Trigger warnings: ALL OF THEM.
I’ll be using a lot of words which I don’t normally use.
Baby Tokoloshe are Not Found Under Cabbage Leaves
Every land has its mythical creatures, and Africa is no different. The Mantis ǀKaggen is a shapeshifter, world creator, and trickster god worshipped by the San. Tokoloshe are mischievous water sprites who can become invisible by drinking water or swallowing a stone, and Obambo are the evil possessing spirits of those who were never properly buried. Their tales are passed down from parent to child. Ever wonder what the adult version would look like?
We live in the real world, and in the real world, you’re born, you fuck, and you die. Sometimes violently. Mythical creatures are no different, except they have more ways to fuck (shapeshifting) and die (giant murder crows). It’s awesome, especially when the other side does most of the dying. With Apocalypse Now Now by Charlie human I got all of that and more. Yes, I had fun, and no I’m not proud of it. I still had fun,
Creature Pornography is Just the Beginning
“Like all prominent schools in the leafy Southern Suburbs, we have lush school grounds, sophisticated computer labs that were out of date as soon as they were installed, a debating team, a competitive rugby team, and gangs, drugs, bulimia, depression and bullying.”
Baxter Zevchenko is a typical teenager, if we assume that teenagers are pieces of shit (some less shitty than others). He has an autistic brother he regularly beats up (not cool!), he runs a creature pornography ring (don’t ask) in his high school, and he has a very unhealthy relationship with a kleptomaniac. Oh, and he also sees very violent visions of a giant Mantis and Octopus fighting each other. Good thing he sees a psychiatrist!
Life is good for Baxter. His gang, the Spider, have a solid monopoly on the pornography market in Westridge High. The other gangs respect his services, and if he manages to get them to sign the agreement he negotiated, he’ll be able to smoothly ride the pornography train until graduation (or until his next big scheme). Except then his girlfriend Esme goes missing, and the only clue he has is a glowing tooth found on the crime scene. Since when do teeth glow?
Figuring out this mystery is going to take him deep into Cape Town’s hidden underworld where, with the help of supernatural bounty hunter Jackson “Jackie” Ronin, he’ll discover the real truth behind the creature porn he’s been peddling, learn the meaning behind his visions, and also fight off giant shape shifting murderous crows. Yes this book is awesome, and I don’t regret a thing!
Baxter is a Fun Piece of Shit
“Shiver me clitoris, that’s an evil vessel”
Apocalypse Now Now is what Percy Jackson and Artemis Fowl would look like if Quentin Tarantino and H. P. Lovecraft decided to team up and write their own adult version of these books, and then make them even more fun. For me this was a breath of putrid air, which was what I needed after reading the last two books. I needed magic, and I needed it really bad.
The magical world in this book was crafted from native African and Boer myths and legends, which was really fascinating. I met a ton of legendary creatures I had never heard about. Some based on real stories, and some I assume are made up. It doesn’t really matter though because their backstory was replaced with a sizable dose of Lovecraftian horror, and most of them were encountered in very adult circumstances.
Baxter discovers this first when an electricity elemental devours a Sangoma (traditional diviner), but there is also a flesh palace run by a literal anansi queen who offers every form of entertainment possible including pole-dancing zombies, and cage fights. It’s par for the course for everything the book offered until now: fucking, fun, and violence, but mainly just fun.
This book has most if not all the triggers, and laughs at/with them. There is a reason I put that warning at the beginning of this post, and why I am using this type of language. If you are the type of person who thinks Cards Against Humanity is the best thing invented since whips, then this book is for you. However, if you feel that what I wrote was deeply disturbing then give it a pass. Using this type of language is hard for me, but sometimes it’s necessary, and in the case of Apocalypse Now Now, it’s really necessary.
Not All Jokes are Funny
Today’s Omer is kindness in eternity. This book has a teenage shitbag and two Lovecraftian entities engaged in an eternal struggle, which is perfect, except that’s not what I want to talk about. I don’t want to talk about eternity, just the importance of kindness, which this book is very much not.
I tend to sink into books. If the author does a good job, I’ll experience it the way they intended me to experience their story. Charlie Human is a good author. He offers the reader a good time, and that’s what I experienced. Afterwards though, I started thinking about the specifics, and about offensive writing in general, pros and cons, because there are very real risks of “fun” offensive becoming “malicious” offensive, which is a line that you need to be very careful about crossing.
I’m a big fan of no holds barred jokes. I have always felt that people need to learn how to make fun of themselves, and that once we figure out how to laugh at everything, we’ll have world peace. However I am also aware that for very real and good reasons this isn’t always possible. Baxter Zevchenko is a piece of shit. By the end of the book he becomes considerably less of a piece of shit. He’s still a piece of shit though. I needed this, but I also needed to remember that about him, and remind myself that identifying too deeply with shit is neither healthy nor recommended. My suggestion? Read the book, enjoy it, but then go take a shower to clear your head and rejoin the world.
#beeternal doesn’t work today. Instead, I’m going to invoke #bekind again.
About the Author
Charlie Human is a graduate of the university of Cape Town’s creative writing program and has contributed short pieces to print and online publications. He works in online media, is married and lives in Cape Town.