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10 July 2011 @ 10:14 am
We got given Moxyland by Lauren Beukes as a freebie at Eastercon in 2010 and since then I've heard Beukes' name spoken of fairly regularly on various blogs about SF literature. This is the sort of book I normally really like, it's a slightly dystopian short jump forward into the future, with plenty of world-building and the added bonus that it is written from a South African rather than the more normal American perspective. However, for reasons I can't quite put my finger on, I never got drawn into the story nor really wanted to know more about this world. It's possibly telling that, of all the characters in the book, the only one I ever really engaged with was Lerato, a ruthless and unprincipled "company woman" who I suspect was intended to be the least sympathetic of the book's four protagonists. This may be because she was the only one who seemed to have both the gumption and the drive to make anything of her life, while it was hard to imagine any of the other protagonists making much of themselves. I think I also found the world itself a little derivative. Books that are carried by world building need to present themselves, to some extent, as a puzzle box leaving the reader a trail of bread-crumbs that let's them piece the world together. Moxyland features "PlusLife" a thinly veiled version of "Second Life" which is a homage to the "Metaverse" of Neal Stephenson*. You seem reassuringly familiar when your near future detail is riffing off a world-building concept that first appeared in 1992 and the reader is almost encouraged to feel they know all about this world, rather than getting a tantalising glimpse of just some part of it. There's nothing bad about this book, the writing is vivid, the characters are all distinct and the plot holds together but it failed to excite me, feeling more like a re-tread of much of the dystopian fiction of the 1990s than something new.

*though I note that Wikipedia now asserts that Second Life was not inspired by the Metaverse, presumably in much the same way that Gary Gygax wasn't inspired by Lord of the Rings.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/48060.html.
philmophlegm: Fiend Foliophilmophlegm on July 10th, 2011 09:56 am (UTC)
I don't think Gary Gygax ever claimed not to have been inspired by Lord of the Rings, just that other works inspired D&D more.* He distinguished between epic fantasy and swords 'n' sorcery stuff like Robert E. Howard, Fritz Leiber and L. Sprague de Camp. D&D as it was originally envisaged was about going down into a dungeon, hitting some monsters, casting some spells and escaping with some treasure. That doesn't sound like LotR, but it does sound like Conan.

* Appendix N of the 1st Edition AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide is a bibliography of inspirational reading. While it mentions "J.R.R. Tolkien: "THE HOBBIT; 'Ring Trilogy'", the authors who were the "most immediate influence upon AD&D were de Camp and Pratt, REH, Fritz Leiber, Jack Vance, HPL** and Merritt".

** H.P. Lovecraft.
louisedennis: roleplayinglouisedennis on July 10th, 2011 10:04 am (UTC)
Indeed! I suspect it is very much like that.