kill-baxter-coverReleased: July 2014

Having a craving for some twisted, South African dark fantasy writing isn’t something you necessarily realise you have until you start reading some again. This is how it feels anyway, when reading the opening of Kill Baxter, the sequel to Charlie Human’s debut, Apocalypse Now Now, and realising how easy it is to fall back into that world again and be taken for another hell-bent ride.

The frenzied pace and breakneck speed at which weird and wonderful images are thrown at you has carried on almost seamlessly from the last book, but the fact that Kill Baxter feels like it is slightly more structured and kept in control definitely makes it a more satisfying read. It can only be a good thing, since the signals are clearly blazing that Human will be turning this into some kind of series.

In terms of our previously almost sociopathic narrator, Baxter Zevcenko, the lines are clearer, as we’ve now found out that he is half Siener (good magical being), half Crow (not so good magical being), which goes some ways to explaining his schizophrenic behaviour in the first book. It provides a nice backdrop to his teenage angst on making moral decisions, something that feels a bit closer to what goes on in a normal teenager’s head, just with a magical environment.

The book opens with a solid setting too, as we find out it is now Baxter’s turn to get on a train to a magical school where he will get sorted into a house and make a best friend and a school enemy all on his first day. All the clichés are put there knowingly and to be twisted into Human’s own dark world, which is what makes it the most fun to read.

Regrettably, the story doesn’t linger long in this setting before it changes up a gear. It’s a pity, as you don’t get a real feel for the school, or some of the pupils Baxter befriends, before they’re already off on a world saving mission.

It’s a tighter plot than the first book, and you get the idea that Human probably now has a stronger idea of what he’s wanting to do with his story in the long run. Some of the characters could still do with a bit of fleshing out, especially if they’re to be growing into long-term friends, or enemies of Baxter’s.

Even with these slight shortcomings, Charlie Human is still offering something unique, a bit nuts and distinctly South African.

★★★