyway."
The Prey of Gods is the debut novel by Nicky Drayden and it is a goddamn EXPERIENCE.
Set in South Africa, The Prey of Gods takes place in 2064, swirling science fiction, urban fantasy and folklore with a heavy helping of humor. It's a genre mashup for the ages!
Featuring a large group of characters to get to know with varying POV's, including marginalized genders, sexualities, disabilities, race and class. The narratives weave in and out, threading together a story that is addictively readable.
Muzi, a queer teenager of Xhosa and Irish descent, is in love with his best friend Elkin. He also has the ability to control minds; Nomvula, a 10-year-old half Zulu, half god with a vengeful mind and a merciful heart. Her mother is said to of been touched by evil spirits; Wallace Stoker, a prominent Councilman for the Department for Economic Affairs, Environment, and Tourism. At night he becomes his true self, a transgender stage performer who dreams of making it big; Sydney, a Black nail tech, who also happens to be an ancient demigoddess that plans on world domination; Riya Natrajan, a famous popstar that acts like a jaded diva but is actually hiding the fact that she suffers from Multiple Sclerosis and is constantly in pain. Her drug dealer is the only one that knows The Secret™; The Instance/Clever4-1.1, Nomvula's personal alphie. An alphie is a bot with a smooth round silver body and spider-like legs. It is just becoming self-aware and is unsure of their place in the world.
If you think that sounds delightfully bonkers, you're right! And those are just the main POV's. There is quite an ensemble cast, as well. Including Papa Fuzz, Muzi's grandfather who doesn't approve of Muzi's friendship with Elkin, because he thinks Elkin is a bad influence. The relationship between Muzi and Papa Fuzz is raw and lovely and authentic. It's the way with which Drayden is able to create such incredible characterizations, down to the smallest role, that completely blows this out of the water. Each and every one of these characters play a pivotal part in this elaborate tale.
"It's like the fiery depths of hell have been compacted into a neat, golf-ball-sized tumor, then shoved into the back of Muzi's brain. It's so heavy, so all-encompassing that Muzi barely remembers where he is, who he is. Terror is so crisp, so precise that he forgets to breathe until his lungs yell bloody murder. He can't close his eyes or he'll see their faces, the thousands of lives extinguished by that woman's hand. No, not a woman. A monster. He stares ahead at nothing, unseeing, until his eyes burn with the dryness of an endless desert.
Then he blinks."
Robots on the verge of rebellion and ancient gods and music and designer pets and politics and abuse and hallucinatory dolphin/crab sex and viruses and talking trees and explosive orgasms and WORLD DOMINATION!!
I've barely even scratched the surface of what Drayden has managed to convey in just under 400 pages. She has written a gorgeously inclusive, layered world. As someone who has Fibromyalgia, it is rare that I see disability or illness written about in SFF. Representation is a beautiful thing, my friends!
A richly-imagined plot, fully-fleshed characters and brilliant execution at the hands of a wonderfully unique storyteller. The Prey of Gods captivated me from cover to cover!
::proceeds to add the rest of Nicky Drayden's books to online cart::
Humans are the descendants of gods, making each human a demigod/goddess. However they've spent eternity ignorant of this small fact. It takes a new illegal drug on the market to begin waking people's powers.
Muzi is a gay teen struggling with his identity. His grandfather is pushing him to the old ways of their African tribe while living in a world where everyone has their own personal assistant robot to help them through life. Drugs are a release from his daily worries but this new drug, the name of which is fucking alluding me right now, unleashes his ability to control people, bending them to his will.
Riya is a pop star. Selfish, uncaring of the people around her. She hides an illness that causes her great pain. She reveals in drugs and comes across this new substance, she gains power off her pain, off the pain of others, but she can use this power to heal.
Wallace Stoker is a politician. A politician who actually has interest in bettering his country, in improving people's lives. His mother is pushing for him to become the premier of the country, but he's not sure he's ready for that. He's leading a secret double life and he's not sure which life is the one he wants.
Sydney is a centuries old demigoddess trying to reclaim her powers. She feeds off of fear. She's planning mass destruction to help her kill off her newest competition, a tiny girl named Nomvula.
Clever 4-1 is a robot. A robot struggling with the first case of sentience. He finds a way to spread that sentience to other bots.
Nomvula is a small girl in the slums of Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Her mother claims a man in the village raped her in her dreams and lives in a perpetual state of crying in bed. This same man teaches Nomvula that she in fact, is a demigoddess, a strong one. Nomvula's life has been one of hunger pains and saddness, but this new sense of self comes with a high price. Here we have a magnificent blend of humans awakening their god powers and a budding AI sentience that could turn the world on it's head. This story was fast paced and fun, each character relatable. The entire read was intoxicating, unfortunately the ending falls a little flat. I think I came to expect much more from the climax.
Either way, I look forward to reading more by Nicky Drayden.
The author has LOTS of ideas, but I don't think she's figured out how to make them into a coherent story. I like the South African setting & people, and it is a first novel. I'd read more by her, but I'm closing out this one as DNF, a chaotic mess, not for me. Very cool cover art courtesy of Tor's savvy art director, whose name escapes me.
Best review I've seen here is Lindsay's: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... "This book is mad. Fun, but totally mad. The characters are brilliant and while their actions are always believable, the plot just keeps throwing curveballs. ..."
This one has been sitting in the bedside stack for several weeks (narrowly escaping a clumsy tea-cup flood!), and I've been eyeing it, with no real desire to return, and a bunch of other possibles on hand. Too bad. It *sounded* good.... The eternal plaint of the disappointed reader. I'd definitely try something else of hers -- especially if it used more of her tech background. Write SF, Drayden!
I had heard that The Prey of Gods was a wild ride, but I don't think anything could have completely prepared me for everything going on in this book. It's a fast-paced story that I devoured in just a few days. Lots of interesting (if sometimes very frustrating) characters with lots of creative magic and technology.
I've never read any of the authors short stories but I've heard thats what she initially got known for. I felt like act 1 was just multiple collection of short stories without a main story arc. It kicked in a bit too late for me. The novel deals with a tonne of themes, friendship, love, sexuality, AI and its conflicting use etc too many to list. Ultimately its about being yourself. However, I do think thats what it suffers from. Too many ideas not enough cohesion. I still enjoyed act 3 and that made up for the slow start. Writing was sharp, detailed and witty. Will probably keep an eye out for future works even though I wasnt overly fond of this, I do see alot of promise in the authors talent as a writer.