Thursday, August 22, 2013

Kikaffir: A Review

Ian Martin's Kikaffir: a black comedy (Amazon, AmazonUK, Smashword), is set in overheated, over polluted, post-apocalyptic South Africa of 2030 possibly somewhere in the very rough area of Richard's Bay or Durban on the East Coast where the white capped (?) mountains meet the sea.  The term Kikaffir is Afrikaans for Kaffir (derogatory term for blacks), but the term Kaffraria was once used in reference to that general area.

Ian Martin is native and resident of South Africa.  He spent his first 30 years as a bit of a knock about, but after meeting a very nice lady settled down to raise a family while working as a contractor.  Seventeen years later, he gave up contracting to become a writer.  His novels have what appear to be a violently pornographic intent, with the very rough language, and depraved sexual scenes appearing more to be included for shock value than arousal.

The authors blurb from his website:
This is Macbeth in 2030. The apocalypse has come and gone, and Earth is a smouldering wasteland. For the last remnants of the human race there is no possibility of a future. In desperation they set about butchering one another before they choke to death in the toxic vapours enveloping the planet.

The characters and plotting in a loose sort of way follows Macbeth. Trying to figure out which one is which is mildly entertaining.  And there is an absurdist element of comedy.  Some American, voyagers, of the "last ship" trope, pay them a visit.  But these are not engineers, or scientists rebuilding the world.  They are from San Francisco, and behave in the stereotypical way with there leader, Aldo, wearing pumps and women's gowns.  The Kikiffir tell them of their plans to build a resource center to the future.  A future that they know has no hope.
Knowing that our grandiose plans will amount to nothing,...needn't deter us for a moment. So what if we're unlikely to survive for more than another year or two?  It doesn't make our action, our very existence, any more futile and meaningless than if we were living in some golden age where the future beckons and every day dawns clear and full of hope. No matter what the circumstances, or the point in history, our lives amount to nothing in the end. There's only one honest epitaph: "This human became a handful of dust." (Kindle 1369).
Which goes some way I suppose toward the author's justification for the wanton and graphic violence and depraved sexuality throughout.  He says as much himself.  After Selo, has told a joke so vial, that Mike berates him.
"Seems pretty obvious, "  said Mike. "Some things you don't joke about.  So?
"Well it got me thinking about what's  happening to us right now.  I've always thought the only way to handle the human condition is to laugh about it. It's such a miserable story, it's asking to be mocked...It's all this painful sh_t, from the cradle to the grave. Disappointment, suffering and humiliation - that kind of sh_t.  And the longer you live the worse it gets.  The only escape is death; its a sorry story, and up to now my way of dealing with it has been to laugh in its face.  What else?  But now I'm beginning to wonder."
So you don't find it funny an more?" said Mike, "Losing your sense of humor?"
"It Looks like it, said Sello. "It's just too grim to be funny any more. Now, for the first time, I'm actually looking forward to being dead."
"We're getting there pal. We're getting there." (Kindle starting at 2778)
So the author isn't clueless as to the questionability of his writing style.  It's just debatable as to whether or not the ends justify the means.  Unfortunately, I am with Mike on this one, too much of this story just isn't funny, or really justified.  Watching some latter day post-apocalyptic mediaeval Scotsman acting extremely poorly doesn't really work for me.  Shakespeare makes Macbeth work with poetry and drama.  There isn't a whole lot of that here.  Except as a curio, I don't recommend it.
We now come to our two descriptive (not qualitative) ratings: 1 to 7 with 4 the mid-point and 7 high. Realism does not include the cause of the collapse or apocalypse, but is otherwise an assessment of how close to today's world is the setting. Could you imagine your friends, or families living through the situation. Readability is not literary merits, but literally how quick and painless of a read.
Realism is limited.  You have a very far future tale based loosely on an English Renaissance play.  The author interjects himself into the novel as a character occasionally.  People starve, there is cannibalism, so we will call it a 2.
Readability suffers because of the dual MacBeth-Kikaffir fuzziness.  It is intended to be over the top, but that causes some confusion at times in the scripting.  Eventually you get to where you figure most of it out, but it takes some time.  It is a 3.

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