Charlie Human’s wickedly funny fantasy Apocalypse Now Now was one of the most striking genre debuts of last year, with so many ideas fizzing around that it felt like there weren’t enough pages to contain them.
Now, having saved the world, 16 year old Baxter Zevcenko is back. He’s embraced his Boer mystic/shapeshifting crow bloodline and he’s being packed off to an elite boarding school for young people with magical abilities.
Fans of the first book won’t be too surprised that Hexpoort school is complete with its own drug rings, brutal physical training and the very real danger that you won’t get out alive.
Just as Baxter’s starting to get the hang of things and fulfil his potential as a dreamwalker, the school comes under attack and Bax is instructed to team up with his newly sober and increasingly furious mentor Jackie Ronin to get things under control before Cape Town is overrun.
Like its predecessor, Kill Baxter is laugh out loud funny and fiendishly creative. The anti-Hogwarts of Hexpoort gives Human the opportunity to riff more directly on pop culture, but so do the porn addict support groups, pretentious fashion shows and possessed nerds.
The further we delve into the supernatural world and its politics, with its psychotic fairies and violent luckdragons, the more engrossing the book becomes. Baxter himself is as entertaining a companion as ever, struggling with heartbreak and desperately trying to go against his own nature and be a good person, even as he travels through his own psyche with his psychosexual development funk band guides to fulfil his potential.
We criticised Apocalypse Now Now a little unfairly for struggling to keep its narrative grip on its explosion of creativity. This feels tighter and more focused, and just as gloriously insane.
Dark, mad, imaginative, and hilarious; Kill Baxter is a joy.