The Prey of Gods – Nicky Drayden

In South Africa, the future looks promising. Personal robots are making life easier for the working class. The government is harnessing renewable energy to provide infrastructure for the poor. And in the bustling coastal town of Port Elizabeth, the economy is booming thanks to the genetic engineering industry which has found a welcome home there. Yes—the days to come are looking very good for South Africans. That is, if they can survive the present challenges:

A new hallucinogenic drug sweeping the country . . .

An emerging AI uprising . . .

And an ancient demigoddess hellbent on regaining her former status by preying on the blood and sweat (but mostly blood) of every human she encounters.

It’s up to a young Zulu girl powerful enough to destroy her entire township, a queer teen plagued with the ability to control minds, a pop diva with serious daddy issues, and a politician with even more serious mommy issues to band together to ensure there’s a future left to worry about.

I’ve been struggling with how to write this review for some reason, which has been frustrating. Mostly because The Prey of Gods by Nicky Drayden is just so wholly original & unlike anything I’ve ever read, and I don’t quite know how to take this truly bonkers novel & distill it into a review that makes sense.

This is a book that for sure doesn’t fit into any one genre. It’s a little bit of a lot of different things, and it all comes out to something that’s wildly entertaining from the word go. There’s a heavy sci-fi element, but there’s also old gods rising to power, politics, a scourge of dik-diks (and subsequent dik-dik jokes), sentient robots, weird hallucinogenic drugs that might make you think you are a crab, singing….there’s just A Whole Lot going on in The Prey of Gods. The story is set in Port Elizabeth, South Africa in 2064, and Drayden breathes such life into the setting, like…goddamn. This is a part of the world I’ve never visited, but this story really made me feel like I had.

There are quite a few POVs to keep track of in this book, and I think of them all, hmm…I may have enjoyed Muzi’s story best overall. His is sort of like a mini coming-of-age story tucked into the book, with him coming to understand his queerness while also working through some difficult family issues. Muzi’s energy kind of set the tone (for me) early in the book, so I was always most anxious to get back to his storyline.

I also loved Nomvula (she’s ostensibly the girl on the front cover), a burgeoning demigoddess who is just beginning to discover & utilize her unique gifts. The fate of the world is quite literally at stake.

This was a fucking wild ride, and I’m glad to have finally read this! This was a planned buddy read nearly a year in the making, which still didn’t actually pan out, but such is life. I’m gonna go ahead and add everything Nicky Drayden has published to my wishlist because she’s a fantastic writer with a seemingly limitless imagination. The Prey of Gods is funny, impactful, gorgeously diverse, and just incredibly unique!

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