Book Review: Slipping by Lauren Beukes

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Note: I received an advanced digital copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This book will be available for purchase in the U.S. on November 29, 2016.

I’m a big fan of Lauren Beukes’ horror novels Broken Monsters and The Shining Girls, so I was interested in reading her short stories.

Disclaimer: It’s rare that I love a short story collection. I much prefer full-length novels. So take what follows with a grain of salt.

While there were a few stories in this collection that I genuinely enjoyed, I had a difficult time getting into most of them. I wanted more horror. I wanted more gore. I wanted more surrealism. All of that is present in this collection, but not to the extent that I expected. I rarely ever do this, but I even skimmed through a few of these stories because I just wasn’t engaged.

My favorite part of this collection was the end when Beukes shifted over to non-fiction essays. She has a unique voice and lots of interesting commentary on modern humanity in general, and, more specifically, South African culture.

I don’t want to discourage anyone from reading Slipping — especially if short stories are your thing. It just wasn’t for me.

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The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

 

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4/5 Stars.

Okay, this is probably one of the coolest thrillers I’ve ever read. Lauren Beukes has this incredible knack for weaving together gritty realism with eerie elements of surrealism. She plunges you into her world headfirst, and while she never gives you all the answers, you never feel frustrated or cheated.

The Shining Girls is about a time-traveling serial killer. I mean, how cool is that? Creepy psychopath Harper Curtis stumbles upon a House in the early 1930s that gives him the power to travel back and forth in time. His victims are the shining girls: bright, interesting women to whom the House lures him. Using the powers of the House, Harper is able to stalk his victims through time and then gruesomely murder them before vanishing back into another decade without a trace.

The book jumps back and forth between Harper and Kirby Mazrachi, the only one of his victims to ever survive. Kirby enlists the help of former homicide reporter Dan Velasquez to help her track down her killer and discover the unthinkable truth about him.

This is definitely not a book for the squeamish. It’s gruesome to the point where even I cringed at parts, and I have a very high tolerance for gore. Among Beukes many strengths is her ability to create a super creepy mood that persists throughout the entirety of the story. While Kirby’s character feels unrealistic at points and the story ends a bit too abruptly, the novel’s few flaws are overshadowed by its overall awesomeness.

Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes

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4/5 Stars.

Wow. This was such a crazy, interesting take on the serial killer thriller. It’s a multi-narrative book, so it took some time to get acquainted with each character and his or her storyline, but once I got going, I didn’t want to put it down.

Broken Monsters is about a killer in Detroit who turns his victims into grotesque works of art. But there’s something mysterious fueling his vision, as he’s possessed by an eerie force that has inhabited his body – a force that’s driving him to create a masterpiece that thrives off of being seen and threatens to invade our collective conscious.

If that sounds weird, it’s because it is. But Beukes manages to keep the story grounded enough in reality that it never feels silly. Her characters are believable, interesting and each relevant in ways that gradually become apparent.

Ultimately, Beukes has created a fresh thriller for the social media generation: a desensitized, fame-obsessed culture of clickbait headlines, virality and 15 seconds of fame. There are those who believe that art is meaningless without an audience, and Broken Monsters uses this concept as a sort of commentary on our culture, challenging us to weigh the potential consequences of being seen.