My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Upon finishing this book, I was in equal parts delighted (it rocks!) and dismayed: It was first published EIGHT YEARS ago and I didn’t know about it until now? Luckily, it’s just been reissued, so likely a lot more people will be discovering it. Hopefully, the marketing will be hitting the right target audience this time (the aesthetics of the covers this book has been issued with really don’t fit the content well).
Basically, anyone who loves William Gibson should have this book forcefully shoved into their faces, and they should have to walk around with a book up in their face until they agree to sit down and read it. Immediately. It also brought to mind Daryl Gregory’s ‘Afterparty,’ a bit. (Another great book!)
Our main character here is Kendra, a talented art photographer in a near-future, dystopian Johannesburg. However, talent doesn’t mean she doesn’t wrestle with her own demons. Her insecurities are part of why she’s agreed to be a corporate ‘spokesperson’ for a popular soft drink – a procedure that involves being injected with nanotech that gives her a glowing ‘tattoo’ of the company logo, may provide here with medical benefits (if there aren’t unforeseen side effects), and oh yes, gives her an addiction to the drink, which now affects her like a drug.
We also meet Lerato, a corporate climber of the desperately ambitious sort. In this future, corporate employees are strictly segregated from ‘civilians,’ and are expected to be loyal to their employers until death. Defection – or merely spilling proprietary information – can be punished by death. Nevertheless, Lerato knows she didn’t get to where she is, from her childhood as an AIDS orphan, by following the rules. Maybe she even enjoys breaking rules for the thrill… she’s certainly willing to do it for her party buddy, Toby…
Toby is a trust-fund brat who feels the world (especially, his mom) owes him everything, and his main goal is partying. He slums as a DJ at the city’s hottest nightclubs. His best friend is Tendeka – and the reader quickly sees what neither young man does: they fundamentally don’t understand one another.
Tendeka is a hard-core social revolutionary. Everything he does is done with the ultimate goal in mind of opening people’s eyes to the corporatocracy that surrounds them, and the fascistic control that they live under. After all, people can’t really live without their cell phones and that essential link to social media, can they? They wouldn’t be able to function. And in this future, all cell phones have a required feature, kind of like a Taser, that basically allows the police to electrocute you at will and cut you off from all your online resources. Tendeka is busy planning revolutionary actions – but he’s also being directed, even pushed, by a mysterious online contact whose real identity he doesn’t know. His zeal is his weakness.
Meanwhile, Toby just goes along with Tendeka’s plans because they seem like fun pranks. He’s got the resources, and the contacts (Lerato) to make them happen. But all of them are in over their heads, even if they don’t realize it yet. And when Kendra meets Toby one night, she’s bound to get pulled in too…
Did I say yet, this book is AMAZING? Go read it!
Many, many thanks to NetGalley and Mulholland Books for the eBook. As always, my opinions are solely my own.
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