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Fiction Review: Afterland

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Book By Book

My husband and I both loved The Shining Girls, Lauren Beukes’ suspenseful, creepy novel about a time-traveling serial killer (and its fabulous TV adaptation). So, when I saw Beukes’ name while book shopping for my husband last year, I picked up her novel Afterland, another action-packed sci fi thriller.

Chillingly, this dystopian and post-apocaylptic novel begins in June 2023 in a world that looks very different from our own present. In the aftermath of a new, unique pandemic that only affects those with a Y chromosome, more than 99% of the males around the globe have died. In this new post-pandemic world inhabited mainly by women, the few remaining boys and men have become much sought-after. As the novel opens, a woman named Cole escapes with her twelve-year-old son, Miles. They are on the run from the U.S. government, from their latest luxurious but stifling protected custody, and even from Cole’s own sister, Billy. Everyone wants something from Miles, and Cole’s instinct as a mother is to keep him safe from all of it. They got stuck in the U.S. during the pandemic when her American husband died, but now Cole desperately wants to get herself and Miles back home to South Africa, and away from the U.S. government. As they travel across the country, switching cars and hiding in various abandoned homes, Miles dresses like a girl and pretends to be Mila. In escaping from Billy’s horrible scheme involving Miles, Coles is worried she may have actually killed her sister. They encounter groups of women along the way–including artists in a communal-living home in Salt Lake City and some crazy female church group all dressed in neon-colored robes in Colorado–but Cole doesn’t know who she can trust. Meanwhile, in alternating chapters, Billy is reluctantly teamed up with some really rough characters chasing after Cole and Miles, to make sure Billy keeps her promise to deliver the precious boy to the highest bidder.

The suspense never lets up here, as Cole and Miles/Mila travel across the U.S., trying to stay safe, keep Miles’ real identity a secret, and make it to the East Coast so they can find a ship to take them back home. Beukes’ world-building here is creative and immersive in this post-apocalyptic all-female world that is still new and unstable.  With Billy and her criminal handlers hot on the trail, the danger to Cole and Miles is very real and imminent, keeping the narrative moving at a fast pace and the tension high. It’s a pulse-pounding, action-packed thriller set against a fascinating, unique backdrop. I very much enjoyed the ride.

404 pages, Mulholland Books

This book fits in the following 2023 Reading Challenges:


Mount TBR Challenge

Diversity Challenge

Literary Escapes Challenge – Utah

Big Book Summer Challenge



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You can buy the book through, where your purchase will support the indie bookstore of your choice (or all indie bookstores)–the convenience of shopping online while still buying local!



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