Rating: 4 Stars
Date Started: 22 April 2017
Date Finished: 29 April 2017
Lauren Beukes is a fantastic writer, no doubt about that. Her stories are beyond imaginative and quite often disturbing in a way that left me feeling slightly uncomfortable after reading some of them. And I’m a hardcore Stephen King fan, so that’s saying quite a lot in my opinion!
Although this is the first time I’ve actually read any of her writing (except for Survivor’s Club), I’ve been assured that she can pretty much be counted on to deliver when it comes to a craving for WTF creepy stories. And I must say that even though I was super disturbed by most of these, I’m really looking forward to reading more of her work now! I know, I know… I’m asking to be traumatized!
It is extremely clear from these stories that LB is a feminist and believes in equity and diversity. In fact, sometimes it felt like the emphasis on diverse characters and their respective characteristics were a little over pronounced and shoved in your face instead of just treating it like it’s normal. But then again that might just be my white privilege poking it’s head out again… Something I’ve noticed about myself is that I enjoy stories with diverse characters where a big deal isn’t made of the fact that they’re diverse. That’s my fantasy I guess, and upon closer inspection it might actually be a stupid one, because like it or not, prejudice is sadly still a big issue in real life. Sigh
Back when I fancied myself an author, I always felt uncomfortable writing from a POC perspective because I’ve never experienced what they’ve had to go through in life, but LB seems to have no problem with that and actually does a pretty good job of it in my admittedly naive opinion. I’d say about 80% of the stories are done from a POC perspective, and not once did it feel like just another stereotype. The characters were all believable, and if not exactly relatable, they came off real.
When it comes to content, there was a pretty good mix of ideas in this collection, though naturally I enjoyed the fictional stories more than the couple of non-fiction articles. Although the letter to her daughter gripped and squeezed my heart. It’s actually something that I’d probably read again and again, wishing that I had had a mother who told me these things, and hope that I can be a similar role-model for my son.
Most of the stories were almost dystopian in nature, but some shied just short of actually being that and actually represented the current emotional climate in a very stark and scary light. One story that jumps to mind thinking about this is Tankwa-Karoo, which very realistically portrays a possible outcome of some of the paranoia that is being spewed in social media these days. But then the last line of that story sticks with me too and gives me a little hope — as a member of the world population, but mostly as a South African. “This country doesn’t fall apart that easy.”
There were too many stories to review separately, but there was only one that I didn’t finish, and the rest I devoured… even if they did disturb the crap out of me. The title story was the main one that freaked me out, and I keep thinking of that last race and the lengths people will go to for fame and money. It’s not the only story in this collection with that same theme either, and you’ll probably notice a running theme of the greed of men and it’s effect on the world and other people.
I would definitely recommend this collection, though the recommendation would come with a warning… NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART