Book Review: Afterland by Lauren Beukes

afterland-by-lauren-beukes

Rating:  ★★★1/2

Afterland is about the Manpocalypse. How could I not pick up a book about the Manpocalypse? (And yes, they really call it that in the book.)  Anyway, we follow a mother, Cole, and her son, Miles, across the country as they attempt to flee back to their homeland.  They are being chased by Cole’s crazy sister Billy, who wants to sell Miles’s boy-specific-body-fluids on the black market, and the goverment, sort of.  I say sort of because the goverment, disappointingly, doesn’t come much in to play in the present timeline.

Now before I start this review, I want to say that I mostly enjoyed this book.  The writing was hard-hitting and edgy.  The characters were flawed and sympathetic.  The story moves along at a good clip most of the time.  However Beukes’s books always seem to leave me unsatisfied. I feel like they are blurbed and advertised in a way that promises something the books never deliver on.

 In this case, it was the world building.  I wanted to know what the world looked like with most of the men gone. I wanted to know what happened to all those male-dominated fields. Did commercial air travel come to a dead halt?  What about construction?  Was there some sort of emergency training program to get women involved in those fields?  What happened to some of the immune men? Am I to believe they are all under government protection? They didn’t go off on their own and start a cult where they were worshipped by women?  Or worse, abducted and held prisoner? I don’t know. I just wanted to see more. I wanted a tour of what the world looked like post-Manpocalypse and we’re given a frustratingly narrow view.

There is a point, about midway, where Cole and Miles encounter a religious cult.  The plot seems to slow quite a bit here and begins a lot of preaching about God and His plans which grew tiresome for me very quickly.

Otherwise I enjoyed this for the most part. I think if you go into it knowing you won’t be getting to see all those things I was hoping for, you could enjoy it.  The writing was the best part for me and in places reminiscent of The Mere Wife, but unfortunately falls just short of the mark of being a great book.

Afterland can be found on GoodReads and Amazon if you’d like to check it out.

Book Haul

Even though I wasn’t reading this summer- it didn’t stop me from buying books. What can I say? I have a problem. Barnes & Noble had a great sale a couple weeks ago so I picked up a few things.

Afterland by Lauren Beukes

In a world where most of the men are dead (after an event known as Manfall) a mother and son flee across the country in search of a safer place, encountering anarchist communes and crazed cults. I’ve read a couple books by Beukes now and while they each left something to be desired – the blurb on this one is too good to ignore.

The Confessions of Young Nero by Margaret George

Historical Fiction has always kind of been my first love, especially anything relating to Greeks, Romans and Vikings. So of course, when this was released a couple years ago, it caught my attention. This is a different look at one of Rome’s most famous Emperors, that one that fiddled while Rome burned.

Bird Box by Josh Malerman

I’ve already seen the movie- but this seemed perfect to keep away one of my longest reading slumps. It’s relatively short, the chapters are quick and suspenseful. Malerman has a sequel out to this now called Malorie that I’d also like to read, but I knew I couldn’t pick it up until I’d actually read this one.

The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware

The Turn of the Key is about a nanny who takes a job in a smart home in the Scottish Highlands. What she doesn’t know is the children are a nightmare, the parents are absent, and the “smart” home has it’s own ideas about how to operate. This was another book that seemed perfect for my current reading mood so I picked it up on a whim.

That was it for this haul- but I’m excited to share some of my other summer purchases too! I’ve already made it through two of these books and loved them. Have you read any of these books? What did you think?

On a side note- this is my first time using WordPress’s new Block Editor. It’s okay but also kind of weird? So I apologize if the formatting is wonky. Might take some getting used to.

Book Review: The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

This is my first experience with Lauren Beukes.  The blurbs on all of her books sound super exciting, but this particular book would not have been my first choice if my library had had some of her other books readily available (Moxyland is the one I really want to read).

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

Rating:  ★★★

Blurb (from GoodReads): In Depression-era Chicago, Harper Curtis finds a key to a house that opens on to other times. But it comes at a cost. He has to kill the shining girls: bright young women, burning with potential. Curtis stalks them through their lives across different eras until, in 1989, one of his victims, Kirby Mazrachi, survives and starts hunting him back.

I wanted to read this based on the time period (yes to all things Capone era Chicago) and the idea of Kirby stalking her killer back.  I was hoping for something more like Peppermint:

Jennifer Garner in Peppermint

I wanted a thrilling cat and mouse game.  What I got was:

Ace Ventura Detective Gif

Except Kirby is not really as entertaining as Ace Ventura.  When the blurb says “hunting him back,” what it means is, she ‘digs through cold case police files, interviews victim’s families, and tries to establish a pattern.’  She is not literally hunting him.

The format this book follows reminds me a lot of Stephen King’s Mr. Mercedes.  The identity of the killer is known from page one.  The issue is Harper Curtis isn’t really as compelling a villain as Brady Hartsfield.  His chapters weren’t all that exciting.  You already know what his goal is.  He doesn’t do much to surprise you. There’s no mystery to solve.

And without there being a mystery to solve- there’s not much else to sell this story.  The House and the time travel pieces felt gimmicky.  *Possible mild spoiler* The Shining Girls are just normal girls.  They aren’t magic.  They aren’t destined to save the world.  Killing them is not prevent some all important wonderful thing from happening.  Without there being anything significant about them, the House just feels like a gimmick so that Beukes can dazzle us all with the circle she draws in the timeline.

Stephen Colbert Slow Clap Gif

Listen- the timeline thing is nifty.  Really, Beukes did a great job with it.  But when it didn’t serve any greater purpose in the story I was left asking myself what the point of it was.  Nothing about the House is really explained.  There are no rules.  Neither of the two (three?) MCs are particularly compelling.

Almost every other character was far more interesting.  The Shining Girls.  Kirby’s mother Rachel… I sighed with relief every time one of their chapters popped up.  I particularly adored Alice’s story, but they just weren’t enough.

I think I’d have appreciated this more as a science fiction mystery than a science fiction thriller.  I like it when books keep me guessing.  When Kirby starts discovering clues and putting the pieces together, I would have loved to have been kept guessing about these different clues.  How they fit together, what the answer is.  Have the House and the time travel aspect be some crazy weird twist that was revealed closer to the end than in the beginning.

It’s not a bad book by any means.  The writing was great.  And while Harper Curtis is not going to go down as one of my most memorable villains of all time, he’s pretty creepy.  There are a couple chapters that will make you cringe.  Sometimes genre benders work.  They feel fresh and new and exciting.  In this case the book waffled too much.  It wanted to be a thriller, it wanted to be time travel, it wanted to be an amateur detective story with the protagonist solving the clues, and the overall effect fell a little flat for me.

Anyway, I intend to try some of Beukes other work and hope for better results.  I can see that she’s smart, and technically a great writer, I just hope the rest of the blurbs aren’t as misleading as this one was.

The Shining Girls can be found on GoodReads and Amazon.

 

Library Book Haul

How do you bust a reading slump?

Read ALL the books.

So I went to the library and got ALL the books.

Okay not really.  Here’s what’s up next:

Witchmark C.L. Polk

Witchmark by C. L. Polk

Initial impressions: The writing is excellent.  I only read the first chapter but it was super atmospheric.  It was very easy to picture the setting: people riding bikes and horse drawn carriages in the streets.  A bustling city with soldiers coming and going.  The shadow of war hanging over them all.  The intrigue level is super high.  Nothing is really explained.  It starts out normal enough with a doctor leaving work for the day, and an emergency patient coming through.  And then the magic and witchery starts.  I was expecting more magical realism than straight up magic (which honestly is not really my thing) but I like it so far.  It seems to be hinting at an underground mage society so I’m excited to see where that leads to.  A promising start!

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Initial impressions: First of all- GoodReads told me this was 182 pages long.  It’s not.  I’m willing to forgive it in lieu of the fabulous introduction from Stephen King.  When he found this book, he said he was looking for a book about “how boys really are.”  Golding’s influence on King is obvious.  As I read through the first chapters I kept thinking it felt familiar. Finally I realized it was because it feels like King.  The characters feel real, the prose isn’t overly flowery (though more flowery than King’s).  I’m a little confused about how these boys got to this island, but so far that first chapter is the one that resonated with me the most, so I’ll be continuing with this one before the others.

Initial Impressions: This is confusing as hell.

Seriously- why do authors think writing without quotation marks is a good thing?  Not cool man. I had to re-read a paragraph like eight times, move on, and then double back when I realized there weren’t any quotation marks (and honestly I’m still not sure I understood the conversation).  Otherwise, the prose is spot on.  I’ve highlighted a couple quotes I love already, and if it wasn’t for Lord of the Flies, this would have been my second pick to continue reading.  I’m not sure what the judge’s deal is. I know he’s the big bad in this novel though, so I’m excited to see what it’s leading up to.

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

Initial impressions: I just read a book where a man gets shot in the chest, kills another man dead for taking his shoes, but pulling the wings off a fat little bumblebee bothered me more.  There’s something wrong with me right?  Anyway- I was immediately sucked in by the premise.  A little girl meets a strange man.  There’s something sinister happening with the strange man (Harper Curtis).  That much is obvious from the start.  He seems to hint that he’s acting under orders from some other organization, but that doesn’t make you like him any more.  The writing is great and I’m curious to see where it goes.

Queen of Kings by Maria Dahvana Headley

Queen of Kings by Maria Dahvana Headley

Initial impressions: I think I’ve only really read the introduction and the prologue so far, but I’m a little disappointed.  I’m still coming down from the high that was The Mere Wife, so I had high expectations.  My favorite type of writing, my favorite type of book, is one that I like to describe as unapologetic.  The author writes in a way that’s bound to make the reader uncomfortable, exposing all the ugly truths within a person or a society or practice, but so far this isn’t that.  It doesn’t carry the same level of force that The Mere Wife does. Still, I haven’t read much so I’ll remain hopeful.

The Queens of Innis Lear by Tessa Gratton

The Queens of Innis Lear by Tessa Gratton

Initial impressions: I wasn’t really interested in The Queens of Innis Lear when it first released.  The title, the name… it seemed like a pretty generic fantasy to me.  It looked and sounded similar to Four Dead Queens and Three Dark Crowns, which all released at about the same time. But I recently stumbled across the title Lady Hotspur which I added strictly because of the title.  When I checked out the blurb of that, it referenced this.  So I doubled back to TQOIL and read the blurb, and thought what the hell.  I liked King Lear, who not give it a go?  I hope it maintains the humor and wit of King Lear throughout.

So that’s ALL the books.

Have you read any of them?  Are they on your TBR?

Also- please send help.