SLIPPING: STORIES, ESSAYS AND OTHER WRITING

PrintE-mail Written by Jennie Bailey

The word “edgy” is bandied about so much in reviews as to become almost cliché, however, Lauren Beukes’s recent collection has stories that happen right at the edge.  Beukes, the award-winning, South African writer, has authored novels, graphic novels, plays. Her new collection Slipping brings together over a decade’s worth of short stories, non-fiction, essays and vignettes. 

The short stories in this book detail the sort of thing that sometimes happens in the peripheral – from the lovelorn and slightly creepy traffic warden (‘Parking’) to the survival tactics needed in absolute poverty (‘Smileys’). ‘Ghost Girl’ occurs on the liminal edge of life and death as an architect is haunted by a teenage girl. Beukes has a fine touch for satire in the pop culture Selfie world of ‘Pop Tarts’ and the benefits of corporate branding in ‘Branded’.

While it’s difficult to choose the stand-outs from the collection, the titular piece ‘Slipping’ is astonishing: a tale focussing in on South African runner Pearl Nitseko brutally damaged in an accident and now biologically and bionically enhanced. The race that Pearl and other young women (alive and dead) are forced to participate in is treated as a freak show only of interest to rubber neckers, pharmaceutical companies and the military. You’re left wondering about Pearl long after your eyes fall on the final sentence.   

Slipping is a dizzying array of stories, a “greatest hits” from a prolific and imaginative writer.  There’s a mash of scenarios and genres from alternative histories to Manga, cyberpunk to feminist fairy tale.  It’s kick-ass speculative fiction with brains and heart.

While the short stories outbalance the non-fiction pieces, Beukes’s journalism has a zippy, thoughtful, and compelling style to it. Her passion for social justice shines through in her articles about South Africa and women. (I defy you not to get all the feelings when you read the letter to her five-year-old daughter.) This section also demonstrates underlying themes that inform Moxyland, Zoo City, The Shining Girls, and recent novel Broken Monsters. For budding writers this will give you a valuable insight into the writing process; you can see how non-fiction seeps into fiction and how short stories can be developed into longer pieces. (If you’re inspired you should definitely slip on the muse-skin gloves from the opening story and try typing!)

Beukes’ writing is incomparable, however, if you haven’t read her work and love writers like Jeff Noon (Vurt, Automated Alice), William Gibson (Neuromancer) mixed with the unflinching ballsiness of writers like Emma Jane Unsworth (Animals) then you’ll absolutely love Lauren Beukes.

SLIPPING: STORIES, ESSAYS & OTHER WRITING / AUTHOR: LAUREN BEUKES / PUBLISHER: TACHYON / RELEASE DATE: 29TH NOVEMBER 


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