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Monday, 16 March 2009 02:00


By  Karina Magdalena Szczurek
It takes some getting used to, but if one wants to venture into the realm of ebooks, the electronic version of Lauren Beukes' Moxyland is an exciting take-off point.

I'd first read Moxyland in its original paper book form (published by Jacana in early 2008) and thought I would browse through the Electric Book Works ebook edition just to get the feel of the e-experience, but instead I ended up rereading almost the entire book.

Don't get me wrong, it will take more than that to convert me to the new publishing trend, but the Moxyland ebook certainly made me more curious about the emerging industry and the opportunities it offers. For the price of $5.99 you not only get a – in this case truly fabulous – book, but an entire soundtrack.

The first time I found myself wishing for a soundtrack to a novel was with Haruki Murakami's After Dark (2007), in which jazz, smoke-filled bars, and the pulsating city darkness are so palpable that one can almost hear the music in the text; a CD sold with the book to accompany one's reading somewhere softly in the distance would have enriched the experience. With the Moxyland ebook all of this becomes possible, as you click yourself from one page to another, the music embedded in the PDF file – compiled by Honey B of African Dope, it captures the futuristic urban vibe of the novel – streams from the loudspeakers of your computer. One can, of course, still buy the paper book and the existing official soundtrack CD, but the price will be at least fivefold. The ebook offers a much more affordable reading adventure. And it's really user-friendly. I don't consider myself a particularly clued up computer user, and am usually wary of trying out new gadgets or programmes, but this experience was not only totally painless, but fun.

Initially, Moxyland was one of the fastest book deals ever. After some unfortunate false starts, the manuscript ended up on the desk of one of Jacana's editors and was accepted for publication literally within hours. It is a brilliant, generically pioneering (in the South African literary context) novel which can be compared to the best of its kind worldwide – whichever label one applies to them: SF, techno or dystopian fiction. Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake (2003) or Jeanette Winterson's The Stone Gods (2007) come to mind immediately. Pioneering also in terms of its marketing, with an entire merchandise industry behind it, Moxyland and its enterprising author are reaching new frontiers in the South African literary landscape.

The book presents a frighteningly believable near-future vision of the city of Cape Town and has all the ingredients of becoming a cult novel. It is narrated alternately from the perspectives of its four protagonists – Kendra, Lerato, Tendeka, and Toby – whose lives intertwine into a thrilling story, which culminates in one of the best novel finales I have read in a long time. Theirs is a dystopian Cape Town ruled by ruthless corporate networks; a world were the individual is seen only as either a possible marketing device or an exploitative unit for greed-driven accumulation of wealth and power. All four have their own ways of subverting the social, economic and political structures surrounding them and are prepared even to risk their lives in pursuit of their own dreams. Daring, incredibly well-written, Moxyland will knock you off your feet before you know what's coming.

Whichever version – paper or electronic – you decide on, Moxyland is a must-read. Just as the colourful and cuddly Moxy toy, a mutant clone of the Moxyland cover monster, is a must-have. The toy is produced by the Montagu Sew & Sews, a collective of impoverished women in the Klein Karoo set up by Lauren's friends especially for the project, and is exclusively available from The Book Lounge in Cape Town (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , international shipping possible). One of its clones is sitting in my study and scaring off all three of my cats.

The ebook is available through online ebook retailers including Powells and Ereadable. For more details visit Lauren Beukes website and the official Moxyland website.
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