It’s easy to become jaded with the plethora of Dystopian fiction knocking about right now. It feels like everything’s been done before, and a lot of newer authors seem reluctant to break the mould.
Enter South African author Ronel Van Tonder. Her novel Compile:Quest came across my desk recently, and having been hugely impressed with recent efforts from her fellow South Africans Lauren Beukes and Charlie Human, I was tempted to give this one a go.
Set in the distant future, Compile:Quest introduces a dystopian world where large numbers of the remaining population live in domed cities, segregated from those outside, largely controlled and manipulated by advanced technology and social media, seamlessly linking each “denizen” to each other, as well as the network owned by the mysterious SUN corporation.
When Peppermint, a denizen of the dome is called for what seems to be a routine medical exam, she is quickly ripped from her everyday life and subjected to testing in a secret facility. As she learns the reasons why, she makes a discovery that changes her life and unveils SUN’s dark plans.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the dome in a harsh wasteland where solar flares have forced survivors to live in squalor underground, Jinx, a soldier in the Rooivaik embarks on a mission to find the truth about her parents, while engaging in negotiations with another dangerous militia group.
The strength of Compile:Quest is in Van Tonder’s prolific prose, each carefully constructed set piece expertly described in impressive detail. The technological elements are both believable and practical, and the narrative is gently peppered with South African colloquialisms, giving it an authentic voice and feel throughout, without being too obvious, and although there is a glossary provided at the end, most readers should be able to figure them out by the time they reach the conclusion.
Compile:Quest’s combination of great storyline, edgy attitude and strong characterisations make for a riveting read, and will have the reader reaching straight for the next book in the series.