by Lauren Beukes
Book Reaction (not a full review)
I’ve been a fan of Lauren Beukes since I first read Zoo City. She has a gift for building interesting worlds, and her characters tend to walk the fascinating and narrow line between flawed and dysfunctional. I love the way she weaves together the mundane and the magical, and I love her grey and grimy worlds, from the futuristic Moxyland to the historical Chicago of Shining Girls.
But Broken Monsters did not work for me. It's basically a remake of The Shining Girls, but without the history, without the subtle analysis of feminism, without the satisfying circularity, and without even the semblance of a likeable character. In my opinion, almost everyone in the book was truly abysmal. Beukes has never been known for creating loveable sweethearts, but this is impressively belowpar, even for her. I cared not a whit about any of the stiff, two-dimensional, meaningless archetypes, from the Troubled Teen to the Noble Black Homeless Man, the Smarmily Selfish Reporter, the Bumbling Female Detective, and the Creepy Artistic Serial Killer. Apparently they're all "dreamers," but unlike the "shining girls" (see what I mean about the ripoff of the other book?), I am utterly unable to fathom what makes them special.
The book explores merely a horror of the most mundane, thoughtless variety. Sure, there's lots of crazy violence such as a kid who is turned into a postmortem centaur, but other than the "artistic"-ness, there's not much of a rationale for the sickening violence. The grotesque is meant only to shock, without greater impetus driving the horror. There's a superficial attempt to inject meaning through a discussion of art and audience, and the way audience shapes who we are and what we want, but it's neither subtle nor particularly profound.
Sure, it’s creepy.
Sure, it’s awful, grotesque, disgusting, disturbing.
But it’s not memorable.
It’s just plain ick.
If you want to try Beukes, I suggest staying away from this one.