Dystopian futures where humanity is pretty much on the brink of extinction are a common theme in dieselpunk. It is also the case in J.W. Szczepaniak’s Beyond Aukfontein: An Oddyssey Through a Ruined World.
The setting is a post-apocalyptic world in a not-too-distant future. A world after The Fall. Humanity has been decimated, trying to make use and find wisdom in things of the past (called Oswald), things that hardly anyone can properly use anymore.
It is a world in decline where the inheritors of this broken world try to survive as best as they can and have founded communities of varied sizes and often ruled by madness.
Aukfontein, a city in South Africa, is where the events of the novel begin, but its beyond its borders that the story really unfolds.
Meet the Orange Dragons, one of the Aukfontein biker gangs, trying to make a life for themselves in a part of town called Bokker Bloc. Led by Vorg, who decides after the death of one of his men and another returns barely alive, it is time to send three others out on a mission. This is the kick-off of the adventure, a fight for survival in a hostile city filled with rival gangs, enemies both human and animal and something entirely new, mutated or evolved from post-Fall fall-out. A tale of the protagonist Orange Dragon biker Mik, who ends up leaving the borders of his home to lands far from what he’s used on a personal quest for revenge.
I won’t say more about the plot, because I don’t want to spoil it, but I can guarantee that he will meet a lot of colorful people in a lot of equally colorful places.
One of the greatest things about this novel is the use of different languages. And the fact that even if you’re not a language buff, you will mostly be able to understand what is going on, because not only are translations often provided, they are woven into the story itself.
I thought this is a stroke of sheer genius and something that greatly adds to the enjoyment I got from the book as it gives the setting more color.
Sadly not everything is always explained, which may cause for a wee bit of difficulty for those not familiar with the languages in the book, but even then I find that it contributes to the story as, let’s face it, in the real world we don’t always speak the same language either.
The main downside is that it drags. Yes, it’s awesome that the author went to such great lengths to describe places and people in this dystopian setting, but it could really have done with some more editing. To my personal liking, it was just too damn long. After reaching less than 40 percent of the book, I had to suppress the urge to skip straight to the end.
All in all, it was an alright story, I just wish it didn’t drag on in places so much. If you really love long books and dystopian post-apocalyptic settings, you may find this very enjoyable. I liked how it started out, but I thought it went downhill at some point and never really recovered.
And just on an end note which I feel I should be sharing with the holidays coming up and people giving books to their children (books are awesome presents by the way): this book contains pretty graphic, and not always consensual, sex scenes, which does make it rather unsuitable for minors.