Afterland by Lauren Beukes
Afterland by Lauren Beukes
Published in: 2020
Reviewed by: Book Worm
This ARC was provided by Penguin UK – Michael Joseph (via NetGalley) in exchange for an honest review.
Imagine a world without men…or at least not many of them. Good place?Bad Place?
Synopsis from Goodreads: Most of the men are dead. Three years after the pandemic known as The Manfall, governments still hold and life continues — but a world run by women isn’t always a better place.
Twelve-year-old Miles is one of the last boys alive, and his mother, Cole, will protect him at all costs. On the run after a horrific act of violence-and pursued by Cole’s own ruthless sister, Billie — all Cole wants is to raise her kid somewhere he won’t be preyed on as a reproductive resource or a sex object or a stand-in son. Someplace like home.
To get there, Cole and Miles must journey across a changed America in disguise as mother and daughter. From a military base in Seattle to a luxury bunker, from an anarchist commune in Salt Lake City to a roaming cult that’s all too ready to see Miles as the answer to their prayers, the two race to stay ahead at every step . . . even as Billie and her sinister crew draw closer.
A sharply feminist, high-stakes thriller from award-winning author Lauren Beukes, Afterland brilliantly blends psychological suspense, American noir, and science fiction into an adventure all its own — and perfect for our times.
My Thoughts: This book throws you in at the deep end from the very beginning. It opens with a mother desperately trying to wake her drugged son while getting him into a getaway car and escaping the facility where they have been imprisoned. While the pace does slow slightly as the story progresses this is a necessary development to allow the reader time to connect with the characters.
Each chapter is told from the viewpoint of one of the three central characters and gives the reader an insight into what happened in the past to lead to the opening events as well as progressing the story forward.
At its heart this is a story about survival in a changed world and the lengths that a mother would got to, to protect her child. As with all good books about relationships things don’t always go smoothly and while Cole believes she is doing the right thing for Miles he doesn’t always see eye to eye with her.
The book also looks at the way global change can affect different age groups (something we will no doubt be seeing in real life soon). While Cole has lived in an essentially free world most of her life and longs to return, for Miles things are different and instead of seeing a lack of freedom he sees stability. (I am sure generation Covid will come to terms with the new normal much better than those of us who spent so many years in the old normal)
Another interesting commentary that Beukes makes is that a world without males in power is not necessarily a better one (a point also made in The Power by Naomi Alderman). It was also interesting to see that even in a world where essentially men are weak and vulnerable because of their scarcity they are still valued more than women.
Who would like this? I would recommend this to those interested in a new take on the plague novel featuring strong female characters.
We want to hear from you! Have you read this book? What did you think?
Lauren Beukes is a South African author, and I’ve often seen her over the years, at Cape Town Lit Fests, on discussion panels, etc etc. I loved her 2nd book Zoo City, but have not read any of the others. If I can pick up a seconds hand copy I will. I find your reviews honest and useful. Thanks for this one.
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I have not read Zoo City but I have read and loved The Shining Girls which was completely different from this one, Will have to check out Zoo City.
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I’ve read a number of her books (Shining Girls was the best.) BW – i felt the same as you on this one and also likened to The Power. One wishes that with women in power, a woman author might a way to tell a story in which the women essentially just become men.