Slipping: Stories, Essays, & Other Writing, by Lauren Beukes

Slipping: Stories, Essays, & Other Writing Book Cover Slipping: Stories, Essays, & Other Writing
Lauren Beukes
Short stories, essays, science fiction, fantasy, non-fiction
Tachyon publications
November 29 2016

In her edgy, satiric debut collection, award-winning South African journalist and author Lauren Beukes (The Shining Girls, Moxyland) never holds back. Nothing is simple and everything is perilous when humans are involved: corruption, greed, and even love (of a sort).

A permanent corporate branding gives a young woman enhanced physical abilities and a nearly-constant high
Recruits lifted out of poverty find a far worse fate collecting biohazardous plants on an inhospitable world
The only adult survivor of the apocalypse decides he will be the savior of teenagers; the teenagers are not amused.

From Johannesburg to outer space, these previously uncollected tales are a compelling, dark, and slippery ride.

I think I've read all of Beukes' novels, that I know of. That alone says something about how I feel about her writing, doesn't it? "Edgy" isn't an adjective that often comes to my mind, but I suppose it applies, given that I tend to give her stories, like, 90ies MTV vignettes in my mind.

This is an excellent collection of stories, essays, and tidbits. A couple of these stories blew me away;  I wanted them to be something like 800+ page novels rather than ending in just their few measly pages, but of course, that's a feature, not a bug.

Still, Lauren Beukes, if you should ever consider making The Green into a grand-scale trilogy tale, you have at least one reader embarrassingly ready to press the pre-order button.  Seriously.  You take me to another planet, you plonk me down in a ragtag bunch of economically disadvantaged recruits, braving a terrifying alien jungle, mining for materials of military interest. There are things out there. Oh, actually, we've utilized some of these things.  Look, you don't mind slime molds, do you? ...  This was all very Weyland-Yutani and Ripley's differing views on the xenomorphs, and I adore it.

And I always want more slime molds in my fiction.

The title story, Slipping, is another excellent one. I never really expected to care about sports, but, as it turns out, I care a lot about Olympics if the participants are all variously... enhanced. Modified.  These Olymic Games are really showcases for technology, selling to the military or whoever else might take an interest.  Of course, when the abilities come from what you add,  the athletic prowess, or indeed anything else, of the person you add it to isn't terribly important.

Not all the stories in this collection are speculative in nature, some are near-future enough to be practically now, and some are entirely untouched, but the author's voice remains the same; Sharp, clear, and with a hint of a dry laugh between the paragraphs.

Non-fiction is gathered at the end of the book. Of these, I especially liked On Beauty: A letter to my five-year old daughter,  which is what the title says it is. Once you've made it this far through the book, you'll have a good idea what kind of message is being conveyed.

Definitely one of the strongest story collections of my 2016, and a lot of fun for those of us who liked Moxyland and Zoo City just as much as The Shining Girls and Broken Monsters.

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