After coming off the high of reading the Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes, I jumped at the opportunity to read her upcoming short fiction – and a little nonfiction – collection. While I knew her work was dark, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. To be honest, this collection fell extremely short of my expectations. Though I think that may be partially my fault to begin with.
To start, I was unaware of how dark her work generally was. There was a dark theme to the Shining Girls, a time-traveling serial killer; but I thought that had more to do with the plot than the author’s style. I was wrong. I probably should have read another of her books before attempting to pick up this collection. Then I would have known Beukes just has a very dark style in all of her work. Definitely not something I could read all of the time.
All that being sad, I did enjoy quite a few of the pieces in the collection.
Slipping: We are dropped into a world that is not explained in the slightest. There seems to be some sort of race/exhibition going on that is showcasing different medical marvels or advances. I honestly could have read a full-length novel on this subject. Personally, I would have loved to see more world-building to explain why things were going on or even what was going on in the first place. I can understand why there wasn’t any though, you are very limited when it comes to short-length fiction. This being at the beginning of the collection gave me hope for what was to come.
Confirm/Ignore: This felt like Catfish to me, and I loved that. People only show a portion of themselves online, you are left to decide what is real and what is fake. The reason shows like Catfish are addicting is because people are fascinated by others who decide to have a fake persona online. Showing this from the perspective of the person making the fake accounts and weaving themselves in a group of friends, from multiple sides, was just addicting. I wanted so much more. This was one of the shorter pieces of fiction in the collection which made me very sad. I wanted to know what happened next, were they caught in their second fake profile or did they continue undetected?
Ghost Girl: While not as unique as Slipping, this was one of the more original takes on a ghost story. A little girl, killed in a mundane manner, who haunts a boy who can’t complete his big project for class. The fact that the girl died in such a normal way brought the story to a more realistic level, though it feels silly to say that when concerning ghosts. I liked that she didn’t die in some tragic manner that the boy had to help her get over, that made the story less about her and more about her helping him get past his road blocks. Another piece that I could have read more of, the dynamic between the two characters was entertaining.
After reading the Shining Girls, I had numerous expectations for this collection and just found myself underwhelmed. It was not what I expected at all. There were some gems within the collection that I re-read, just to remind myself why I enjoyed reading the author’s works. But overall, not something I would recommend to others. I just found it be dark for the sake of being dark and graphic for the sake of shock. To me, those tactics need to have meaning. Doing them just for a reaction is a cheap ploy that doesn’t sit well with me. All that being said, I do plan to read the Broken Monsters at some point. I think I will enjoy her novel-length work more.
Note: Do your research before you read something, especially if you are new to an established author. You will end up upsetting yourself. Definite warning for Lauren Beukes’ writing, its extremely graphic and dark. If you can’t handle that, like me, then I would not suggest this for you.