I have read two novels by Lauren Beukes and greatly enjoyed their mashup of crime fiction and science fiction. So, I thought I’d love Slipping, a collection of short stories, essays, and other writings.
Beukes’s writing is energetic and her ideas unusual, often gruesome. Her stories are often bizarre. But, oddly enough, after a while they seemed to be very similar. Most of them are set in South Africa in what appears to be the near future, although some are set on other planets. Many are violent; many have characters leading glitzy but vapid lives. They feature a lot of slang that may be invented. There is a glossary, but I didn’t notice it until it was too late.
“Muse” is a short poem about the difficulty of writing, in which the writer receives gloves made of “muse skin” with barbed hooks in the fingertips.
“Slipping” is about athletes who are artificially enhanced competing in a race. One of them is even a dead body. “Confirm/Ignore” is about catfishing. “Branded” offers advertizers a brand new idea for sponsorship. “Smileys” is a dystopian tale about a street vendor defending herself against extortion. “Princess” puts a startling interpretation on the story of the princess and the pea.
I don’t know why I felt this sameness, as the stories are obviously varied in nature, but I found myself not wanting to read more. I think some of the images were just to grotesque for me.
The Shining Girls
St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves
In the wreck of the city of Detroit, Detective Gabi Versado is investigating the bizarre murder of a young African-American boy. His torso is found glued to the body of a deer. Gabi is so involved in the case that she doesn’t realize her teenage daughter Layla and Layla’s best friend Cas are attempting to entrap a child molester.
Jonno is a failed writer who moves to Detroit and is soon posting video blogs about the wild art scene. He just happens to be on the scene to videotape the discovery of another weird murder.
Clayton is an artist whose work has recently shifted. A few people have been stunned by the strange beauty of his animal fusion statues. An art promoter wants him to exhibit at a massive art party where the artists are assembling themed shows in a group of abandoned houses.
Beukes steadily builds tension in a novel that juxtaposes the ruins of the city with themes about abuse of the Internet. Those who are fans of her stunning debut, The Shining Girls, will not be surprised by the additional twist the plot takes.
If I have any criticism, and it is a very small one, it is that the South African author, who has set both of her novels in the urban ruins of large cities in the U.S., occasionally gets her American idioms wrong.
Best Book of the Week!
The Shining Girls is a clever, clever novel, a hybrid of a fantasy novel and a crime thriller. I read rave reviews of it, and it deserves them.
Harper has just killed a man in a Chicago Hooverville in 1931. He is being pursued in the freezing cold when he murders a blind woman for her coat. Inside the pocket he finds a house key, and somehow he knows the way to the house. It is a boarded up old wreck on the outside, but inside it is warm and comfortable, even prosperous looking. When Harper goes into an upstairs room, he finds souvenirs and girls’ names written on the wall. He understands that the house wants him to kill these girls. When he goes back outside, he finds himself in another time.
In 1993, Kirby Mazrachi interviews for an internship at the Chicago Sun-Times. She has asked to work with Dan Velasquez, a former crime writer who now covers sports. Her goal is to find the man who attacked her and nearly killed her in 1989. She believes he is a serial killer, and she is planning to use the paper’s resources to find more of his murders.
As Kirby continues her investigation, finding evidence that doesn’t make sense, Harper tracks down his shining girls one by one, visiting them when they are young and then going back for them as adults, over a time period of 60 years. He takes something from each one and gives it to the next.
This novel is completely absorbing, well written, and suspenseful. It is also haunting and unusual, with everything cleverly linked up. In the larger context, it explores the issues of fate and free will, but as entertainment, it keeps you pinned to your seat.