Review: Apocalypse Now Now / Author: Charlie Human / Publisher: Century / Release Date: August 8th
Set against the refreshing backdrop of Cape Town, Apocalypse Now Now is the gloriously twisted novel from writer Charlie Human. Imaginative, slightly demented and wonderfully odd, it’s a striking debut that delivers a dark monster-filled tale at a frenetically enjoyable pace.
The story follows Baxter Zevcenko, a 16-year-old who deals pornography of all shapes and species in his school playground syndicate, “Spider”. A socially aware bidding entrepreneur, Baxter’s life takes a turn for the worse when his girlfriend Esme is supposedly kidnapped by the dreaded Mountain Killer that has been abducting the town's inhabitants. Terrified and thirsty for revenge, Baxter calls upon a boozed-up supernatural bounty hunter to track his girlfriend down, allowing the story to run rampant with brutal violence, freaky nightmare creatures and African mythology.
It’s a book that wears its influences on its sleeve, literally. Names like Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman and Quentin Tarantino adorn the cover and as the story progresses it is easy to understand why. We are zipped across seedy parallel underworlds with flamboyant characters, jolly gung-ho violence and a perverse sense of humour that would make each of the above quake with delight. In that sense Apocalypse Now Now reads like a zany mash-up of styles that shouldn’t really come together. But thankfully, the voice of the main protagonist prevents the madness from taking control. His intelligent quips and cocky smart-arse attitude provides an incredibly entertaining backbone to a story that slowly reveals his heart and his struggles to grasp the world around him.
A few aspects warrant nitpicking, like the early reliance on pop culture references and the overwhelming amount of characters coming out of the woodwork by the conclusion. But once Apocalypse Now Now finds that supernatural groove, it roars along with the escalating rhythm of an action-packed video game, constantly raising the stakes and ripping open its world until it finally reaches a climax worthy of its name. (Oh, and the phrase “now now” is a South African term for not happening presently but to happen shortly, just in case you were wondering.)
Despite the promise of impending apocalypse, this is a tale well worth your time and attention. If you want the dark imaginative wonder of Gaiman injected with the reckless, carefree abandon of a Tarantino flick, you’d be a fool not to hitch a ride into the mysterious world of Charlie Human’s South Africa.