Afterland by Lauren Beukes is not the best example of her abilities. Once again, it is an example of a book I really wanted to like, sort of enjoyed, but found enough issues with it to make it forgettable. Don’t get me wrong; there is plenty to enjoy. There was just enough within the story that made me frown that made me finish and forget it.
In particular, there is one scene towards the end that made me forget all of the previous goodness. Let’s face it. The entire concept of Miles forgetting or ignoring the fact that he is a male made me scratch my head. I understand the reasons for this but I don’t buy them. Just like I don’t buy the little rebellion he has towards the end. Yes, teenagers are moody, selfish, and self-absorbed, but they aren’t stupid. They know right from wrong, and they certainly know when to listen, especially when it comes to life or death situations. Miles simply doesn’t feel like an authentic teen voice.
The other thing I struggled with is this idea that Cole and Miles MUST get to their home in South Africa to avoid the issues facing the few remaining men in the United States. There is nothing to indicate to the reader that life in South Africa is better for men than it is in the U.S. Other than the fact that she is a South African citizen and would have more rights than she does remaining in the U.S., we know nothing about what is occurring there to make us believe that Miles will be safer. I get why she wants to flee, but Ms. Beukes does not convince me that it is the right decision.
This idea of seeing a world without most of its men and seeing the women adapt is intriguing, and one that Ms. Beukes executes really well. We get to see how industries struggle to adjust to the fact that most of their employees and executives were men. Also, we see women mourn the idea of not becoming a mother and adjust their ideas of relationships. Plus, she does an amazing job of showing how close society comes to collapsing, as women around the globe watch their husbands, fathers, and sons die, but doesn’t.
Afterland is okay, but not Ms. Beukes’ best. The characters are weak and lack development. While the world-building is great, the rest of the story struggles to find its cohesion. Better luck next time.