Three fresh reviews for Lauren Beukes’ impressive collection SLIPPING: STORIES, ESSAYS, & OTHER WRITING.
At the B&N SCI-FI & FANTASY BLOG, Sam Reader loves the book.
Short story collections often function as a good introduction to an author’s work; SLIPPING, the first collection of stories and essays by Lauren Beukes, is no exception in that regard—but otherwise, exceptional on all counts. While imaginative novels like THE SHINING GIRLSMOXYLAND, ZOO CITY, have already established her as a major talent in the fantasy and science fiction realm, her short fiction delivers yet more potent, concentrated doses of her gift for strange ideas and vivid, unnerving prose. These 20 stories and five nonfiction pieces span multiple styles, from poetry, to prose, and even a section of literary mash-up tweets. No matter what form, though, Slipping is loaded with signature Beukes madness, a worthy introduction to her work whether you’re already a fan, or just waiting to become one.
The word that best describes these stories is “stylized.” Her words and worlds drip with an intense, wholly unique visual style, popping in neon-bright colors, even outside the more surreal stories like “Unathi Battles the Black Hairballs,” a comic-book poke at how the West perceives Japan. Beukes consistently manages to find a way to layer even more familiar worlds with bizarre visual flourishes, be it the way the title character’s shifting appearance and upward-falling tears in “Ghost Girl,” the gigantic sound-producing abomination in “Exhibitionist,” or the collapse of civilization in “Tankwa-Karoo.” These images are dreamlike, in the sense that they are all very concrete and surreal, but somehow make perfect sense in context—for only upon waking do dreams become hazy, disquieting, and liminal.
Stories aside, I’d be remiss not to mention the five non-fiction pieces also featured, which strike a perfect balance between gonzo journalism and personal essay. Beukes is raw, personal, and vulnerable as she writes of horrifying injustices visited upon women in South Africa or severe inequality and racial disparity. The collection concludes with “On Beauty,” a letter to Beukes’ five-year-old daughter, imploring her to hold on to the qualities that make her special even as the world tries to force her to fit into a twisted power structure; it is heartfelt and utterly horrifying in tandem, as she matter-of-factly captures the unconscious pressure our culture puts on children in an effort to force them to conform. It’s a culmination of the dread, both fictional and non-, that comes before.
No matter your familiarity with Lauren Beukes, Slipping is an essential collection, one of the year’s best.
JL Jamieson at POPCULTUREBEAST praises the collection.
Slick and stylish, Beukes’ visions of the future both entertain and alarm in the way that great science fiction should. I really love most everything I’ve read from her, and Slipping is no exception. A great little collection.
FOR THE LOVE OF
WORDS enjoys SLIPPING.
The wide variety of genres cause the stories to lack a certain cohesion like a typical short story anthology might, but it does this collection a disservice to think this is a negative. Instead, each of these stories act as their own palette cleanser from one story to the next and it keeps the reader in a constant state of bewilderment not knowing what type of outlandishness to expect next. I was pleasantly surprised that my favorite part of this collection were the five Non-Fiction pieces included at the end. In these she discusses personal topics such as how she got into journalism, about the research she conducted for her book ZOO CITY within the inner city of Johannesburg, and some additional insight into why she wrote THE SHINING GIRLS, my personal favorite of Beukes, which made me love it even more. She leaves us on a resolute note, with a letter to her five-year-old daughter about the meaning of true beauty.
I’ve read (and loved) a few of Beukes’ full length novels and her writing prowess manages to be just as impressive in her short fiction. This obscure collection only proves that her talents are truly expansive and that we have much to look forward from her.
For more information about SLIPPING: STORIES, ESSAYS, & OTHER WRITING, visit the Tachyon page.
Cover art by Clara Bacou
Design by Elizabeth Story