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REVIEW – Moxyland (2008) By Lauren Beukes

March 14, 2010

The Zone have my review of Lauren Beukes’ first novel Moxyland, a neat little slice of South African post-cyberpunk that I enjoyed quite a bit.

The novel’s tone and its underlying attitude to the social trends it deals with actually reminds me quite a bit of K.W. Jeter’s novel Noir (1998), which doesn’t so much play up the often sidelined dystopian elements in traditional cyberpunk as use them as the basis for a sustained character assassination of anyone who likes using the internet.

The review’s introduction is quite distended as I took it as an opportunity to expand some of my thinking about the politics of cyberpunk as a whole.

  1. Mark Pontin permalink
    March 19, 2010 12:30 am

    I liked your review of MOXYLAND and your argument about much current SF’s ‘stuck-ness’ quite a lot. Only things I’d disagree with are that I think:

    [a] You’re not hard enough by half on Doctorow;

    [b] You probably misrepresent old Vernor Vinge if you think RAINBOW’S END is more than marginally cyberpunk. Sure, it possesses some of the paraphenalia — virtual contact lens, cyberspace overlays of reality, and so forth. But as an attempt at near-future SF, how could it not? I’m not claiming it’s a great SF novel, but it is at least interesting in that it’s Vinge sticking to his last, with the trope that he invented, the Singularity, and trying to work out one way such a thing might start to unfold in a near-future context.

    It’s worth recalling that the main tropes of Gibson’s NEUROMANCER — cyberspace as a lifestyle, disaffected hackers, god-like AI ‘waking up’ — were actually contributed to SF by Vinge’s decidedly non-cyberpunk TRUE NAMES back in 1981, when there was still only the ARPANET and sabertooth tigers roamed the Earth.


  2. March 19, 2010 3:26 pm

    Hi Mark :-)

    About Doctorow, I genuinely regret my original review of Little Brother. I think I got completely hoodwinked by it. On the plus side, I note that there is a sequel of sorts out at some point *evil grin*

    Excellent historical point about Vinge. I didn’t know quite how early his influence was felt. I knew that contemporary post-cyberpunk bods were in hock to his pseudo-mystical cod-sociological horseshit but I thought that that influence was only felt later… the fact that it dates back to 1981 just makes the corpse of cyberpunk that much stinkier and a lot of contemporary SF authors that much lazier.

    FFS why are people still writing books built around an idea that first appeared when Margaret Thatcher was in office?


  3. Mark Pontin permalink
    March 19, 2010 6:28 pm

    Because initially — like alien invasions, time machines and space travel — it seems a genuine Big Idea, with special relevance for SF writers and futurists. In other words, credit where credit’s due.

    All that said, in practice I’m deeply tired of it and haven’t seen anybody good doing anything useful with it, unless you count such things as Iain R. Banks’s depictions of his post-scarcity Culture.


  4. March 19, 2010 6:44 pm

    My next Blasphemous Geometries column should interest you Mark as it is about the ways in which cyberpunk has found its way out into the American body-politic and how video games are now reflecting those images back to us in digital form.

    It’s like drinking recycled piss :-)


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