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I mention Beukes here, because she’s credited as both mentor and inspiration by Charlie Human in the acknowledgements section of Apocalypse Now Now, the Capetonian’s debut novel.
Beyond those surface similarities, however, Human takes his story in a very different direction to anything Beukes has done in her three novels, and by doing so proves that there’s plenty of ideas as yet unexplored within the genre locally. Then again, if Human were to go all po-faced we’d have missed the humorous vignettes that litter the book. Politicians are delicately sucking the marrow out of dismembered pinkie fingers, and several members of the national cricket team sip congealed blood from Martini glasses. Human brain by the looks of it; a small congealed pink mess surrounded by squiggles of marinade and topped with an artfully carved cucumber. Get our daily newsletter!An exclusive worldwide wrap of tech news in your inbox every morning, plus exclusive offers and more!

Apocalypsed Now Now tells the story of 16-year-old Baxter Zevcenko, a Capetonian Holden Caulfield for the Facebook generation. Sometimes, this is great – there are plenty of twists to keep the reader on their feet and lots of humorous vignettes to enjoy along the way. By the end it could well be that all the loose ends have been neatly tied up, I just don’t know if I remember them all well enough to be sure. There’s even a few artful jibes at the role of journalists and digital marketing folk in the hip new connected world – his own background, in fact. To go back to the earlier comparison, whereas Beukes’ books are cleverly layered with meanings and allegories and set in painstakingly detailed worlds, the only extra dimensions to Apocalypse Now Now are a set ofalternate realities which can be traversed with a pair of physical totems in the shape of a giant octopus and a very large mantis.
Perhaps that’s unfair to Human, but there are broad enough similarities in his tale of a hidden world of mythological creatures, shamans and warlocks which lurk behind the respectable surface of Cape Town’s middle class suburbs and the mystical characters of Zoo City that comparisons are unavoidable.

Privileged, white and resentful of everything (especially his autistic brother) Zevcenko is moody, cynical, disaffected and, frankly, downright unpleasant. It feels as though if Human wanted to, he could write the definitive insight into the dark corners of South African private schooling, for example, and be properly terrifying without needing the gross-out horrorand comic-book mad men who give their demon-slaying shotguns a name that feature in Apocalypse Now Now.
And as far as Human adds range to the slowly evolving genre of South African sci-fi and fantasy, Apocaplypse Now Now is a very strong debut and I’m looking forward to reading more.

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