Rian Johnson's cult classic Brick reimagined the American high school as the centre of a web of noir intrigue. Charlie Human pulls off a similar trick with his debut novel, turning a South African school into the backdrop for a world of scheming students, serial killers, demonic forces and some fairly icky sex.
Baxter Zevcenko is the leader of the Spider - an improbably well-connected porn ring operating out of Westridge High in Cape Town. He's a manipulative braniac with a poster of Gordon Gecko on his wall, and plans to rule the school. But when his girlfriend goes missing, he's forced to use all of his resources to try and save her from the roaming "Mountain Killer", while fending off hordes of supernatural monsters. One additional setback: Baxter may (or may not) be delusional...
Apocalypse Now Now is a riot; a fire bomb of a novel, exploding with sick humour, violence and depravity. Part of the same wave of punk urban fantasy as Chuck Wendig’s books, it’s perhaps even wilder. The first third, which focues on Baxter and his crew, is especially strong - so much so that when the supernatural elements come to the fore the book becomes slightly less interesting. His human characters are far more intriguing than the monsters.
Happily, it's never less than very funny, and the ongoing question of Baxter's sanity adds a degree of mystery. There's warmth here, too – you'll likely feel sympathy for devious bastard Bax by the end.
Will Salmon twitter.com/evilrobotbill
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