08 November, 2013

Toa by Vaughn Rapatahana [Stanley, Central City Library]

This is a unique piece of fiction, set in an intriguing future – a New Zealand of foreign-controlled government and business, with an indigenous guerilla war beneath the surface.

Our protagonist is an ex-university lecturer and big-time drifter/wanderer Mahon. The oddball narrator takes us through Mahon’s journey through the skinny country and the Dirty City (i.e. Auckland) in his old Mk IV Zephr, accompanied by his gun, Molly.

Characters drop in and out of the story. The Prime Minister, John D. Sucker (subtlety is not part of the author’s methodology). Xavier, a seriously screwed-up assassin and redneck. A feminist cult, appropriately named The Cult. There are jaded academics, shadowy figures in power, and a few other individuals just caught up in the action.

The narrative is peppered with references to philosophers like John-Paul Sartre, and is post-modern to the core: self-aware and self-deprecating.  The quirky humour fits the action and protagonists well, e.g. there is a madlib fill-in-the-blanks description of a sex scene, and several pictures of other scenes are included to make sure we “get our money’s worth”.

Why did I like it? The wry humour and style of writing made this book a winner. It promised more than it delivered in terms of story, but its real appeal is in the unusual locale and unpredictable characters – the journey, rather than the destination.

Title: Toa
Author: Vaughn Rapatahana
ISBN: 9780992245320
Published: 2013
Publisher: Atuanui Press

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