Book Review: Masande Ntshanga’s Triangulum

The existence of the universe is predicated on balance, but humankind has not heeded this. This planet’s conscious life has grown to deter the universe’s transference of the energy required for it to regenerate and sustain itself: a chain that passes through all sentient life on this plane. Triangulum pg.341

Triangulum, the first iThala Book Club read for 2020 has been one of the most complex yet spellbinding fiction books l’ve read recently.

The narrator, an unnamed young girl in search of her missing mother takes the reader through South Africa’s 1990s Ciskei to Johannesburg 2040s in what can best be described as a fusion of historical, dystopian Sci-Fi, speculative-mystery and modern contemporary literary fiction.

This is a book that simply refuses to be labelled and or categorised into a specific literary genre.

The story starts in 2043 with the discovery of documents sent to an astronomer working with the South African National Space Agency which claim that the world will end in ten years.

Masande Ntshanga then brilliantly crafts together a multi-layered story filled with deep, thought provoking themes that include Post-Apartheid South Africa’s coming off age issues around identity, gender fluidity, sexuality, parenting, mental health,destruction of earth’s ecology, extra-terrestrial beings as well as South Africa’s  apartheid historical atrocities of segregration and racial discriminatiton.

Beginning in the narrator’s childhood and then jumping forward decades to adulthood, before moving back to fill-in the in-between, the narrator’s search for her mother coincides with her ongoing and inexplicable visions of a great machine and a series of triangles.

She believes the machine will give her clues in finding her missing mother and the mystery around three kidnapped girls in her town.

As she grows up, the narrator becomes emmeshed with a series of powerful and important groups.

There is the government agency where she is employed and assigned to a special project, an activist group of which she is a secret member, and a terrorist cell that she is initially meant to infiltrate. In a fascinating writing style of diary entries  the reader must work hard to figure out what’s going on.

The work is worth it!


South Africa has a violent history, and the book explores one of Apartheid’s most important historical episodes by revisiting the Homelands or Bantustan.

It’s troubling that much of South Africa’s significant history is not mainstream.

However, writers like Ntsanga among many others, through their craft, help in challenging mainstream narratives that are half-baked and or completely untrue.

Over-all l loved this book for its intelligent writing and Ntsanga’s dark imagination which is thought-provoking.

My brain was fried in a good way and l almost instantly wanted to know the experiences of my fellow iThala book club members. My first reaction after finishing Triangulum and putting it down was a loud South African expression ‘YOH!!’ It blew my mind!

It is one of those books that as the reader, the more you keep coming back to it the more it reveals itself more to you and enriches your experience.

On the other hand, it’s not for every reader and that’s ok too.

A must read for any curious mind!