The world ends with fireworks and a pop concert, as we’ve come to expect. South Africa, and particularly the southeast coast city of Port Elizabeth has tried to move beyond Apartheid, beyond the poverty of global south post-colonialism, but time has a long memory and more short-lived humans are often destined to repeat history, despite all good intentions otherwise. Because the problem with good intentions is the secrets every person hides, and for some, those secrets can kill.
The Prey of Gods, while it has an apocalyptic feel, is a novel of new beginnings, wonder, and family. All the main characters have both something to hide, and must work to move past whatever secrets keep them in a place of darkness or fear. There are, of course, villains, but even they are driven by a history written when the world was still young, and can’t help themselves. This is where the novel excels, in fact, taking a mythologized history and literalizing it to create a speculative future. The gods lived, died, and are now reborn. What humanity does in response what drives the story.
The large cast of characters in this novel makes it difficult to pin down the driving plot, however it is Muzi’s desire to live a life outside the shadow of his larger-than-life grandfater, Stoker’s desire to live a life free of lies of identity and personality, and Nomvula’s desire to have a mother who is more than a shell of a person, to have someone in her life who really cares about her, that sets the world on fire and pushes the story to its inevitable conclusion. Throw in a not-so-young-anymore pop diva who remade herself in the image of a woman who never knows fear or pain, a goddess of death determined to take over the world, and a drug dealer with a penchant for the new, and you’ve got the kind of volatile situation that leads to the birth of artificial intelligence and a new species of sentient robots, as well as genetically engineered extinct animal hybrids on the loose.
The Prey of Gods is a buzz-saw of a novel, because it manages to squeeze so much into so few pages, and although the second third of the story drags just a little with the necessity of pushing so many character viewpoints into a short period of chaotic time, there’s plenty still to chew on when the smoke clears. Overall this novel is a great debut and positive outlook for the future of speculative fiction.