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“Whether they’re set in modern-day Johannesburg or on a planet circling a distant star, these powerful, beautifully written stories are always about today and the darkness of the human soul.”
A Punk Lolita fighter-pilot rescues Tokyo from a marauding art installation. A young architect’s life is derailed by an inquisitive girl who happens to be a ghost. Unwitting recruits discover biohazardous plants on an inhospitable planet. Loyalty to a favorite product can be addictive when it gets under your skin.
In her edgy and satiric debut collection, award-winning South African author Lauren Beukes (The Shining Girls) never holds back. Ranging from Johannesburg to outer space, Beukes is a fierce and captivating presence in the literary landscape.
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“An art installation so tactile as to feel alive, a ghost that lurks alongside a promising architecture student, a girl gutted from the inside to make a premiere athlete: all stitched together into a punk tapestry of stories and other short pieces. Cape Town author Beukes (Zoo City, 2016, etc.) makes good use of her South African homeland, though she often turns Johannesburg and Cape Town into futuristic wastelands, as in “The Green,” a sci-fi militaristic nightmare of a short story, or “Riding with the Dream Patrol,” an unsettling look at where our cyberfuture could be headed (hint: bad places). There are also more straightforwardly bizarre entries, bordering on pure science fiction but never losing Beukes’ dark comedic edge, particularly “Unathi Battles the Black Hairballs,” wherein a fighter pilot (a woman, of course) must save Tokyo. Also, there are talking cats to spice things up (where there are hairballs, there must be cats). Some of the most effective pieces are the shortest, such as “Dial Tone,” where Beukes evokes the lonely desperation of her nameless narrator in less than four pages, as the character places crank calls and is often simply soothed by the dial tone. Or “Confirm/Ignore,” in which the narrator berates readers, and society at large, for their obsession with pop culture: “One day I get Bette Davis and Bettie Page confused. This is not my fault. It’s yours.” Her brief autobiographical pieces—on her first forays into journalism and a letter to her young daughter on the meaning of beauty—wrap up the slim volume nicely. Utterly bizarre and equally addictive, these pieces demonstrate that Beukes has only tapped the surface of her prodigious and wide-ranging talent with her novels.”
“A fantastic, comical, alternate historical dieselpunk affair … filled with astonishing characters, fine dialogue, and an abundance of ideas and is packaged with John Coulthart’s cool Futurist-Constructivist-inspired graphics, an introduction by graphic novelist Warren Ellis, and an interview with the author.”
“South African writer Beukes (Zoo City; Broken Monsters) showcases her evolution as an author with these 26 pieces—mostly short stories with a few nonfiction entries at the end. Stories such as “Branded” recall Beukes’s debut, Moxyland, with its combination of cyberpunk elements and South African patois. That distinct regional flavor gets sanded out of some of the later tales, which hop among genres deftly. One of the more bizarre, “Unathi Battles the Black Hairballs,” features a cameo by magical realism author Haruki Murakami. Some selections are more likely to appeal to readers unfamiliar with Beukes. For example, “The Green” is a fantastically creepy sf story of grunt soldiers on a planet with invasive local flora. Another good starting point is the title story “Slipping,” which tells of a runner who has undergone extensive physical modifications. VERDICT Even the early stories, many set in Beukes’s native Johannesburg, have a rough energy and imagination that shows why she remains an author to watch.
“Beukes writes with passion and a hot immediacy, employing demotic prose that often attains a gritty poetry. She favors capturing the explosive instant rather than the multi-linked chain of circumstances that constitute most stories.”
“Shows off [Beukes’] skill across a range of genres … brilliant.”
—New York Journal of Books
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Confirm / Ignore
- My Insect Skin
- Pop Tarts
- The Green
- Easy Touch
- Unathi Battles the Black Hairballs
- Dear Mariana
- Riding with the Dream Patrol
- Dial Tone
- Ghost Girl
- Adventures in Journalism
- All the Pretty Corpses
- Judging Unity
- Inner City
- On Beauty: A Letter to My Five-Year-Old Daughter
For more information about SLIPPING: STORIES, ESSAYS, & OTHER WRITING, visit the Tachyon page.
Cover art by Clara Bacou
Design by Elizabeth Story