One of the main themes of this book is summarized by a character we never meet, a name on a web message board:
"Call it mass-scale compassion fatigue or selfish genes or the obvious conclusion capitalism has always been headed for, but the reality is people don't give a flying f**k, they've seen all the old strategies before, they're tired and worse, they're boring, and if there's one thing our culture doesn't stand for...it's boredom". (p126)
Couple a shallow, hedonistic society with the 'Politics of Fear', a dystopian near-future reminiscent of more recent William Gibson
; set the whole thing in South Africa and you've pretty much got the scene.
Told in the first person by four characters - Tendeka the revolutionary, Lerato the disaffected programmer, Toby the post-punk would-be reporter and Kendra, photographer and 'trend-setter', I thought it was going to be a bit of a grind as the narrative switched back to cover the same events from each character's point of view. But it doesn't. Instead, each character takes up the story from the point at which the previous character left off. That's great - keeps the narrative going nicely - but it also seems to mean that the characters are, by and large, fairly interchangeable. Although each uses language in his/her own way, they're not really fully formed people.
The technology is, for the most part, scarily believable and I can easily imagine social control agencies (such as the SAPS - 'South African Police Service') very much wanting some of the gadgets portrayed. But in some ways, the book also looks back. Although one of the characters is quite rude about Joseph Conrad, there is a kind of 'Secret Agent
' theme going too.
Saying all that, it is a really good read. But, finally, I have to admit I found it pretty depressing, in very much the same way that Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four
doesn't leave much room for optimism. Maybe that was the aim - maybe that is the most realistic view to take in our dawning 'Brave New World
'. All in all, though, this is an author to watch.