Review: Apocalypse Now Now by Charlie Human
Baxter Zevcenko’s life is pretty sweet. As the 16 year old kingpin of the Spider, his smut-peddling schoolyard syndicate, he’s making a name for himself as an up-and-coming entrepreneur. Profits are on the rise, the other gangs are staying out of his business, and he’s going out with Esme, the girl of his dreams. But when Esme gets kidnapped, and all the clues point towards strange forces at work, things start to get seriously weird. The only man drunk enough to help is a bearded, booze-soaked, supernatural bounty hunter that goes by the name of Jackson ‘Jackie’ Ronin.
Plunged into the increasingly bizarre landscape of Cape Town’s supernatural underworld, Baxter and Ronin team up to save Esme. On a journey that takes them through the realms of impossibility, they must face every conceivable nightmare to get her back, including the odd brush with the Apocalypse.
First off the bat, this book is weird. Weird in a good way though. It looks cool, the cover is the UK release, and the synopsis is intriguing and gives just enough away to leave you wanting to read. The main characters are a bit strange: a schoolboy, his girlfriend and a supernatural bounty hunter? OK, I’ll give it a go. And from the first page I was gripped.
This is the debut book from Charlie Human, a native South African who has the writing ability of a seasoned pro. As this is his debut book I expected it to be a bit tentative, the story just gently guiding you through the same old story of the underbelly of the school yard, the dog eat dog world of gangs, one up man ship and manipulation. Things do look fairly basic and the pacing is fine in the first third of the book.
Baxter is in therapy because he keeps having dreams about a giant octopus fighting a giant mantis, his autistic brother Rafe is irritating him, he is the leader of his own little gang who supply porn to the rest of the school and he has a girlfriend, Esme. But when Esme is kidnapped everything you had learnt about Baxter goes straight out the window. The book and the writing kick up several gears in the second third with a number of revelations that you won’t see coming.
From start to finish this just kept getting better and better. From the second third of the book through to the end it is a rollercoaster ride of twists, turns, surprises and revelations. The book has everything from giant crows to dwarfs to mind controlling spiders. There are various aspects of South African culture and mythology which are explained throughout the book to help move the story along but I think a base knowledge would be ideal. This would be my only gripe about this book, as it appears to have everything else.
The book maintains a good pace, excellent action scenes and more twists and turns than a Formula 1 circuit. The action scenes are somewhat few and far between with three main battles taking place, all in the second half of the book, but they are all well built up and definitely don’t disappoint. All of the characters introduced in the first third of the book play a part in the second half and no one is left behind in a ‘what was the point of that character’ way. There is a point about halfway through that I thought ‘how is this now going to end’ which continued through to the third to last chapter. At 300 odd pages it isn’t too long and doesn’t feel that like a single word was wasted in crafting the intricate flow of the real, the fantastically surreal and the downright bizarre story contained within the covers.
To sum up
I would definitely recommend this to all. If you’re a fan of fantasy adventure you are going to love this. If you not then you will enjoy it immensely. Charlie Human has set the bar very high for himself and he has already got a follow up book in the works. I just hope the next one is as gripping and unique as Apocalypse Now Now.
Apocalypse Now Now is available in paperback and ebook from 8 August 2013.