Posts tagged ‘Lauren Beukes’

May 25, 2013

The Shining Girls: Lauren Beukes

by Andre

Lauren Beukes THE SHINING GIRLSLauren Beukes has sprung herself from the South African science fiction ghetto into more lucrative high-concept thriller territory, following her sardonic cyberpunk debut Moxyland and the Arthur C. Clarke Award-winning Zoo City. The Shining Girls is a serial killer story set not in Cape Town but Chicago, and it’s based firmly in the 20th century. True, Harper Curtis – a limping drifter who guts his victims, usually moments after a burst of folksy charm – can track his targets (his ‘shining girls’) at various points in time via a portal in a creepy, abandoned house. But, like Stephen King’s 11/22/63, the constrained time travel is a fantastical conceit that you accept within a few pages.

Beukes’s restless narrative certainly jumps across the decades: Harper will be shuffling around Depression-era Chicago then committing a grisly murder in 1943 a few pages later, while in 1993 his pattern of killings is confounding the novel’s protagonist, journalism intern Kirby Mazrachi, the shining girl who got away four years earlier. The writing is economical and affecting and the use of research is almost as formidable as Hilary Mantel’s Tudor novels: Beukes weaves in toxic period detail – racial inequality during World War II, underground abortion clinics in the Sixties – while her authorial voice has an all-American register even if it was honed 8,500 miles away in Cape Town.

The violence is shocking and graphic and Harper is not a murderer we ever really understand. The real strength of the novel is the voice Beukes gives to Harper’s victims, whose lives are documented with humanity and a keen historical perspective. If Studs Terkel had written Silence of the Lambs it might have turned out something like The Shining Girls.

May 1, 2013

Arthur C Clarke Award 2013: Chris Beckett

by Andre

Dark Eden CHRIS BECKETTChris Beckett was the deserving winning of the UK’s major science fiction prize, which he accepted at the Royal Society tonight along with a cheque for £2,013. He won for Dark Eden, an SF novel that draws on the Adam and Eve creation story for a richly textured tale about stranded astronauts and their incestuous offspring on a sunless alien planet that is lit and kept warm by its own geothermal life. It’s a world he first visited in a 1992 story for Interzone magazine and again in 2006; as he explained to the audience, his daughter inspired him to return to Eden and use that title for a novel.

There was also strong support in the room for Ken MacLeod’s socialist dystopia novel, Intrusion, and Nick Harkaway’s riotous fantasy romp Angelmaker had its admirers too. But Beckett was a popular winner and his speech recalling his childhood staring at the ceiling and imagining other worlds, rather than playing with other kids and “learning to get along with other humans”, was warmly received. It wasn’t a surprising shortlist but there were some strong novels and, in its 27th year, the Clarke is a reliable and even inspiring guide to a genre that often gets overlooked.

It was also good to see plenty of former winners at the Royal Society supporting the award including Christopher Priest (2003 – The Separation), Geoff Ryman (1990 – The Child Garden, 2006 – Air), Jeff Noon (1994 – Vurt) and South African author Lauren Beukes, who won in 2011 for Zoo City and has been in London this week promoting The Shining Girls, a high-concept thriller about a time-travelling serial killer that’s earned strong reviews and been tipped as a bestseller that will appeal to the army of Gone Girl fans.