Book Review

Book Review: Slipping

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Rating: 4 Stars
Date Started: 22 April 2017
Date Finished: 29 April 2017
Pages: 288
Genre: Various

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

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Book Review

Book Review: All That Remains

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Rating: 4 Stars

Date Started: 15 April 2017

Date Finished: 18 April 2017

Pages: 353

Genre: Dystopia

I really struggled to decide on my rating for this book. It was very almost a 5 star, but ultimately I decided on 4. Here’s why

Pro’s
– The story itself was great, with lots of heart pumping action and edge of your seat moments.
– The characters were relatable (inasmuch as someone who hasn’t lived through what they had can relate to them.
– The characters were diverse, but it wasn’t treated as a big deal, which was really so damn awesome.
– The author drew no punches, but he also didn’t overplay anything. It was a gritty read, but only as gritty as it needed to be to tell the story.

Con’s
– So many grammatical errors!
– Ok maybe there was a bit of overdramatic scenes. Especially when anything with the “Walking Cancer” was in play.

That’s literally the only complaints I had. The grammatical errors weren’t that big of a deal because I had gotten the copy from Netgalley, so I know not to expect perfection. However the book was released in 2015, so I feel like these things should have been picked up by now and updated…

The story was definitely not what I expected. I think I had a lot of preconceived notions about this book because of the cover image, which now that I’ve finished it, I just don’t understand how it relates. While I knew this was a dystopia, the cover made me think it was going to be a YA frothy kind of dystopia. I put off reading this for the longest time because of that.

What it actually turned out to be was a gritty tale of survival against all odds. Of loss and despair and just everything going tits up. The world-building was expansive and vivid, and I could clearly see this aptly named blight that had struck the world, leaving it crawling with terrifying creatures from who knows where and people just trying to survive hour by hour. Sure, it’s all been done before, but “All That Remains” gets it right in it’s own special way.

The story was brilliant, but that’s not even my favorite part about this book. The characters made it all come to life in the most amazing way. Each and every one was unique, and even though you had your token bad guys like the hillbilly abductors with sketchy intentions, even they were real.

One of the main characters is a 50 year old black sociology professor, who’s also a badass zombie killer and provider for his friends. I think his race was mentioned about 3 times, because it just wasn’t a thing. It was normal. He wasn’t used as a lesson on racism or even the other extreme of a black guy being the bad guy, he was just a guy trying to survive like everyone else! Sure, he was super moody and egotistical, but I think we can cut him some slack for surviving so long. Also, there was that other thing that probably had a lot to do with his reactions…

Sara, the other main character, is what they call a scanner. Scanning is an ability that arrived with all the other crap, and basically means she can function like a radar to pick up if there are any threats around. Oh, she’s also a lesbian, but again it’s not really a thing. It’s mentioned a bit more than Kyle’s being black, but in a character building way instead of a tool to promote some agenda. Basically, she was beaten by her family and ostracized by her community (church) for being gay. I think it’s fair to say this will have some influence on your views of the world and the person you turn out being.

The other two main characters are Tim, a teenaged boy who pretty much grew up in the new world and quickly had to learn to be grown up, and Kaylee, a 7ish year old born after shit hit the fan, but who grew up in a government bunker. Kaylee’s mom was a scientist who left the bunker on a mission that could end up saving the world, but unfortunately met with an untimely dismemberment. Luckily she left behind a handy flash drive found by our hero after they pick up Kaylee… mind you, the author never did say how Kaylee survived… hmmmm

I breezed through this story loving it all the way, and I would definitely recommend this to any dystopia lovers.

Get your copy of All That Remains here