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Children of Men meets The Handmaid's Tale in this "bowstring-taut, visceral, and incredibly timely" thriller about how far a mother will go to protect her son from a hostile world transformed by the absence of men. 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 Children of Men meets The Handmaid's Tale in this "bowstring-taut, visceral, and incredibly timely" thriller about how far a mother will go to protect her son from a hostile world transformed by the absence of men. 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.


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Children of Men meets The Handmaid's Tale in this "bowstring-taut, visceral, and incredibly timely" thriller about how far a mother will go to protect her son from a hostile world transformed by the absence of men. 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 Children of Men meets The Handmaid's Tale in this "bowstring-taut, visceral, and incredibly timely" thriller about how far a mother will go to protect her son from a hostile world transformed by the absence of men. 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.

30 review for Afterland

  1. 5 out of 5

    Gerhard

    If Broken Monsters was Lauren Beukes’s great Clive Barker novel, then Afterland is her great Stephen King novel. By the way, I personally hate it when blurbs state breathlessly that if you loved ‘x’ by ‘y’ … then this is JUST the book for you because it is MORE of the same! Beukes has carved a niche for herself as one of the most innovative speculative-genre writers at work today, on the same level as Clive Barker and Stephen King. I deliberately use the term ‘speculative’, as opposed to the more If Broken Monsters was Lauren Beukes’s great Clive Barker novel, then Afterland is her great Stephen King novel. By the way, I personally hate it when blurbs state breathlessly that if you loved ‘x’ by ‘y’ … then this is JUST the book for you because it is MORE of the same! Beukes has carved a niche for herself as one of the most innovative speculative-genre writers at work today, on the same level as Clive Barker and Stephen King. I deliberately use the term ‘speculative’, as opposed to the more restrictive ‘horror’ or ‘SF’, because she is one of those writers who effortlessly transcends (and transforms) genre, while adding a uniquely South African twist. We have been waiting a long time for Beukes to finish her next book. In a ‘live’ Facebook launch for Afterland, with the actual event cancelled due to the ongoing lockdown in South Africa, Beukes admitted that while it took her five years to finish Afterland, she was busy with a range of other projects during this time, from comics to a book of essays and short stories. She said that the first three chapters were the most difficult to write, as she struggled to slip into the skin of her characters. Eventually she came to the inevitable realisation that her ‘bad guy’ would have to be a woman, and thereafter everything clicked into place. Beukes added that she ended up cutting about 50 000 words of back story, which must have been a brutal editing process. But the rigorous discipline and commitment to her story that this implies is abundantly evident in the final product. There is not a single superfluous or misplaced word in this nearly 350-page book. Despite its length, it does not feel overlong at all. Neither are there any lulls or those kinds of ‘filler’ patches that so many ‘big books’ seem to have these days. The chapters are short and punchy, but not so staccato-like as to disrupt the narrative and turn it into a series of vignettes. I am reminded of the ‘frog being boiled alive’ analogy: Once you are in the velvet grip of this book, Beukes ratchets up the suspense until the tension is almost unbearable. The alternating viewpoints between Billie and Cole as they engage in a desperate cat-and-mouse road trip across a post-apocalyptic America is seamless and riveting. The level of detail in the book points to a mindboggling amount of research by Beukes. In her afterword she mentions that she travelled many of the same roads as her motley group of characters. Yes, there is a rather cheeky Interlude towards the middle that gives us the lowdown on this particular prostate-targeting virus that has wiped out the bulk of the male population worldwide, but it comes at a crucial turning pointing of the narrative that effectively bookends the two parts of the book: Before and After. As with the best kind of apocalyptic fiction, Beukes is far more interested in the reconfiguration of society that takes place in the wake of her fictional pandemic, and the new forms of social organisation, interaction, and of course deviancy and pathology that results. Here the Sisters of All Sorrows, juxtaposed with the Barbarella sex club, are perfect examples. In a perfect example of how fucked-up society can become, and the cognitive dissonance that defines so much of our world today (rich/poor, haves/have nots, East/West, white/black, etc.), Barbarella is by far the more welcoming and humane institution than the shelter-with-a-prayer-and-mortification offered by the psycho Sisters. Miles having American cousins allows for “a big family get-together every few years across the hemispheres” affords Beukes the strategic opportunity to let the reader see America through Cole’s South African filter. There are a lot of comparisons between similar landscapes, for example, and the differences between cities. South African colloquialisms (which will probably seem like neologisms to American readers) pepper the text, making for a weird dissonance that is as comforting as it is disquieting. And few writers can do disquiet or creepy-existential-dread-erupting-into-appalling-violence quite like Beukes. Which means that reading this book during South Africa’s lockdown due to a global pandemic makes for a truly surreal reading experience. There are many instances where the book seems spookily prescient – the shortage of sanitiser, rigorous hand-washing becoming a ritual of daily life, the worry that a cure will never be found – that it seems ripped from the headlines of today’s newspapers. Given the amount of time that Beukes spent on this book, the last thing she must have anticipated was writing a version of a reality that was about to become so frighteningly and alarmingly clear. I am reminded of Ali Smith’s Seasonal Quartet and Dave Hutchinson’s Fractured Europe books, both writers who also tapped into the zeitgeist with a lightning rod. In the wake of the success of the television adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale, there seems to have been a spate of novels focusing on female dystopias, such as Sleeping Beauties by Stephen and Owen King, The Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich and The Power by Naomi Alderman, to name but a few. Beukes breathes fresh life into the sub-genre by taking a rather unique spin on her dystopia as a tabula rasa for a potential brave(r) new world. She was asked during the Facebook launch as to what is the purpose of reading such a difficult and upsetting book during the current crisis? Surely an escapist beach read is best to forget our current troubles. Beukes replied that the book allows the reader to project their own version of Afterland onto current events. In other words, we are at a unique fulcrum of history, where the decisions we take post-crisis will shape our future for generations to come. We are all like Cole and Mila, driving headlong into an unknown future, armed only with our hope and belief in our enduring humanity.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Tania

    "You can’t imagine how much the world can change in six months. You just can’t." Except that, now, of course we all can... 3.5 stars rounded up to 4. I’ve read all of Lauren Beukes novels and my favorites are Zoo City and The Shining Girls. The thing I love most about this South African author is her knack for wildly inventive plot-lines – criminals who gets assigned animal companions or time travelling serial killers. That said, I thought the story line for Afterland was the most “nor "You can’t imagine how much the world can change in six months. You just can’t." Except that, now, of course we all can... 3.5 stars rounded up to 4. I’ve read all of Lauren Beukes novels and my favorites are Zoo City and The Shining Girls. The thing I love most about this South African author is her knack for wildly inventive plot-lines – criminals who gets assigned animal companions or time travelling serial killers. That said, I thought the story line for Afterland was the most “normal” of everything she’s done until now – not necessarily a bad thing, especially in a time when most of us are drawn to easy reading books. The story is set in the future where 99% of men are dead after a global man plague. Cole and her twelve-year-old son Miles are on the run from her sister and a group of boy traffickers, but they also have to be on the look out for the Department of Men who wants to quarantine all surviving males. I found the mention of hand washing, sold out hand sanitizer, conspiracy theories, financial markets crashing and hospitals being overwhelmed a bit eerie and very prescient. The writing is edgy, and I especially liked the parts where Billy (sociopath sister) is high on drugs while trying to catch up to Cole and Miles, as I felt like I was deep under the influence myself. The author uses a cool trick to point out how chauvinistic some of us are still in our thinking, by always mentioning a job description before the description of the person, and I found myself having to constantly change my picture to female from male a few sentences after we were introduced to a cop, security guard, taxi driver etc. The real issue being addressed in this dystopia is probably women and violence. We are still very much programmed to think of women as nurturing even after watching shows like Game of Thrones and Ozark, so the brutality between females feels unnatural and/or uncomfortable, but as the one of the characters in Afterland notes – “But girls have more to prove. You have to hit harder, meaner, crueler if you want to step into the Big Men’s shoes” when the future is going to be female.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Bradley

    By now, a lot of us have read a lot of dystopias featuring sexual politics, often accompanied with some major disaster that leaves women a huge minority (The Book of Etta) or (The White Plague) or any number of bigger named modern authors. This one flips the script. Men are seriously endangered. The few men left must deal with the patriarchy of women. :) Yes, patriarchy. Because let's face it, patriarchies are learned. All told, I loved the worldbuilding. There are a lot of great easter eggs and By now, a lot of us have read a lot of dystopias featuring sexual politics, often accompanied with some major disaster that leaves women a huge minority (The Book of Etta) or (The White Plague) or any number of bigger named modern authors. This one flips the script. Men are seriously endangered. The few men left must deal with the patriarchy of women. :) Yes, patriarchy. Because let's face it, patriarchies are learned. All told, I loved the worldbuilding. There are a lot of great easter eggs and the research for the plague itself was brilliant. The characterizations of Cole and Billy and Miles was pretty fantastic. It reads like a convoluted cat-and-mouse, being on the run from the government and even from themselves. My only real concern is not a dealbreaker, but a personal preference. The religious bits were fascinating and weird and well-thought-out BUT it wasn't exactly to my taste. Or maybe it was, but where it eventually led was... weird. Maybe that's a product of having read soooo many dystopias where religion gets funky automatically, but I'll give Afterland this: it doesn't go the same direction as the rest. :) All told, I DO love the whole After-Man take on the world. :) It's more down-to-earth and pretty damn realistic compared to, say, The Power. Afterland is more character-led. I'm glad I got to read it.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Smith

    I was worried about picking up a book centred on a pandemic, I mean the timing is interesting isn’t it. But two things quickly became clear: 1. The pandemic here is different - it only kills men 2. The whole thing feels completely tongue-in-cheek and is impossible to take seriously Cole and her son Miles escape a camp in California set up to protect and exploit some of the few remaining males - semen is gold. We’re not yet clear on the details but it seems that during the escape Cole may have kille I was worried about picking up a book centred on a pandemic, I mean the timing is interesting isn’t it. But two things quickly became clear: 1. The pandemic here is different - it only kills men 2. The whole thing feels completely tongue-in-cheek and is impossible to take seriously Cole and her son Miles escape a camp in California set up to protect and exploit some of the few remaining males - semen is gold. We’re not yet clear on the details but it seems that during the escape Cole may have killed her sister, Billie. Young Miles become Mila (i.e. he takes on the identity of a girl) as they make a Wacky Races style run for Canada, or maybe somewhere else if that won’t work. The early scenes are actually pretty good aided by flashbacks that allow us a glimpse of their previous lives and how the pandemic got a hold. And now we learn that Billie is alive (barely) and in hot pursuit. Early on, my issue was that I found the exchanges between Cole and Miles/Mila irritating: the attempts at humour in their banter failed to hit the mark for me and the whole mood of the dialogue just felt off. I battled on, but when I came to a section where the pair became part of a travelling circus of saviour nuns I began to skim and soon after that I gave up at around two-thirds of my way through the book. In truth, I’m not sure what audience this book is aimed at – young adults perhaps? And maybe I'm just struggling to see the funny side of a pandemic at the moment (my bad if that's the case!). Either way, this story definitely wasn’t what I was expecting and though I had a decent go at working through it I’d actually been tempted to set it aside from quite early on. Sorry, this one really wasn’t my cup of tea. My thanks to Penguin UK and NetGalley for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Sonja Arlow

    3.5 stars I have read most of Lauren Beukes’s books and loved all of them. She has always had this undefinable element to her stories that made them stand out. From the bizzaro world of Zoo City to the creepy thriller The Shining Girls. The fact that she is a fellow South African made reading her unique books even more of a treat. With this latest installment however, I struggled to get completely lost in the story. There is not one glaring specific thing that bothered me just a few things that nig 3.5 stars I have read most of Lauren Beukes’s books and loved all of them. She has always had this undefinable element to her stories that made them stand out. From the bizzaro world of Zoo City to the creepy thriller The Shining Girls. The fact that she is a fellow South African made reading her unique books even more of a treat. With this latest installment however, I struggled to get completely lost in the story. There is not one glaring specific thing that bothered me just a few things that niggled in my periphery while reading. This is a world where 90% of men have been wiped out by a virus that targets only men and cause fatal cancer. Any remaining males are hoarded into secure facilities and tested on like lab rats. In this world women had to step in the void left by men, and it was bothersome that most of these women were portrayed as nothing more than men with vaginas. Some of these characters reminded me of the main protagonist in Artemis, she was more male than some men I know. If you take out the post-apocalyptic theme of the story and replaced it with, say a woman running away from an abusive partner, 75% of the story would still be the same. Its not a bad story and I do not want to discourage anyone from reading it, but I think my expectations were sky-high.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    Unfortunately this book was not for me. I almost DNFED it at 25%, 50%, and again even at 75%. As you can probably tell I do not like to DNF books, I think I owe the publishers and authors more than that. Even if I’m not enjoying a book I torture myself in hopes that the ending will blow me away—this HAS happened. But, alas—this was not the case here. I really did not enjoy this book. For two people that are running from the law, there was zero excitement whatsoever. I didn’t even fear for them. Unfortunately this book was not for me. I almost DNFED it at 25%, 50%, and again even at 75%. As you can probably tell I do not like to DNF books, I think I owe the publishers and authors more than that. Even if I’m not enjoying a book I torture myself in hopes that the ending will blow me away—this HAS happened. But, alas—this was not the case here. I really did not enjoy this book. For two people that are running from the law, there was zero excitement whatsoever. I didn’t even fear for them. The male gender has almost completely diminished due to a gender-specific cancer and I didn’t even feel sad. The writing was too monotonous. Publication Date is 07/28/2020. Thank you very much to Mulholland Books for sending me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. What I can promise you is that I have passed this ARC on to a book friend who REALLY wanted to read it and hopefully they will love and treasure it. 2 ⭐️

  7. 5 out of 5

    Eli

    With transmisogyny fundamentally baked into the premise, and apparently a long history of cissexism before this, the author's presumed insights into gender, power and humanity are nothing but a trainwreck.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Justine

    3.5 stars My first book by Buekes! She's clearly a talented writer, and this was very good, just not a perfect fit for me at the moment. A little more gritty realism than I was looking for right now.

  9. 4 out of 5

    The Captain

    Ahoy there me mateys!  I received this dystopian thriller eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  So here be me honest musings . . . This be me fourth book by the author.  I adored her shining girls and thought it was one of the best time travel books I have read.  I also very much enjoyed zoo city cause who doesn't want a giant sloth?  This is a dystopian thriller where a plague has wiped out most of the men.  The remaining men are locked up for their own protection.  A mom, Cole, Ahoy there me mateys!  I received this dystopian thriller eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  So here be me honest musings . . . This be me fourth book by the author.  I adored her shining girls and thought it was one of the best time travel books I have read.  I also very much enjoyed zoo city cause who doesn't want a giant sloth?  This is a dystopian thriller where a plague has wiped out most of the men.  The remaining men are locked up for their own protection.  A mom, Cole, and her teenage son, Miles, have escaped and are on the run.  They make their way across the US with Miles dressed as a girl.  I should have loved this one but I wasn't thrilled by it at all. While I liked the concepts, everything was dealt with on a surface level. Instead of getting the interesting point of view of Miles as one of the last men on earth, ye primarily get an anxious mom's looping thoughts.  The government chasing the fugitives doesn't come into play.  The bad guy is a relative who only is able to track the duo because a) the son's bad use of social media or b) because mom actually gives directions!  The pandemic could have been removed and replaced with any other big issue and not much would have changed in the story.  Also minor points that are personal dislikes include the use of the religious cult and mention of current politics and people. I was expected a fast-paced action thriller that delves into the social structure of a post-apocalyptic world run by women.  Instead it is an uninteresting take on family dynamics where not much really happens.  A miss for me but I will still be reading future work by the author. So lastly . . . Thank ye Mulholland Books!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Crystal

    Hmm, sounds promising. I LOVE The Handmaid’s Tale, and this book said it would focus on a different type of dystopia, one where men were the rarity. Unfortunately, this book failed to live up to its promise. The relationships between the characters is affected by a very cavalier way of describing their communications. Their deepest emotions are constantly trivialized with an odd, impersonal attempt at humor through unending pop culture references. In one passage, a woman comes to a realization ab Hmm, sounds promising. I LOVE The Handmaid’s Tale, and this book said it would focus on a different type of dystopia, one where men were the rarity. Unfortunately, this book failed to live up to its promise. The relationships between the characters is affected by a very cavalier way of describing their communications. Their deepest emotions are constantly trivialized with an odd, impersonal attempt at humor through unending pop culture references. In one passage, a woman comes to a realization about death and her own weariness, “Tired and numb, the grief woven through with anger. Worst friendship bracelet ever.” She just undermined her own … jeez I just … never mind. Hashtags, inside jokes and references to Ed Sheeran, abound in this book and I don’t think it has the effect the author was striving for. For one thing, it will really date this book, imagine reading Afterland again in 20 years time and actually understanding any of this nonsense? It really takes the reader away from the moment. I found it hard to connect to any of the characters and I partially blame the glibness with which they are treated. The one thing that made me literally toss my kindle away and officially DNF was one moment in particular. An 11 year old boy is asked by his aunt whether he is masturbating yet, because she would like some of the sperm to sell on the black market. His response is horror (obviously) and titillation. Now we are subjected to an entire paragraph about how he is fighting an erection. The author goes on to trivialize his reaction by sprinkling in word jokes about how thinking the word “penis” makes it react, and say “pat me”. WTF. It goes on from there. Sexual abuse is not freaking funny. You know, I didn’t put up with this kind of shit when Murakami was writing it, why would I do it now? On top of all that, I found the world building to be a little superficial. There was no real explanation for how and why culture, government and society changed. The world was just full of women now, and those women were distilled down to very predictable roles. I’m sorry, a world with an army now made up of all women women does not equal an army of only masculine women .. and I honestly dislike the inference that only a certain kind of woman will be in the military. It’s distasteful that non-binary people should be stereotyped into being just one type of person, or that they will all act in the same way. I feel like I don’t have the language to describe how annoying this is and I would hate to say something to offend, so I asked a couple of friends to help me arrange my thoughts… here’s what they came up with: “The army is comprised of hyper-masculine women that play upon, both in behavior and appearance, harmful tropes regarding women who choose to present as masculine, lesbians and non-binary persons. Non-binary, rather than being removed from the binary as the word suggests and instead of providing a wide breadth of identity and expression, is used to pigeonhole characters into one type of person. In addition, the choice to make this army strictly beholden to a strict set of gender norms that forces the more masculine women or androgynous person into a role fit for ‘men’ is also a strange one to make in terms of what it says about femininity. The aesthetic appearance of a person, their hair, their swagger or style is not an inherent indicator of their skill as a soldier or how well they perform roles of manual labor often set aside as ‘male roles.’ The author has created a world without men which is still under the spell of patriarchal powers.” (thank you Cat & Eri for helping me with this!) I feel the book showed a lack of real understanding of women and non-binary persons and how they should be portrayed. This book made me actively angry, I’m annoyed thinking about it now. I know that sometimes a bad review might make some people more interested in reading it … more power to you. I hope you like it better than I did. Wholehearted DNF. Disclaimer: I received this book free from Netgalley

  11. 4 out of 5

    Deb

    No recommendations This book was so unoriginal. There are old movies about this subject line. Lots of lengthy nonsensical drawn out descriptions of events and particular characters. The mother is an idiot making mistake after mistake which are so obvious. The reason I read the entire book as hard of a time I dredged through, is I kept hoping it would get better and I like to read to the end. Don't waste your tiime reading as there is so much more out there to spend your time reading.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Bob/Sally

    While I liked and even admired parts of Afterland, as a whole it was largely unsatisfying. That may say more about me than the book, so take my reservations with a grain of salt, but let me explain. First off, this was a book that largely ignored the half of the story I’d hoped would be its focus. This is largely Cole’s story, the story of a mother on the run with her child, desperate to get home and just as desperate to avoid dealing with her violence against her sister. All of that is fine, and While I liked and even admired parts of Afterland, as a whole it was largely unsatisfying. That may say more about me than the book, so take my reservations with a grain of salt, but let me explain. First off, this was a book that largely ignored the half of the story I’d hoped would be its focus. This is largely Cole’s story, the story of a mother on the run with her child, desperate to get home and just as desperate to avoid dealing with her violence against her sister. All of that is fine, and Lauren Beukes does a solid job of exploring a mother’s love, but it was Miles’ story that I was interested in. He’s one of the last males in the world, forced to disguise himself as a girl during their flight, with his struggle compounded by the advent of puberty. There was so much potential there, so many issues of gender and sexuality that could have been explored, but aside from a few passages on shaving and erections, he’s really just a package to be delivered. Second, there’s a fascinating new world here, one where the men are gone, leaving women to rebuild society without them, but we don’t get to see a lot of what that entails. I wanted to know more about the new family dynamics, the new relationships, and the new society of women helping, loving, supporting women. We get glimpses of that new world, but most of them are either dark and sordid, as seen through the eyes of Billie, an opportunistic, greedy, unbalanced woman with a concussion. I suspect (hope?) that was deliberate on Beukes’s part, stuck between either suggesting women are hopeless without men or undermining Cole’s story by exploring how strong and resilient women can be, but I feel like an entire novel existed beneath this. Finally, this was a book that felt light to me in many ways, superficial and safe where it could have been, could have said, so much more. In skimming over the gender issues and the women’s issues, restricting the narrative to the journey of a mother – one that wouldn’t be much different if it had zombies or vampires or abusive husbands behind it – it misses so many opportunities. At the same time, that lightness leaves us with a soft ending that comes far too quickly, far too easily, without the kind of significance it could have had. It almost feels unfinished, like the first chapter of a longer story. With all that said, there were aspects of this that I enjoyed. The concept of a viral cancer is an interesting one, and there’s a great deal of fascinating detail on how it progresses, how it kills, and how the world disposes of more bodies than it can handle. The post-apocalyptic roadtrip aspect is exceptionally well done, with Cole and Miles struggling with gas shortages, smartly exploring abandoned communities, and dealing with a religious cult that I found more comical than chilling – although there is an attempt towards the end to find some meaning in their mission. As a story of a mother’s journey, Afterland was an okay read, and as a post-apocalyptic roadtrip it had its moments, but as a book about sex and gender and the consequences of the manpocalypse, I found it lacking, just not the book I’d hoped it would be. https://femledfantasy.home.blog/2020/...

  13. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    Turns out it's not particularly enjoyable to read about a fictional global pandemic when you as a reader are in the midst of one. The pandemic in Afterland is one which only affects men, and we find out that Cole has lost her husband to it, had some kind of altercation with her sister, Billie, as a result of the pandemic... and has a 12 year old son who has somehow survived unscathed by whatever this disease is. To protect Miles, Cole has him pretend to be a girl (Mila), and they go on the run to Turns out it's not particularly enjoyable to read about a fictional global pandemic when you as a reader are in the midst of one. The pandemic in Afterland is one which only affects men, and we find out that Cole has lost her husband to it, had some kind of altercation with her sister, Billie, as a result of the pandemic... and has a 12 year old son who has somehow survived unscathed by whatever this disease is. To protect Miles, Cole has him pretend to be a girl (Mila), and they go on the run to try and survive against the odds. This premise was great but I found the story to plod along very slowly - not something you'd expect in a book with that plot description. The flashbacks were a bit confusing, and I found myself not really rooting for any of the characters. I'm struggling to gel with a lot of books at the moment (real life pandemic reading slump!) so I'd encourage others to pick this up if it sounds at all appealing. Thank you Netgalley and Penguin UK (Michael Joseph) for the advance copy, which was provided in exchange for an honest review.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jeffrey Keeten

    ”’And you’re returning to South Africa after your vacation?’ ‘Yes, that’s where we live,’ proud of the fact of it. Away from everyday Nazis and school shootings so regular they were practically part of the academic calendar along with prom and football season, away from the slow gutting of democracy, trigger-happy cops, and the terror of raising a black son in America. But how can you live there, people would ask her (and Devon, her American husband, especially), meaning Johannesburg. Isn’t it da ”’And you’re returning to South Africa after your vacation?’ ‘Yes, that’s where we live,’ proud of the fact of it. Away from everyday Nazis and school shootings so regular they were practically part of the academic calendar along with prom and football season, away from the slow gutting of democracy, trigger-happy cops, and the terror of raising a black son in America. But how can you live there, people would ask her (and Devon, her American husband, especially), meaning Johannesburg. Isn’t it dangerous? And she wanted to reply, how can you live here.” We’ve all been convinced of the exceptionalism of America since we were wee lads and lasses. Not just us Americans, but Europeans, and all across the world. America, the great beacon of hope. We might need to tweak things a bit. For Cole and her husband, Devon, and their son, Miles, America is an opportunity to make some money through a lucrative temporary job for Devon and also be able to experience America, before returning to South Africa, but then disaster strikes. The MANPOCALYPSE. Well, heck, there is no place better to be in the world than America during a pandemic. Look how well we’ve done with Covid-19…. We might need to tweak things a bit. In a matter of months, men are nearly extinct from an aggressive, contagious form of prostate cancer, including Cole’s husband, Devon. 3.2 billion men dead, leaving about roughly 30 to 50 million men in the world. Most of these men are locked up for their own protection. Every man alive is living the life of the rock god Jim Morrison, with women quite literally willing to tear them apart to have them for themselves. It seems cool in the abstract, but in the practical, it becomes pretty damn dangerous to be one of the few remaining men. ”You can’t imagine how much the world can change in six months. You just can’t.” Well, maybe we can. I think we all had a taste of what it would be like if a high death rate contagion raged across the world. Nothing like this, of course, but I fear that Covid-19 might be just a dress rehearsal for something much worse. Before that happens... We might need to tweak things a bit. This is dire. The world is obviously going to take another huge dip in population the longer it takes to find a vaccine. The Reprohibition Act has made it against the law to reproduce. The fear is that the virus will mutate in some new male child and kill off the rest of the men who have so far proven to be immune. I kept thinking to myself as I was reading this...Can a destabilized government really dictate, whether the females who are fortunate enough to still have a dick available to them, to not get pregnant? Hormones are a powerful thing, and I can only imagine the alarm bells going off in women’s heads, with nature itself driving them nearly insane to reproduce. There is also that very natural desire to want to replace those you’ve lost. Once the collective governments of the world allow “breeding” again, it won’t take that long to rebuild the population. Losing 3.2 billion women would have put the human race in much deeper jeopardy, but I know from growing up on a farm that a herd bull can impregnate 30 cows with ease, and even as many as 50 without a negative impact on the conception rate. A young male human is capable of far eclipsing those numbers. Sperm is suddenly...priceless. This quote from a cult nun, well not a very reverent one, made me chuckle: ”’I think about that now, all that semen wasted. Worth a goddamn fortune now, on the black market.’ Michelle rubbed her belly with both hands, ruefully. ‘I must have swallowed a million dollars’ worth in my time.’” Women are in charge of everything now, and of course, they, without the heavy hand of males around, are going to build a feminist utopia, right? Well, maybe not. Power vacuums by nature have to be filled, and there are stronger women and weaker women. Stronger women start acquiring the same bad characteristics that women didn’t like in men. Cole has a situation where she feels that power. ”The weight of the shotgun, the cold tang of the metal against her palms, the soft give of flesh as she pressed the wooden stock into the woman’s shoulder, pinning her to the ground. She wanted to do more. She wanted to hit her across the face with it. Feel her nose break.” We are, by nature, a violent race of people, and women abhor those violent tendencies in men, as they should, but they may prove to be equally susceptible to them if men are no longer in the equation. I feel that Lauren Beukes did a wonderful job balancing the gains and losses in this book. An unbalanced world is a scary place, no matter who is in charge. A feminist utopia might prove more difficult to achieve than we first imagine. Cole has been one of the few lucky ones to have a son who is immune. The female gestapo of America lock him up and start doing tests on him. The only pathway to a cure is finding out why some men are naturally immune. She realizes that, if Miles is going to have any kind of life, she needs to break him out and somehow leave America and get back to where they belong, in South Africa. If one is going to be oppressed, one would much rather have it done by their own government. Her sister, Billie, her most staunch ally, has become her worst enemy. As Cole and Miles flee across the country, hiding out with anarchists and then a cult of nuns, her sister pursues them relentlessly. Twelve year old Miles has one of the most valuable things in the world sprouting between his legs. Cole is determined to give her son as normal a life as she can in this chaotic world. She is going to do her best to make sure he doesn’t end up a sex object, a reproductive source, or a stand in son for some rich asshole who will pay anything to have a replacement son. Billie realizes that Miles is her only chance to hit the lottery, and her sister is just going to have to get out of the way, one way or another. This chase across the country gives Beukes a great opportunity to show the state of things under the new female regime. I like the bar scene where women are sitting around drinking and watching nostalgia porn...otherwise known as football games, where they can watch men, long dead, clash like titans on the gridiron. There are also bars full of women dressing as men with moustaches, mutton chops, and beards, at least providing the illusion of a man for a male-starved population. This is being marketed as a feminist, noir thriller, which it certainly is, but I hope men are going to read it as well. I found it to be a fascinating, enjoyable read that left me with much to ponder. Unfortunately, the cover doubles down on a female readership, with the pink and light blue motif, but men, gird your loins and march this book up to the counter and buy it. If I hadn’t already had a relationship with Beuke’s books, which have been great, I probably wouldn’t have given this cover a second look. I would feel the same way as I do about 90% of the commercials on TV...I’m not their target audience. I want to reassure readers, there is as much for men in this book as there is for women. Stephen King raved about this book, calling it a ”splendid new thriller”. I couldn’t agree more. If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com I also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten and an Instagram account https://www.instagram.com/jeffreykeeten

  15. 5 out of 5

    SheLovesThePages

    I just loved the idea of this book. A new virus has taken over which causes men B's boys to develop a fast acting prostate cancer. It then invaded the bones. A small percent of males are left over in this world. The book is told from 3 POVs. Cole (the mother), Miles (the son), and Billie (his aunt). The book started out great, a page turner, and then it just lost a lot of steam for me around the halfway point. I didn't really enjoy any of the characters. I kept waiting for Cole to be vulnerable a I just loved the idea of this book. A new virus has taken over which causes men B's boys to develop a fast acting prostate cancer. It then invaded the bones. A small percent of males are left over in this world. The book is told from 3 POVs. Cole (the mother), Miles (the son), and Billie (his aunt). The book started out great, a page turner, and then it just lost a lot of steam for me around the halfway point. I didn't really enjoy any of the characters. I kept waiting for Cole to be vulnerable and it didn't seem to happen....maybe because of self-preservation. I kept wanted more emotionally. I think that's what the book lacked.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ashley Daviau

    Who knew a book about the apocalypse would ever hit so close to home? It was eerie reading this with everything going on in the world right now, it was just a little too close for comfort. I definitely wasn’t expecting to be so creeped out by this! It was a bit of a slow go at first and I was finding myself wishing it would just got on with it and that’s part of the reason why I had to dock a star. Once it did get going though I couldn’t get enough of it and I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough Who knew a book about the apocalypse would ever hit so close to home? It was eerie reading this with everything going on in the world right now, it was just a little too close for comfort. I definitely wasn’t expecting to be so creeped out by this! It was a bit of a slow go at first and I was finding myself wishing it would just got on with it and that’s part of the reason why I had to dock a star. Once it did get going though I couldn’t get enough of it and I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough to find out how it would end. The end wasn’t really the bang I was hoping for but I didn’t totally hate it, I just wanted more from it. Beukes is quickly becoming a favourite author of mine, she has a really gritty, dark and totally original writing style that I really enjoy!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Polly

    I think it's probably impossible to talk about this book – a book with a 2020 publication date that is about a global pandemic – without reflecting heavily on the current real world situation. So many of the small details of this story hit so much harder than the author could have possibly imagined while writing it. “You can’t imagine how much the world can change in six months. You just can’t.” This would be a powerful quote in any context, but it stood out starkly while reading it with *gesture I think it's probably impossible to talk about this book – a book with a 2020 publication date that is about a global pandemic – without reflecting heavily on the current real world situation. So many of the small details of this story hit so much harder than the author could have possibly imagined while writing it. “You can’t imagine how much the world can change in six months. You just can’t.” This would be a powerful quote in any context, but it stood out starkly while reading it with *gestures wildly around* all of this going on. Early on in the book, a holiday to Disneyland features, set in the summer of 2020. I jokingly said to a friend "well, there goes the suspension of disbelief!", only to find out a few pages later that Disneyland, summer 2020... that's where these characters pick up this new virus which goes on to cause an apocalyptic global pandemic. Huh, bit on the nose. In the world of Afterland, the virus is only deadly to men – with an astonishingly high mortality rate. I say "men", but trans issues are discussed in the book further on, so it is more accurate to say that the virus is only deadly to people AMAB. The small number of male survivors are mostly taken to facilities, along with their female family members, for protection and testing. South African mother Cole is one of these family members, kept under lock and key by the government along with her son, Miles. Thousands of miles from home (side note: a foreigner's narration of America makes for a brutally different one than you'd be likely to get from an American protagonist's perspective), they hatch an escape plan to get back to Johannesburg. Some of the aforementioned small, world-building details that it turns out are painfully accurate include hand sanitiser selling out everywhere; scientific advice changing rapidly and older advice seeming quaintly naive in hindsight; and the pinpoint accuracy of the types of conspiracy theories that pop up (the virus being manufactured in a lab – a North Korean lab in the book vs the Chinese lab of coronavirus conspiracies; the virus being caused by vaping vs coronavirus's 5G masts, etc). A scene that stood out to me as particularly poignant was a visit to Ancient Puebloan cliff dwellings, which sees Cole reflect on a fallen civilisation while the world of the early 2020s is changing and crumbling around them. I do feel like trauma could have been explored in far greater detail. The majority of the story is set in 2023 so only 3 years after the virus begins to properly take hold in the world and kill off almost half of the global population, and although it's touched upon, it struck me as a little unrealistic for so many of the characters to be so... ok. There is mourning, sure, but there's little collective trauma. I found this book engaging, and the fast pace of it kept my nose fully in it. I think it will be very interesting to come back to and reread in a few years though, when it's (hopefully) a story less relevant to actual life. 3.5 stars, rounded up. And one final note, one that I'm not sure has a point but I wanted to touch upon – reproductive politics features heavily in the story, after all there are very few men surviving and procreation has been outlawed until the virus has been studied and conquered. I couldn't help but think about the fact that were the story about a virus that has killed off most of the female population, rape would have featured in the book fairly heavily.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jordy’s Book Club

    QUICK TAKE: I am a huge fan of post-apocalyptic stories, and I was really looking forward to this story about a woman and her son trying to return home in a world where a majority of the male population has died off due to a mysterious disease. While I enjoyed the family relationships, I would have loved a little more world-building; as it was written, the story is a bit insular. That being said, if you're a fan of the genre, I think there's a lot that you will enjoy.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Octavia (ReadsWithDogs)

    First of all, Afterland has one of the most beautiful covers I've seen this year! Afterland was a fascinating read! Basically an illness has caused the majority of mean nd boys to die from prostate cancer and women are left to rule the world. Rad--right? Welll, not exactly because the US government wants to put all remaining men and boys in camps and keep an eye on them and do sketchy stuff like possibly harvest their sperm. Afterland tells the story of a mother and son stuck in the US and tryin First of all, Afterland has one of the most beautiful covers I've seen this year! Afterland was a fascinating read! Basically an illness has caused the majority of mean nd boys to die from prostate cancer and women are left to rule the world. Rad--right? Welll, not exactly because the US government wants to put all remaining men and boys in camps and keep an eye on them and do sketchy stuff like possibly harvest their sperm. Afterland tells the story of a mother and son stuck in the US and trying to get home to South Africa while fleeing a government camp and then a group of women who want that precious boy sperm. There are lots of skeevy and uncomfortable moments that make the story seem very real. The chapters each switched narrators which took a little getting used to at first and were confusing for parts of the story, but I enjoyed learning about how the patriarchy was taking over from different points of view. I enjoyed the pop culture references and the Mad Max vibes. I did want a little more information about everything, but that's just how I am. The ending also seemed to be tacked on and didn't fully fit the feel of the rest of the story, but I can't think of how else it could have ended. 4 out 5 stars for this thrilling read.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    I received a copy of this from Netgalley in exchange for a review. Mulholland Books has also advised me that a positive review requires me to disclose that I received the book for free from them and since I generally mean three stars in a positive way, there we go. Thank you Mulholland Books! Cole flees across the U.S. with her son Miles in Beukes's apocalypse, which features a highly contagious flu that mutates into prostate cancer and has killed off an estimated 3.2 billion carriers of the XY c I received a copy of this from Netgalley in exchange for a review. Mulholland Books has also advised me that a positive review requires me to disclose that I received the book for free from them and since I generally mean three stars in a positive way, there we go. Thank you Mulholland Books! Cole flees across the U.S. with her son Miles in Beukes's apocalypse, which features a highly contagious flu that mutates into prostate cancer and has killed off an estimated 3.2 billion carriers of the XY chromosome. They're on the run from Cole's sister Billie, who's been offered a lot of money for anything and everything one of the few remaining young men in the country can provide to the highest bidder (even those things to which a twelve-year-old cannot consent, ahem). This is a nailbiter right up until the last few pages; during the last third I'd read a chapter, get up and pace around for a few minute to wring my hands, then read another chapter, rinse, repeat. Herein lies a fine case for gender diversification in every industry, and though of course the mass death is terrible, the true horror at the center of this is the mundane process by which children grow up, how they pull away and stop needing their parents, how necessary and good and heart-breaking that is.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Rhiannon Johnson

    I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. “You can’t imagine how much the world can change in six months. You just can’t.” A couple months ago I read The Mother Code and I’ve got The Gunslinger and Severance on my current TBR. I’ve loved pandemic and post-apocalyptic fiction for years and I am not shying away from it despite current events. I was especially excited to read Afterland because I loved @laurenbeukes 2013 release, The Shining Girls. I was not l I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. “You can’t imagine how much the world can change in six months. You just can’t.” A couple months ago I read The Mother Code and I’ve got The Gunslinger and Severance on my current TBR. I’ve loved pandemic and post-apocalyptic fiction for years and I am not shying away from it despite current events. I was especially excited to read Afterland because I loved @laurenbeukes 2013 release, The Shining Girls. I was not let down with Afterland! I loved the characters in this novel. Not just the main characters but all the secondary characters. They were so well written, even the ones that are just a tiny blip on the radar of this story. Beukes also does a wonderful job of keeping the tension palpable while interspersing smaller subplots and flashbacks. Human Culgoa Virus (HCV), a highly contagious flu which turns into an aggressive prostate cancer in men and boys has lead to a less than 1% survival rate among males. Some countries thrive without the all-male militias, alternative economies emerge, and anarchist groups attempt to bring down banking and eliminate debt and immigration records. In the United States, Quarantined Males (QMs) and their Direct Surviving Relatives (DSRs) are rounded up and sent to government facilities to be studied. During an attempt to leave the country, Cole and her son Miles are discovered and sent to one of these centers. Determined to get her son to safety in Johannesburg, Cole and her sister Billie plan an escape, but Billie has plans of her own. Also pictured, Sesame Chicken Salad and my new cutting board. Come chat with me about books here, too: Blog | Instagram | Twitter | Pinterest

  22. 4 out of 5

    Tracy Robinson

    AFTERLAND is certainly a surreal read given the current landscape we find ourselves in. Granted the virus and the subsequent fallout in this book is more drastic than Covid-19, but I found myself finding quite a bit to relate to. Add that to my love of one of Beuke's previous books, Broken Monsters, plus my love of all things apocalyptic (in fiction), and this book had all the makings of something I could love. I enjoyed the characters Beuke's created - they are well developed and the act/react i AFTERLAND is certainly a surreal read given the current landscape we find ourselves in. Granted the virus and the subsequent fallout in this book is more drastic than Covid-19, but I found myself finding quite a bit to relate to. Add that to my love of one of Beuke's previous books, Broken Monsters, plus my love of all things apocalyptic (in fiction), and this book had all the makings of something I could love. I enjoyed the characters Beuke's created - they are well developed and the act/react in ways which make sense for the characters I came to know. There were some definite heart-wrenching moments I experienced as she described what Miles and Cole had to go through first as this virus took over the world and then as they navigated their way through everything else. I think this book is good. While I didn't fall in love with it and at times struggled to keep going, I still enjoy Beuke's writing and I think others will like the book. I will read more from this author.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Stacey

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. **Let me preface this by saying, I'm sorry for the rant about antibiotics, but this is a real and serious problem the world is facing right now. I didn't even come close to finishing it, didn't really start it either. Got to about page 11 and just had enough of the writing style. For a story that seemed original to me (a post apocalyptic earth where most of the men have died out due to a viral outbreak) the writing/dialogue seemed anything but original; "arrest her, throw away the key" for exampl **Let me preface this by saying, I'm sorry for the rant about antibiotics, but this is a real and serious problem the world is facing right now. I didn't even come close to finishing it, didn't really start it either. Got to about page 11 and just had enough of the writing style. For a story that seemed original to me (a post apocalyptic earth where most of the men have died out due to a viral outbreak) the writing/dialogue seemed anything but original; "arrest her, throw away the key" for example (that phrase wasn't so bad but it really is overused), but it got much worse with "fad" phrases like "Holy living boys, Batman", the use of the word "Hilaire" instead of hilarious, "Just saying." or "Living Your Best Life" (eww, stop), and "Gotta catch 'em all!". As if an adult writing a story for adults would use the phrase "Holy blah blah, Batman" or reference Pokemon. The writing is just so childish, seems like something a young teenager would think was "cool". And still, it got worse. Besides the cringe-worthy "cool" phrases, the author actually used a hashtag as a sentence; "#bunkerlife.". Hashtags are meant to tag words to help others find a post, like on Reddit or StackExchange, they aren't phrases!! (Again, something a tween would probably write/say/do). Moving aside from all that, on page 11 the author then writes about how Miles (the son) took French for 6 months in school, then goes on to say "which he sucked at, because back home in Joburg they did Zulu at school, not stupid French." Now, maybe I was just offended because I am, and my heritage is, of French decent, but I wonder how the general populous would feel if I wrote a novel and flipped that phrase around to mock and degrade the Zulu language... Yeah, I'm sure that would go over oh so well. Then again, I wouldn't do that because I see no point in debasing someone or something else just because I can't identify with it. I tried looking ahead to see if this type of "cool" writing would continue or to see if the story would get any better, and it didn't (from what I saw). The book gets pretty raunchy, some kind of sex club or sex slave traders at a place called Barbarella's (again, so original), where someone standing outside is wearing a "codpiece with a giant, erect purple dick...over her jeans" and that same "giant purple joke of a penis... wobbling in his "Mile's" peripheral vision" or the even better description of "a black-and-white photograph of a man's butt with a whip sticking out of it like a tail". Wow. Now, I'm no prude, but why bother placing a 13-year old child in those circumstances or at the very least why write it that way--for shock value? Thanks, but I'll pass. Now not only did the book not get any better/more interesting but it goes on to make light of and mock the way medical practices are controlled, as if the rules make no sense? Not only is this ridiculous and uneducated that someone who obviously has no medical understanding thinks it a good idea to bash these rules, it's irresponsible. In chapter 42 the author writes about how a cashier "doesn't blink" when Billie (Cole's sister) buy bullets, but "the pharmacist refuses to give her antibiotics without a prescription. Fucking America." At this point, I would say "the author, who is an adult, surely knows why pharmacists won't give antibiotics without a prescription" but considering the rest of what I read/saw, she obviously doesn't have a fucking clue. Then let me enlighten you: pharmacists can't give antibiotics without a prescription because a doctor needs to see you first and make sure that they are going to give you a strong enough antibiotic for a long enough period of time to fully kill off the bacteria inside you, that's why doctors say not to stop taking the antibiotics when you begin to feel better because if you do stop taking them and the bacteria isn't fully killed off, the bacteria will become immune to that strain of antibiotic which is how the likes of MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) and others were created, and not only do doctors need to ensure you are getting the proper antibiotics for the proper amount of time but they also need to know your medical history before prescribing such medicines, gonorrhea, for example, became resistant to many antibiotics because a doctor prescribed antibiotics to a patient for their cold without knowing the patient had the sexually transmitted infection, the antibiotics were either not strong enough or the patient did not have enough of them to treat the gonorrhea (because it was for his cold) and the infection became a much greater problem for everyone. People who are not doctors thinking they know how or when to take antibiotics which is the reason why serious medical conditions are created, about 14% of Americans store their unused antibiotics (that is more than insane, it is extremely scary) or buy them from flee markets of obtain them from other illegal means--YOU ARE NOT HELPING YOURSELF OR ANYONE ELSE BY DOING THIS!! This is actually a huge problem right now as many illnesses are becoming antibiotic resistant more and more everyday, to the point where doctors have nothing to fight off some bacterial infections, think about that for a moment and the very real implications the world will suffer from it. Okay, I think I made my point. The book was definitely not for me and was a major let down.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Karen’s Library

    I love the dystopian apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic genres so reading the description of Afterland as a Children of Men meets The Handmaid’s Tale, I was all-in! In Afterland, we meet Cole, her 12 year old son Miles, and her psychopath sister Billie. 3 years before the book takes place, a plague hits which ends up killing 99% of the men. Parts of this story was very prescient with hand sanitizer and other supplies running out. Told in current day and flashbacks, Cole and Miles were taken by the I love the dystopian apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic genres so reading the description of Afterland as a Children of Men meets The Handmaid’s Tale, I was all-in! In Afterland, we meet Cole, her 12 year old son Miles, and her psychopath sister Billie. 3 years before the book takes place, a plague hits which ends up killing 99% of the men. Parts of this story was very prescient with hand sanitizer and other supplies running out. Told in current day and flashbacks, Cole and Miles were taken by the government and placed in quarantine for a couple of years as Miles is one of only a very few males left in the world. Cole and Miles end up escaping as Billie is trying to kidnap Miles to sell him into sex trafficking for his rare sperm. Yes, VERY disturbing! The story follows the three from each of their POVs as they travel cross country in a world of women. They’re trying to reach Florida to take a boat back to their homeland, Africa as they were trapped in the U.S. when the plague started. Miles is traveling as a girl, Mila, to disguise and protect him from being found and retaken by the government. This was definitely an eye opener to see how the women in this world cope without men. A religious cult emerges in this world which Cole and Miles pretend to join to help get them cross country. This premise was really interesting and I thought the world building was exceptional. I was really happy with the ending. *Thank you to NetGalley and Mulholland Books for the advance copy!*

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jacqie

    Thanks to Netgalley for providing a copy of this book for review. Of the Beukes books I've read, I've loved Zoo City, thought Shining Girls was fine, and didn't finish Broken Monsters. Here's another one I didn't end up finishing- I'm wondering if this author is going a different direction from what I like to read. I think that part of the problem is that there is a LOT of apocalyptic fiction out there right now and this book didn't stand out as anything special. I'm sure that Beukes never planned Thanks to Netgalley for providing a copy of this book for review. Of the Beukes books I've read, I've loved Zoo City, thought Shining Girls was fine, and didn't finish Broken Monsters. Here's another one I didn't end up finishing- I'm wondering if this author is going a different direction from what I like to read. I think that part of the problem is that there is a LOT of apocalyptic fiction out there right now and this book didn't stand out as anything special. I'm sure that Beukes never planned on releasing her book during an actual pandemic (2020 COVID19), so bad luck there. But I've read better apocalyptic fiction and better fiction that explores gender. Cole and her son Miles are trying to get back to South Africa from the USA. Cole's sister Billie helped them break out of a government facility because her plan was to get Miles to "donate" some sperm for her evil boss to sell on the black market. A flu-like disease has ended up causing most men (90% or more) to die quickly of prostate cancer, but Miles is immune. For somewhat vague reasons, the whole world has put all reproduction on hold until a cure is found, but we all know how well people respond to government public health mandates, don't we. (At least in the USA.) So, the backstory is interesting. But not much got explained about the disease itself, and I didn't feel like much about gender got explored in the end either. Miles is disguised as a girl, but this doesn't seem to have much of an impact on him. Cole is just thinking about the next thing, and she's not very introspective about the whole situation either. So it ends up being a standard chase novel, without examining the details of the world that Beukes is positing. I also HATED Billie's chapters. She's fighting a mighty concussion and is the worst person ever. Maybe Beukes was trying to gender-flip a bad guy to make a point,but I already know that women can be bad, because women are JUST PEOPLE, just like men. If you start from a point that humans will act like humans whether male, female, or intersex, then flipping genders on standard tropes doesn't end up feeling all that revelatory to me. So, the world, which could have been interesting, didn't get explored much. Cole and Miles, for all you the reader are inside their heads, don't seem all that interesting. And soooo many flashbacks! In a time travel novel like Shining Girls, I get this. But this device is getting so overused now! It just jerks the story around, creates false tension, and is a cheap way to do shocking reveals, IMO. I'm really over it. I've enjoyed some apocalypse novels,although it's not really my jam. I also like novels that examine gender. Novels like these go all the way back to The Gate to Women's Country by Sheri Tepper , the Holdfast Chronicles by Suzy McKee Charnas and much further, and I end up reading them a lot. Recently, the Book of the Unnamed Midwife did a really interesting job of examining gender during an apocalypse. The Handmaid's Tale is an obvious classic. This book felt like a missed opportunity, skimming the surface in order to keep the characters on the run, instead of delving into what really makes transformative change interesting.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Nadine

    I'm sad - DNF'ed 50 pages in. I'm a fan of Lauren Beukes, but those 50 pages felt so cliched - the mother/son banter, the kick-ass sisters who seem like men with vaginas. Maybe that kind of female character is easier to create in a visual medium where the actor's body does some of the work. Exhibit A: Regina King in Watchmen! I know that one of the facets of the book is that it creates a world without men, and this gives Beukes the opportunity to explore how/if women handle power differently tha I'm sad - DNF'ed 50 pages in. I'm a fan of Lauren Beukes, but those 50 pages felt so cliched - the mother/son banter, the kick-ass sisters who seem like men with vaginas. Maybe that kind of female character is easier to create in a visual medium where the actor's body does some of the work. Exhibit A: Regina King in Watchmen! I know that one of the facets of the book is that it creates a world without men, and this gives Beukes the opportunity to explore how/if women handle power differently than men, matriarchy vs patriarchy, but I just couldn't wade through the cliches to find out. I had a similar problem with another book on this theme Ammonite by Nicola Griffith but I was able to finish it - maybe because it's science fiction, which I prefer to the thriller genre. The characters were much richer in Ammonnite, although I didn't give Afterland characters a fair chance to show themselves to me.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    3.5 stars rounded up to 4

  28. 5 out of 5

    Nenia ⭐️ Queen of Awkward ⭐️ Campbell

    Lauren Beukes is such an amazing author

  29. 4 out of 5

    Elaine

    I was finally able to buckle down and finish this one. I frequently felt unmotivated to keep reading, which just made the story feel choppy. The main characters, Cole and Miles/Mila, are on the run in a post-apocalyptic USA. A virus has kicked prostate cancer into overdrive, afflicting even the very young and almost all the world's men and boys have died off. Although Miles escaped death, he can't escape the virus' aftermath: a world where any human male is the hottest commodity going, and the bl I was finally able to buckle down and finish this one. I frequently felt unmotivated to keep reading, which just made the story feel choppy. The main characters, Cole and Miles/Mila, are on the run in a post-apocalyptic USA. A virus has kicked prostate cancer into overdrive, afflicting even the very young and almost all the world's men and boys have died off. Although Miles escaped death, he can't escape the virus' aftermath: a world where any human male is the hottest commodity going, and the black market is just teeming with women looking to buy (buying an actual man is... completely optional. *ahem*) Since Miles is not quite 13, his mom can get away with disguising him as a girl as they make their way to Miami in the hopes of catching a ride back home to South Africa. Their entire storyline is the boring part. The good part is Billie. Billie is Cole's sister, a smooth talking opportunist whose scheme to kidnap Miles goes badly wrong when Cole beats the living sh*t out of her with a crowbar. The sheer insanity of Billie's wrath after being left for dead by her sister is the fuel she needs to set off after them - even though her skull is so damaged that her brain is exposed. Whoa, right?! I tell you, if it wasn't for Billie's storyline I would have dropped this book. I just had to find out what happened with her, what she would do and how it would all turn out. Admittedly, there were also some pretty funny one-liners throughout as well, especially if you're into dirty jokes with which this is replete. But now that I've finished Afterland, I can affirm that the enjoyability factor of Billie was not greater than the suck factor of the overall book and the two cancelled each other out. Meh.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Liz Barnsley

    I read this fast, one sitting and whilst I'm a fan of this author as my previous higher ratings will show for some reason, despite speeding through it, Afterland never really hit the mark for me. It had nothing to do with skill- Lauren Beukes has always written in a quirky, engaging style that hugely appeals to me and so it was here. But for me one of the huge bonuses of reading a Beukes novel is her particular brand of storytelling, it's never *quite* like anyone else's and her plotting and shee I read this fast, one sitting and whilst I'm a fan of this author as my previous higher ratings will show for some reason, despite speeding through it, Afterland never really hit the mark for me. It had nothing to do with skill- Lauren Beukes has always written in a quirky, engaging style that hugely appeals to me and so it was here. But for me one of the huge bonuses of reading a Beukes novel is her particular brand of storytelling, it's never *quite* like anyone else's and her plotting and sheer creative imagination is often second to none. Afterland was a novel that yes, did have an interesting premise (men dead women rebuilding the rare male left on the planet valued above all else) but failed to deliver in the normal way. Subjectively speaking obviously. The mother/son relationship was well drawn but the depth to the problem he was facing (having to dress and act as a girl) felt surface level only. There's a side plot with the sister that was promising but became predictable and there really wasn't a lot to provoke thought. It was kind of Stephen King apocalyptic but without the King magic. I'm a little disappointed but you know. Even favourite authors occasionally throw out a book I'm not fond of but it's usually only one. I guess in this case it's this one. I'll look forward to the next instead. And to end on a positive note if you like post apocalyptic tales with a strong feminist slant this may well be something you'd enjoy.

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