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REVIEW | Moxyland by Lauren Beukes (Angry Robot)

This is a tough one for me to review, because quite honestly I'm not sure I liked it. However, I'm also not sure I hated it. It almost seemed like Beukes set out to write a cyberpunk 1984 of the new generation without much else in mind. It certainly had some good concepts going, but it was a bit too heavy handed and on the predictable side. Moxyland is a very rough book. I don't mean the writing; although it takes awhile to get use to the near future speak as the characters talk in abbreviations, technophile, and made-up words in nearly every sentence. I had the same problem with Snow Crash at first, but I came to appreciate it. The characters are all very rough as is the world they live in, which is a near-future dystopian Cape Town, South Africa where corporations run pretty much everything. At first I thought I was in store for something along the lines of Ian McDonald's River of Gods, but it is nothing that philosophical or as well realized. Moxyland is Beukes's take on the old Orwellian theme of Big Brother watching and controlling the populace. Split into 4 character views it seems like another point of view or major theme was needed to bring the work up another level. Of the 4 POVs I only connected with one of them and it wasn't even the do-gooder character that it should have been. Some good concepts included the importance of everyone being plugged in with their phone, how it can be used against you, and how being "disconnected" is as close to death someone in this society can be, which is an idea coming more and more true everyday. There was also a fairly interesting storyline about one of the main characters being part of a corporate experiment involving nanos that can make you unnaturally healthy, but they also display a sort of advertisement on your skin. One of the characters plays games for money. Sort of like how people nowadays pay for magical swords on eBay for games like EverQuest. I think this is the idea that should have been explored a bit more especially since the lives of everyone being connected is so important. Maybe mixing more of the Game World with the real world would have done it for me. Everything just seemed so vague. Like more detail was needed to get some of the concepts across better. Another problem I had with is the title. Moxyland refers to a children's game one of the character plays, but it is only relevant to 2 chapters and the cuddly and ferocious creatures have no bearing on the story at large. The ending was a bit of let down as I was expecting something bigger, better, and more original. Overall, I didn't find Moxyland as thought provoking as the author intended. What could have been a decidedly discussion worthy book turned into more of a mishmash of themes not explored well enough and kneecapped by characters you can't identify with. I give Moxyland 5 out of 10 Hats. Book link: US Europe Canada


Ben said...

Thanks for this review, the first of this book I've seen. I think I'll pass for now...

Steve said...

That's a shame. I've been looking forward to this one, particularly after reading Charlie Stross's comments. He seemed to really like it, but didn't go as in-depth as you.

Not sure what to do, now... :-/

The Mad Hatter said...

I'm sure there will be some differing opinions on Moxyland. There are probably some people who would love this. Just not me. I'm still very much looking forward to Angry Robots' Nekropolis.