Book Review: Afterland by Lauren Beukes

Lauren Beukes’ new novel, Afterland, is haunting in its timing.

It depicts a post-apocalyptic world ravaged by a virus that kills off a vast majority of the world’s male population. While this is a very different type of virus than the real one we’re fighting, there are some eerie similarities to what we’re seeing outside our very windows.

(Of course, it’s important to remember that this is fiction. But it’s definitely eye-opening to see one interpretation of a drastically changed world!)

**I received a free digital copy of this book from Mulholland Books in exchange for an honest review.

**Please note, some links on this page are affiliate links. If you make a purchase through an affiliate link, I may receive a commission at no additional cost to you. See my full disclosure policy here. Thanks for your support!

Book cover: Afterland by Lauren Beukes

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The essence of this novel: in the wake of the aforementioned virus, a mother and son (disguised as a girl) are on the run from a government who wants to “secure” every surviving male in America.

They road trip across the country, finding both help and danger along the way, in the hopes of escaping to their South African home and giving Miles, the son, a choice in how he wants to live his life.

Afterland by Lauren Beukes: My Thoughts

In some ways, Afterland is like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road – but a female-centric, technicolor perspective (with lots of pop culture references)!

Beukes’ writing style is unique; very stream-of-consciousness. It dips between the past and present, mixing memories with present day.

The good:

  • I loved the relationship between Cole and her son. While they had their share of disagreements, they also shared some sweet moments and silly jokes/puns. It felt like a raw & honest depiction of a mother-son relationship.
  • I enjoyed being able to see inside both Cole & Miles’ thoughts: how they processed their pain differently, the hopes they had for their lives, the memories they held onto, etc.
  • It was interesting to see gender roles flipped on their head.
  • I love road-trip plots, and this one felt like a strange, drug-addled sightseeing trip!

What I didn’t love as much:

  • I can’t say I enjoyed being in Cole’s sister Billie’s head (the third POV in the story). Though, I think that might have been the point.
  • Cole & Billie’s relationship was a little confusing. I won’t get into spoilers, but there was a point near the end that didn’t quite feel believable.
  • The middle of the story felt slow at times, but the ending brought it all back together.

This might not be for everyone, but overall, I recommend it – especially for lovers of the post-apocalyptic genre. It was a unique, surreal story with some darker themes, but layered with hope.

(Please be aware: there is some graphic language, drug use, violence, and mention of sexual content.)

RATING: 3.5/5 stars

(Publication date: July 28, 2020)

I’m looking forward to reading more from Lauren Beukes now; especially The Shining Girls and Broken Monsters.

Looking for even more books to read? Check out my list of the best new books of summer 2020!

afterland by lauren beukes book review

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