Science fiction and fantasy                                            

Apocalypse Now Now

by Charlie Human


Where I come from, "now, now" is something you say to calm people before telling them "it's not the end of the world." Where Baxter Zevcenko comes from the words mean something different, and the apocalypse might well be around the corner.

Baxter is a sixteen-year-old living in Cape Town and masterminding a school porn empire. He's not the only one with underworld ambitions, as two other gangs vie for control of his high school. He tends to think of other people in terms of what they can do for him and the power they might have over him. In the case of teachers and some of his school friends that means he has very little regard for them at all. Baxter sees school as a cross between chess and a blood-soaked RPG.

Baxter is cynical, pragmatic, and unkind, so at first he doesn't seem like the type of character it would be fun to read about. However, there's a vivid and gruesome style to his thoughts that makes seeing things from his point of view compelling and highly amusing. At the same time he's probably a sociopath, he's mean to his autistic younger brother Rafe, and he's seeing a psychiatrist about his delusions. There's a serial killer loose who carves an eye into victims' foreheads, and some evidence points to this killer being Baxter himself.

Baxter's girlfriend Esme is his saving grace, the one person apart from himself who he seems to care about. When she goes missing he drops everything to look for her, enlisting the help of a supernatural bounty hunter called Ronin. Ronin is a hairy gun-toting wild card with bad habits and a turbulent history, and Baxter has no reason to trust him. Ronin might be the only person who can help, but from the moment they meet, Baxter's life takes a turn for the weird. And things keep getting stranger with every plot twist.

Although Baxter is sixteen, Apocalypse Now Now is a long way from a typical young adult book. It's bloodsoaked and gruesome, and full of drugs and all manner of horrors. There's a Flesh Palace that's even worse than the name suggests.

I wasn't familiar with the mythology based on giant crows, warring mantis and octopus gods, and a menagerie of other strange creatures, so this aspect made the events all the more unexpected. This is a novel that misdirects with gusto, and Charlie Human revels in making each chapter stranger than the last. Baxter's dry cleverness has a great foil in Ronin's mystical hobo ninja. If you have the stomach for it, it's a riot.

27th October 2015

Book Details

Year: 2013

Categories: Books

  Male Protagonist  
  Not For The Squeamish  

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5 star rating

Review ©

Source: ARC