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.

Broken monsters, by Lauren Beukes

Broken Monsters Book Cover Broken Monsters
Lauren Beukes
Horror, Mystery
July 31st 2014

Lauren Beukes is one of my "auto-buy" authors. With good reason, because she can write novels that look eerily like plain crime investigations that I still find very interesting and readable.  Of course, that might be because it turns out not to be very plain after all.  Some of the imagery in Broken Monsters will inevitably make certain readers long for the next Hannibal season, though there aren't many similarities beyond that.

Our cast is a handful of police detectives, a couple of teenagers, a struggling-for-hipness author with graying hair, a diabetic DJ, bits and pieces of the art millieu, oh, and the city of Detroit.  Detroit plays a major part, and its characterization is difficult for me-the-foreigner to judge. I accepted Robocop-Detroit,  I'll obviously accept any Detroit.  The rest of the gang, though! Beautifully nowhere-near-perfect but also not-irreedeemably-flawed, all of them.  Even the big bad is, well, it's complicated.

I noticed a review headlined "The heir to Stephen King's throne?" - which is, well, not a thought I had, but it does place the novel on the genre-map.  (And it means it's a good read for Spooktober, you know, if you weren't convinced yet.)  Other qualities this novel possesses include "unputdownable-ness" and "sharp-but-casual-observations-about-human-beings-ism".  That last one might not be a commonly used -ism, but, well, there you go.

The changing character viewpoints are not a new or extraordinary technique, but in this book, I feel like it firmly cements the feeling that everything has an audience, all the time. For good or bad - though perhaps mostly bad:  The moment a boy stands alone waiting for the bus, unwatched, someone shows up to watch him. A bad someone.   A girl having an unfortunate experience at a party doesn't get to be forgotten; she, too, is watched, by several-digit youtube hits.   An internet predator watching for prey is in turn watched by others.  Everyone is under constant scrutiny, sometimes extending far beyond the moment of action.  No one lives off-stage.

I'd recommend this book to - a very wide audience, actually. If it was translated, I could even try pushing it at my family members who tend to be "normal readers", which means they read crime/thrillers. And then readers like me will find the same story appealing because of 1) the part of it that is infact horror/supernatural and mostly 2) the excellent, excellent writing.

Would I advise anyone against reading this novel? Well, maybe if you really hate police procedurals. Or you know it'll give you nightmares.  No one needs extra nightmares, even if it is October.


Waiting on: Broken Monsters

I’m trying out some common bookblogsy post types, like “Waiting on Wednesday”, for telling you about books I’m impatiently waiting for. Here goes.

Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes will be released, according to my Amazon wishlist, on July 31st. (Another source says Sep 16, which is probably a sad thing for someone in some other location.  I’m in Norway and had to wait a long time to get my cold, mechanical hands on some of Beukes’ previous titles, so ok shut up.)

(There was a paragraph here full of purple prose about the unbelieveable cool that is Lauren Beukes, but it flipped the Awkwardness switch, so uh anyway.)

Here’s the published description of Broken Monsters:

A criminal mastermind creates violent tableaus in abandoned Detroit warehouses in Lauren Beukes’s new genre-bending novel of suspense.

Detective Gabriella Versado has seen a lot of bodies. But this one is unique even by Detroit’s standards: half boy, half deer, somehow fused together. As stranger and more disturbing bodies are discovered, how can the city hold on to a reality that is already tearing at its seams?

If you’re Detective Versado’s geeky teenage daughter, Layla, you commence a dangerous flirtation with a potential predator online. If you’re desperate freelance journalist Jonno, you do whatever it takes to get the exclusive on a horrific story. If you’re Thomas Keen, known on the street as TK, you’ll do what you can to keep your homeless family safe–and find the monster who is possessed by the dream of violently remaking the world.

It’s been on the Fat Wishlist for months already.