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Before She Sleeps

3.37  ·  Rating details ·  951 ratings  ·  192 reviews
In modern, beautiful Green City, the capital of South West Asia, gender selection, war and disease have brought the ratio of men to women to alarmingly low levels. The government uses terror and technology to control its people, and women must take multiple husbands to have children as quickly as possible.

Yet there are women who resist, women who live in an underground col
Hardcover, 250 pages
Published August 7th 2018 by Delphinium
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Dec 23, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019-read, pakistan
English: Before She Sleeps
This is the Pakistani version of The Handmaid's Tale, minus the theocracy and plus cli-fi: After the "ultimate war" which brought about a nuclear winter (in reality, both India and Pakistan have declared to possess nuclear weapons), state borders have dissolved and societies collapsed. In Green City, the capital of the new region of South West Asia, the reigning regime has developed a plan to revive human civilization - and as there aren't enough fertile women anymore
Rebecca McNutt
Before She Sleeps was mildly interesting from its premise, but not at all unique in our recent obsession with The Handmaid's Tale and the sudden onslaught of similar feminist dystopian books. Moreover, there's very little context given to the setting, a serious lack of world-building, and the characters were very difficult to relate to or know on a deeper level and thus difficult to care about in their plight. Its presented ideas and attitudes about love, respect, sexuality, pregnancy and human ...more
Karla Strand
See the full review on my website: From Reluctance to Rebellion: A Review of Bina Shah’s BEFORE SHE SLEEPS

Before She Sleeps by Bina Shah

Green City in South West Asia is lush, modern, and hi-tech – a model of beauty and prosperity. The air is clean. Women are provided for and protected. There are good citizenship classes and robotic doormen.

Green City also has DNA security scanners. It has assigned marriages and women must take multiple husbands. As “the mothers of the new nation,” they are responsible for repopulating so
Anum S.
Literature in Pakistan has seen its fair share of representation in certain circles: books about terrorism and religion are easy to find — and apparently easier to write — since the country can provide such fertile ground for characters and plot lines within these genres to flourish. Much harder to tackle are topics within comedy, horror or, in the case of Bina Shah’s newest offering Before She Sleeps, dystopian fiction. Yet Shah does it with aplomb, her book being a sharp, smart reply to that q ...more
Tatiana Dengo
Mar 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


Before She Sleeps is another version of how a male-dominated society (in this case known as “Green City”) would approach the problem posited in the The Handmaid’s Tale: there’s a lot less women capable of giving birth than before, what do we do now? Just like in Gilead, women in Green City are stripped of all humanity, free will, and power, and are treated as nothing more than walking wombs (in this case known simply as "W
Jennifer Gaarder
Nov 23, 2018 rated it really liked it

Please read my reviews at

Before She Sleeps By Bina Shah

Delphinium, August 7, 2018

247 Pages, Hardcover Edition

From Goodreads:

"In modern, beautiful Green City, the capital of South West Asia, gender selection, war, and disease have brought the ratio of men to women to alarmingly low levels. The government uses terror and technology to control its people, and women must take multiple husbands to have children as quickly as possible.

There are women who resist, women who live in a
Nadine Jones
recommended for fans of Those Who Knew

This was okay. Each time I set it down, I didn't really want to pick it up again. The story just wasn't going anywhere, and all of the characters felt very flat.

One hundred years in the future, after surviving a global nuclear war, society has fractured and re-formed, and naturally the thumb screws have been put to the few remaining women.

Women are assigned to four or five, or more, husbands, fated to be perpetually pregnant, and the men are left feeling em
Jul 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
The latest in the increasingly popular feminist dystopian genre and quite a good one. The world of the near future has been torn and restructured by a global war in the Levant and particularly South West Asia, where the book takes place. Green City is an artificial creation of terraforming a desert to become a suitable place to live, but after a large number of the female population dies out the new austerity rules come into play. The surviving women become essentially breeding machines with mul ...more
Jul 16, 2018 rated it liked it
The population has been decimated by war and sickness, and few women are left in Green City. To solve the problem men created the Perpetuation Bureau, and women now have a single purpose in life: to be a Wife and have as many children as possible with her multiple husbands. Not becoming a Wife is a crime, but a place called the Panah offers sanctuary to women who refuse to live by the rules of this draconian system. Instead they come out at night, offering carefully selected men something they c ...more
A feminist dystopia by a Pakistani writer. Many centuries in the future – after a few nuclear wars and breakdown of religions – the greatest crisis in the world is the "Gender Emergency", a mutated HPV virus that swept across the globe and killed off the vast majority of women without harming the men. In Green City the government has responded by elevating the remaining women to a high status. They're pampered and wealthy, it's a capital crime to physically harm them, and they're given anything ...more
Aug 07, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: arc
**Thank you to NetGalley and Delphinium Books for a free e-copy of Before She Sleeps in exchange for an honest review.**

This dystopian thriller is set in a time where war and disease have decimated the female population. In order to restore the population, women are made to take on multiple husbands and bear as many children as possible with the help of fertility drugs. However, in Green City, there's an underground group of women who refuse to abide by the these rules. They only emerge at night
Patricia Romero
Jun 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, dystopian
Sound familiar? From Pakistan author Bina Shah comes this look at a dystopian world where men have ruined everything with war and now the women must pay the price. Much like The Handmaid's Tale, the women are secluded. They are here to re-populate the world. And that is all. The women are repressed, treated like breeding stock and must take multiple husbands and keep on giving birth.

It is a patriarchal society and women have no rights.

But in every repressive regime, there are those women who jus
Iqra Cheema
Jan 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
I was really excited to read this one since this is the first dystopic semi-sci-fi feminist novel from Pakistan. Overall, this is well written. But it left me wanting a little something extra... the characters were not satisfactorily developed, and the events read a little rushed in most chapters. Futuristic setting of the novel feels forced with excessive explanations of the future-bureaucratic and medical terms -- as if the writer herself does not believe the world that she has created in the ...more
I was transported away by this gorgeously written dystopian novel by fellow Wellesley alumna, Bina Shah, and will be thinking about its themes for awhile to come.

"What else, in the end, truly binds us together, besides the desire for each other to be free?"
 Reading Reindeer Cobwebbed
Review: BEFORE SHE SLEEPS by Bina Shah

BEFORE SHE SLEEPS is a work of feminist Dystopian futuristic science fiction. If this is the Future, I'm not going there. There is so much hubris in this story. The "Green City," constructed in a Desert (like the Hubris of Las Vegas and Dubai), the hubris of the patriarchs, thinking they can control women's bodies and lives (and do so all too efficiently), effectively utilizing women as breeders to propagate the populace {a common practice in Dystopian liter
Uttara Bharath Kumar
Apr 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
Feminist dystopian novel set (refreshingly) in South Asia. While the comparisons to the Handmaid's Tale abound in the reviews, I think we cannot have enough of these types of stories that help us examine where we might be headed. The world feels rather apocalyptic right now and imagining such dystopian futures is sadly not difficult. Her characters showed so much promise, I wish she had developed them a little more? Nevertheless, Bina's writing is beautiful. For that it was a joy to read.
Jan 11, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
I think I've found my favorite genre: feminist dystopia. Before She Sleeps was honestly a less powerful rehash of The Handmaid's Tale but I loved every minute. If I'm totally honest, the enjoyment factor alone for me gives this book 5 stars. Objectively, however, it isn't too original and it really pulls its punches in a way I think does this story some injustice. The world building is also relatively weak. That said, I think this is an engaging book that has an important message.
mad mags
Sep 05, 2018 rated it it was ok
I had such high hopes for this one!

(Full disclosure: I received a free e-ARC for review through Netgalley. Trigger warning for violence against women, including rape.)

When I got to the Panah, I was unused to the sight of women’s bodies not swollen and distorted by pregnancy. It seemed wrong, at first, as if something was missing. It took me months to realize that a woman’s stomach wasn’t always convex; that its default state was not always filled with another being.

DNF at 59%, because life is to
Meg - A Bookish Affair
3.5 stars. In Green City, it is the job of every woman to take as many husbands as the government allows and to have as many babies (hopefully many female babies) as they can in order to overcome the gender crisis that has left Green City with many more men than women. It is very mechanical and there is not much room for love and affection. The women of the underground fulfill the need for touch and affection of the non-intimate kind but when one of the powerful men that employ their services go ...more
Hannie Han Han
Aug 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Knowing nothing about this book besides the fact that it was written by a fellow Wellesley grad and another Wellesley grad said she couldn’t put it down, I dove into this book and have enjoyed every moment of reading it, even the ones that made me feel queasy. Bina Shah does an excellent job of creating a futuristic world that is believable with characters of incredible depth and complexity. When the book ended I was sad to leave it. I hope she writes a sequel.
Aug 02, 2018 rated it liked it
Before She Sleeps features an interesting enough society that is, unfortunately, not expanded upon enough because the focus of the novel is on the characters’ reactions to the world rather than the world itself.

It’s always a disappointment when an author chooses to focus solely on the characters at the expense of the world building. Dystopian novels like these excel when they’re grounded in a solid world. Whether the world building is believable from a realistic viewpoint is irrelevant as long
Jun 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: dystopian
In a future world, due to illness and war the population is dying out. To circumvent this problem, the men in charge decide that women's ONLY goal is to bring new babies into the world. To accomplish this, each woman is required to have multiple husbands. The husbands treat their wife well and buy her whatever she wants but her main goal is to become pregnant and bring new life into their world. What the new rulers of this world chose to ignore is that they have taken something vital from women ...more
D. W. Andrews
Mar 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Characters: 4
Setting: 4

What I liked best: the emotional depth of the characters

What I liked least: shifting POV narrative + time jumps

Recommended: Y

The book is marketed as dystopian feminist literature. But as a person not in possession of a uterus; my qualifications as a feminist are zilch. So allow me to rate it from the opposite gender perspective.

Bina has created a world deep and immersive with characters you deeply empathize with. But what struck me, as a man, is how accurately she d
Oct 23, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great Start, Bumpy End

This book was not something I would have normally picked up to read (shout out to my book club for getting me out of my comfort zone) but I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed it. I thought the beginning was great and I really enjoyed the world Bina Shah created.

That being said, the story lost me towards the end. The ending was a little disappointing for me; it felt rushed and forced.
I'm not going to say this was terrible, but man, it was pretty terrible. All telling, no showing; and the telling made no sense in the set up and explanation. (I'm perpetually frustrated by post-apocalyptic works that only use that as a window dressing, without trying to make it really work. It's a crisis of dilettantes these days).

There were some nice moments, but the plot was paper-thin and utterly fell apart by partway through. I don't recommend this one.
Sep 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
thoughts coming shortly
Nicole Foyle
Leigh Anne
Sep 21, 2018 rated it liked it
Different lens, same dystopia.

Of course, the lens is what makes the difference. It would be easy, in book-talking this work, to say, "Oh, it's a South Asian version of The Handmaid's Tale. The problem is, that description would still center Western values, and Shah's work candidly probes what oppressing women might look like in a culture that's already given grief for oppressing women (usually by Westerners who don't fully grok just how much they themselves are oppressing women).

Instead, let the
Aug 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
First of all, this book gave me serious The Handmaid’s Tale vibes, which I read last summer and was stunned by it. It was amazing, it was well written and it made me think - quite a lot.

Bina Shah’s Before She Sleeps is a dystopian sci-fi novel that follows a story of Sabine, an illegal in the Green City, the capital of South West Asia, where wars, diseases and gender selection has brought the man to woman ration to dangerously low levels. Now women are forced to take multiple husbands and are fo
miss.mesmerized mesmerized
Jul 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A virus has seriously affected human population. Even though men and women get infected equally, it is only deadly for the later with the consequence that the number of female citizens has drastically been diminished. Thus, in Green City, women are assigned several husbands and closely monitored to keep the number of children born as high as possible. This is the single task for them and there is no alternative to functioning as a kind of human breeder. But some women just don’t want to comply w ...more
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