Charlie Human - Apocalypse Now Now

Ingredients for a fun and exciting novel but lacks a strong narrator

It starts so well. The early chapters of Charlie Human's wry fantasy Apocalypse Now Now are a riot, as sixteen-year-old narrator Baxter Zevcenko introduces us to his dysfunctional family life and shows off the highly profitable porn distribution network he runs at his Cape Town high school. Once his girlfriend is kidnapped and the plot kicks in, however, things soon begin to deteriorate.

The bulk of the book is packed with monsters and magic and decapitations and explosions and gore, and yet somehow it's all a bit dull. Baxter seems oddly unfazed by anything that happens to him; whether cage-fighting a demonic crow or watching a loved one betray him, his narration never loses its detached, sarcastic tone. As a result the action lacks any real sense of peril, and the humour just isn't funny enough to compensate.

It is a shame, as the central mythology (based on real South African folklore) is solid, and there is plenty of imagination on show throughout. The ingredients are there for a fun, exciting fantasy romp, but it needs a much better narrator.

Join our newsletter