A trio of reviews for Lauren Beukes’ fantastic collection SLIPPING: STORIES, ESSAYS, & OTHER WRITING.
BATTERED, TATTERED, YELLOWED, & CREASED enjoys the breathtaking collection.
SLIPPING is a goldmine of stories that veer sharply towards the dark and unsettling. Beukes doesn’t shy away from complex themes, and they begin to form common, underlying threads across her work: humanity’s tenuous relationship with technology, dehumanization and exploitation by corporations, privacy in the age of governmental surveillance, the bombarding influence of social media and reality TV, the love-hate world of toxic relationships and domestic violence, poverty, race relations, gender inequality. These themes crop up just as often in Beukes’ journalism as her fiction, and you can see her focusing on these same issues in her latest novels. She’ll probably keep writing about them as long as humanity at large keeps grappling with them.
It seems like a strange choice to include nonfiction in a fiction collection—my original fear was that they were there to increase the page count, since even with them the collection doesn’t break 300 pages—but they’re just as strange and informative and varied as the fiction. Several touch on Beukes’ background as a journalist, short snippets describing the grittier side of Johannesburg. “All the Pretty Corpses” offers insight into the origins of The Shining Girls, examining why gender issues and domestic violence have played such a key role in her fiction. Another is a letter written to her five-year-old daughter about real beauty versus the expectations of “beauty” saddled on women by marketing and society. They may lack the supernatural and fantastic elements found in Beukes’ fiction, but they’re every bit as powerful, if not more so due to the added weight of reality. Reading them gives a better understanding of where Beukes is coming from.
I wasn’t sure what to expect with SLIPPING, though I did have high hopes going in since I already thought Beukes’ novels were fantastic. Her short fiction and nonfiction turned out to be equally impressive; while these early stories may have rough edges, they have the same themes, voice, and power that made her award-winning novels so successful. Lauren Beukes is a major talent in the genre, a shining figure of the weird and speculative: her writing is beautiful, her imagination is breathtaking, and the way she weaves boundless creativity with deft social commentary is something to behold. If you enjoy avant-gardescience fiction, weird and unsettling tales, dark explorations of important issues through the lens of speculative fiction, you will probably enjoy this volume. Whether you like SF-as-social-commentary or fiction that’s just plain weird, this collection is for you.
Blu Gilliand at CEMETERY DANCE praises the book.
Lauren Beukes’s work as a journalist in South Africa, where she covered topics ranging from slums to shark diving, gave her a sharp eye for detail and a sharp ear for dialogue. These tools are employed to great effect in in SLIPPING: STORIES, ESSAYS, & OTHER WRITING.
Beukes’s journalism background gives her the unique ability to convey staggering amounts of information in a few concise lines, making it possible for her to establish new realities with recognizable rules quickly and without overwhelming the narrative. No story better exhibits this talent than “Unathi Battles the Black Hairballs,” in which Beukes establishes a world that’s equal parts Manga, surrealist painting and kaiju movie, all within a story that moves compulsively, ever onward.
Lauren Beukes’s distinct voice and viewpoint have positioned her as one of the freshest, most exciting talents in writing today. SLIPPING will only further her reputation. Do yourself a favor and grab a copy when Tachyon Publications releases it; this month.
For BOOK RIOT, Gabino Iglesias gives SLIPPING the Bookshots treatment.
I expected this to be weird and wonderful, and that’s exactly what it is. Beukes constantly deconstructs humanity and then reassembles it in strange ways in her narratives. The end result are short stories that entertain while exploring what it means to be human, to love, to fear, and even to consume in a rapidly approaching future in which corporeal reality can be toyed with and where companies can literally get under your skin and change your life. One story that deserves particular attention is “The Princess,” which reimagines Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale “The Princess and the Pea” through a Kardashian prism. That probably doesn’t make a lot of sense, and that’s just one of many reasons why you should read this. Also, Beukes’ preoccupation with body modification and dystopian worlds is in full effect here. The worlds she creates for each story are rich and immersive, not to mention weird and often dangerous. These worlds are filled with violence, competition, reality television, war, new ways of making money in a bizarre economy, and even ghosts. Beukes is a major talent, and these stories and nonfiction pieces demand to be devoured in a way that makes this hefty book go by as quickly as a 100-page, action-packed novella.
SLIPPING is a staggering mix of horror, crime, humor, dystopian views, and science fiction from an author who has become a household name thanks to narratives that push against genre boundaries. Simply put, Beukes always sounds like Beukes, and this collection is no different, which is a wonderful thing.
For more information about SLIPPING: STORIES, ESSAYS, & OTHER WRITING, visit the Tachyon page.
Cover art by Clara Bacou
Design by Elizabeth Story