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Most of the men are dead. Three years after the pandemic known as The Manfall, governments still hold and life continues -- but a world run by women isn't always a better place.

Twelve-year-old Miles is one of the last boys alive, and his mother, Cole, will protect him at all costs. On the run after a horrific act of violence-and pursued by Cole's own ruthless sister, Billie -- all Cole wants is to raise her kid somewhere he won't be preyed on as a reproductive resource or a sex object or a stand-in son. Someplace like home.

To get there, Cole and Miles must journey across a changed America in disguise as mother and daughter. From a military base in Seattle to a luxury bunker, from an anarchist commune in Salt Lake City to a roaming cult that's all too ready to see Miles as the answer to their prayers, the two race to stay ahead at every step . . . even as Billie and her sinister crew draw closer.

A sharply feminist, high-stakes thriller from award-winning author Lauren Beukes, Afterland brilliantly blends psychological suspense, American noir, and science fiction into an adventure all its own -- and perfect for our times.

411 pages, Hardcover

First published May 15, 2020

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About the author

Lauren Beukes

94 books2,883 followers
Lauren Beukes is an award-winning, best-selling novelist who also writes screenplays, TV shows, comics and journalism. Her books have been translated into 26 languages and have been optioned for film and TV.

Her awards include the Arthur C Clarke Award, the prestigious University of Johannesburg prize, the August Derleth Prize, the Strand Critics Choice Award and the RT Thriller of the Year. She’s been honoured in South Africa’s parliament and most recently won the Mbokondo Award from the Department of Arts and Culture, celebrating women in the arts for her work in the Creative Writing field.

She is the author of Broken Monsters, about art, ambition, damaged people and not-quite-broken cities, The Shining Girls, about a time-travelling serial killer, the nature of violence, and how we are haunted by history, Zoo City, a phantasmagorical noir set in Johannesburg which won the Arthur C Clarke Award and Moxyland, a dystopian political thriller about a corporate apartheid state where people are controlled by their cell phones. Her first book was a feminist pop-history, Maverick: Extraordinary Women From South Africa’s Past, which has recently been reprinted.

Her comics work includes Survivors' Club, an original Vertigo comic with Dale Halvorsen and Ryan Kelly, the New York Times-bestselling graphic novel, Fairest: The Hidden Kingdom with Inaki Miranda, and a Wonder Woman one-shot for kids, “The Trouble With Cats” in Sensation Comics, set in Mozambique and Soweto and drawn by Mike Maihack.

Her film and TV work includes directing the documentary, Glitterboys & Ganglands, about Cape Town’s biggest female impersonation beauty pageant. The film won best LGBT film at the San Diego Black Film Festival.

She was the showrunner on South Africa’s first full length animated TV series, URBO: The Adventures of Pax Afrika which ran for 104 half hour episodes from 2006-2009 on SABC3. She’s also written for the Disney shows Mouk and Florrie’s Dragons and on the satirical political puppet show,ZANews and Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s South African Story.

Before that she was a freelance journalist for eight years, writing about electricity cable thieves, TB, circumcision, telemedicine, great white sharks, homeless sex workers, Botswana’s first female high court judge, and Barbie as a feminist icon for magazines ranging from The Sunday Times Lifestyle to Nature Medicine, Colors, The Big Issue and Marie Claire.

She lives in Cape Town, South Africa with her daughter.

Twitter.com/laurenbeukes Instagram.com/laurenbeukes Facebook.com/laurenbeukes

Awards & Achievements
2015 South Africa’s Mbokondo Award for Women In The Arts: Creative Writing
2014 August Derleth Award for The Shining Girls
2014 Strand Critics Choice Award for The Shining Girls
2014 NPR Best Books of the Year Broken Monsters
2014 LA Times Best Books of the Year Broken Monsters
2013 University of Johannesburg Literature Prize for The Shining Girls
2013 RT Thriller of the Year for The Shining Girls
2013 WHSmith Richard & Judy BookClub Choice
2013 Exclusive Books’ Bookseller’s Choice for The Shining Girls
2013 Amazon Best Mysteries and Thrillers for The Shining Girls
2011 Kitschies Red Tentacle for Zoo City
2010 Arthur C Clarke Award for Zoo City

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Displaying 1 - 29 of 770 reviews
Profile Image for Jeffrey Keeten.
Author 3 books248k followers
September 22, 2020
”’And you’re returning to South Africa after your vacation?’

‘Yes, that’s where we live,’ proud of the fact of it. Away from everyday Nazis and school shootings so regular they were practically part of the academic calendar along with prom and football season, away from the slow gutting of democracy, trigger-happy cops, and the terror of raising a black son in America. But how can you live there, people would ask her (and Devon, her American husband, especially), meaning Johannesburg. Isn’t it dangerous? And she wanted to reply, how can you live here.”

We’ve all been convinced of the exceptionalism of America since we were wee lads and lasses. Not just us Americans, but Europeans, and all across the world. America, the great beacon of hope.

We might need to tweak things a bit.

For Cole and her husband, Devon, and their son, Miles, America is an opportunity to make some money through a lucrative temporary job for Devon and also be able to experience America, before returning to South Africa, but then disaster strikes.


Well, heck, there is no place better to be in the world than America during a pandemic. Look how well we’ve done with Covid-19….

We might need to tweak things a bit.

In a matter of months, men are nearly extinct from an aggressive, contagious form of prostate cancer, including Cole’s husband, Devon. 3.2 billion men dead, leaving about roughly 30 to 50 million men in the world. Most of these men are locked up for their own protection. Every man alive is living the life of the rock god Jim Morrison, with women quite literally willing to tear them apart to have them for themselves. It seems cool in the abstract, but in the practical, it becomes pretty damn dangerous to be one of the few remaining men.

”You can’t imagine how much the world can change in six months. You just can’t.”

Well, maybe we can. I think we all had a taste of what it would be like if a high death rate contagion raged across the world. Nothing like this, of course, but I fear that Covid-19 might be just a dress rehearsal for something much worse. Before that happens...

We might need to tweak things a bit.

This is dire. The world is obviously going to take another huge dip in population the longer it takes to find a vaccine. The Reprohibition Act has made it against the law to reproduce. The fear is that the virus will mutate in some new male child and kill off the rest of the men who have so far proven to be immune. I kept thinking to myself as I was reading this...Can a destabilized government really dictate, whether the females who are fortunate enough to still have a dick available to them, to not get pregnant? Hormones are a powerful thing, and I can only imagine the alarm bells going off in women’s heads, with nature itself driving them nearly insane to reproduce. There is also that very natural desire to want to replace those you’ve lost.

Once the collective governments of the world allow “breeding” again, it won’t take that long to rebuild the population. Losing 3.2 billion women would have put the human race in much deeper jeopardy, but I know from growing up on a farm that a herd bull can impregnate 30 cows with ease, and even as many as 50 without a negative impact on the conception rate. A young male human is capable of far eclipsing those numbers.

Sperm is suddenly...priceless.

This quote from a cult nun, well not a very reverent one, made me chuckle: ”’I think about that now, all that semen wasted. Worth a goddamn fortune now, on the black market.’ Michelle rubbed her belly with both hands, ruefully. ‘I must have swallowed a million dollars’ worth in my time.’”

Women are in charge of everything now, and of course, they, without the heavy hand of males around, are going to build a feminist utopia, right? Well, maybe not. Power vacuums by nature have to be filled, and there are stronger women and weaker women. Stronger women start acquiring the same bad characteristics that women didn’t like in men. Cole has a situation where she feels that power. ”The weight of the shotgun, the cold tang of the metal against her palms, the soft give of flesh as she pressed the wooden stock into the woman’s shoulder, pinning her to the ground. She wanted to do more. She wanted to hit her across the face with it. Feel her nose break.” We are, by nature, a violent race of people, and women abhor those violent tendencies in men, as they should, but they may prove to be equally susceptible to them if men are no longer in the equation.

I feel that Lauren Beukes did a wonderful job balancing the gains and losses in this book. An unbalanced world is a scary place, no matter who is in charge. A feminist utopia might prove more difficult to achieve than we first imagine.

Cole has been one of the few lucky ones to have a son who is immune. The female gestapo of America lock him up and start doing tests on him. The only pathway to a cure is finding out why some men are naturally immune. She realizes that, if Miles is going to have any kind of life, she needs to break him out and somehow leave America and get back to where they belong, in South Africa. If one is going to be oppressed, one would much rather have it done by their own government.

Her sister, Billie, her most staunch ally, has become her worst enemy. As Cole and Miles flee across the country, hiding out with anarchists and then a cult of nuns, her sister pursues them relentlessly. Twelve year old Miles has one of the most valuable things in the world sprouting between his legs. Cole is determined to give her son as normal a life as she can in this chaotic world. She is going to do her best to make sure he doesn’t end up a sex object, a reproductive source, or a stand in son for some rich asshole who will pay anything to have a replacement son. Billie realizes that Miles is her only chance to hit the lottery, and her sister is just going to have to get out of the way, one way or another. This chase across the country gives Beukes a great opportunity to show the state of things under the new female regime.

I like the bar scene where women are sitting around drinking and watching nostalgia porn...otherwise known as football games, where they can watch men, long dead, clash like titans on the gridiron. There are also bars full of women dressing as men with moustaches, mutton chops, and beards, at least providing the illusion of a man for a male-starved population.

This is being marketed as a feminist, noir thriller, which it certainly is, but I hope men are going to read it as well. I found it to be a fascinating, enjoyable read that left me with much to ponder. Unfortunately, the cover doubles down on a female readership, with the pink and light blue motif, but men, gird your loins and march this book up to the counter and buy it. If I hadn’t already had a relationship with Beuke’s books, which have been great, I probably wouldn’t have given this cover a second look. I would feel the same way as I do about 90% of the commercials on TV...I’m not their target audience. I want to reassure readers, there is as much for men in this book as there is for women. Stephen King raved about this book, calling it a ”splendid new thriller”. I couldn’t agree more.

If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com
I also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten and an Instagram account https://www.instagram.com/jeffreykeeten
Profile Image for Gerhard.
1,053 reviews529 followers
April 27, 2020
If Broken Monsters was Lauren Beukes’s great Clive Barker novel, then Afterland is her great Stephen King novel. By the way, I personally hate it when blurbs state breathlessly that if you loved ‘x’ by ‘y’ … then this is JUST the book for you because it is MORE of the same!

Beukes has carved a niche for herself as one of the most innovative speculative-genre writers at work today, on the same level as Clive Barker and Stephen King. I deliberately use the term ‘speculative’, as opposed to the more restrictive ‘horror’ or ‘SF’, because she is one of those writers who effortlessly transcends (and transforms) genre, while adding a uniquely South African twist.

We have been waiting a long time for Beukes to finish her next book. In a ‘live’ Facebook launch for Afterland, with the actual event cancelled due to the ongoing lockdown in South Africa, Beukes admitted that while it took her five years to finish Afterland, she was busy with a range of other projects during this time, from comics to a book of essays and short stories.

She said that the first three chapters were the most difficult to write, as she struggled to slip into the skin of her characters. Eventually she came to the inevitable realisation that her ‘bad guy’ would have to be a woman, and thereafter everything clicked into place.

Beukes added that she ended up cutting about 50 000 words of back story, which must have been a brutal editing process. But the rigorous discipline and commitment to her story that this implies is abundantly evident in the final product.

There is not a single superfluous or misplaced word in this nearly 350-page book. Despite its length, it does not feel overlong at all. Neither are there any lulls or those kinds of ‘filler’ patches that so many ‘big books’ seem to have these days. The chapters are short and punchy, but not so staccato-like as to disrupt the narrative and turn it into a series of vignettes.

I am reminded of the ‘frog being boiled alive’ analogy: Once you are in the velvet grip of this book, Beukes ratchets up the suspense until the tension is almost unbearable. The alternating viewpoints between Billie and Cole as they engage in a desperate cat-and-mouse road trip across a post-apocalyptic America is seamless and riveting.

The level of detail in the book points to a mindboggling amount of research by Beukes. In her afterword she mentions that she travelled many of the same roads as her motley group of characters.

Yes, there is a rather cheeky Interlude towards the middle that gives us the lowdown on this particular prostate-targeting virus that has wiped out the bulk of the male population worldwide, but it comes at a crucial turning pointing of the narrative that effectively bookends the two parts of the book: Before and After.

As with the best kind of apocalyptic fiction, Beukes is far more interested in the reconfiguration of society that takes place in the wake of her fictional pandemic, and the new forms of social organisation, interaction, and of course deviancy and pathology that results.

Here the Sisters of All Sorrows, juxtaposed with the Barbarella sex club, are perfect examples. In a perfect example of how fucked-up society can become, and the cognitive dissonance that defines so much of our world today (rich/poor, haves/have nots, East/West, white/black, etc.), Barbarella is by far the more welcoming and humane institution than the shelter-with-a-prayer-and-mortification offered by the psycho Sisters.

Miles having American cousins allows for “a big family get-together every few years across the hemispheres” affords Beukes the strategic opportunity to let the reader see America through Cole’s South African filter. There are a lot of comparisons between similar landscapes, for example, and the differences between cities. South African colloquialisms (which will probably seem like neologisms to American readers) pepper the text, making for a weird dissonance that is as comforting as it is disquieting.

And few writers can do disquiet or creepy-existential-dread-erupting-into-appalling-violence quite like Beukes. Which means that reading this book during South Africa’s lockdown due to a global pandemic makes for a truly surreal reading experience.

There are many instances where the book seems spookily prescient – the shortage of sanitiser, rigorous hand-washing becoming a ritual of daily life, the worry that a cure will never be found – that it seems ripped from the headlines of today’s newspapers.

Given the amount of time that Beukes spent on this book, the last thing she must have anticipated was writing a version of a reality that was about to become so frighteningly and alarmingly clear. I am reminded of Ali Smith’s Seasonal Quartet and Dave Hutchinson’s Fractured Europe books, both writers who also tapped into the zeitgeist with a lightning rod.

In the wake of the success of the television adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale, there seems to have been a spate of novels focusing on female dystopias, such as Sleeping Beauties by Stephen and Owen King, The Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich and The Power by Naomi Alderman, to name but a few.

Beukes breathes fresh life into the sub-genre by taking a rather unique spin on her dystopia as a tabula rasa for a potential brave(r) new world. She was asked during the Facebook launch as to what is the purpose of reading such a difficult and upsetting book during the current crisis? Surely an escapist beach read is best to forget our current troubles.

Beukes replied that the book allows the reader to project their own version of Afterland onto current events. In other words, we are at a unique fulcrum of history, where the decisions we take post-crisis will shape our future for generations to come. We are all like Cole and Mila, driving headlong into an unknown future, armed only with our hope and belief in our enduring humanity.
Profile Image for Matthew.
1,219 reviews8,839 followers
September 28, 2020
Afterland is an okay dystopian story. Somewhat of a rehash of the graphic novel series Y: The Last Man. How much knowledge Beukes had of that story or if she was influenced by it at all, I cannot say. But it is the same basic idea and premise. A virus wipes out all (or most) men and this is the aftermath as women inherit the earth. I enjoyed the graphic novel story a bit better, but this one will serve anyone looking for a dystopian fix.

I have read a couple of Beukes previous novels (The Shining Girls and Broken Monsters) and enjoyed them. This one was not really anything like them. You know when you read a certain author and they have a certain “feel” to their writing to the point that you could almost guess the author without even being told who wrote it? I could not sense any similarities here. I don’t think that is a bad thing – I applaud any author can successfully write in many different “voices”.

This was another book that I listened to with my wife during our evening Couch Time after the kids have gone to bed. In previous reviews where I have mentioned it, some of the comments were that people love hearing about our couch time – so this mention is for you! 😊 However, while we tend to have similar responses to the books we listen to, I think she enjoyed this one quite a bit more than I did. So, perhaps take my lukewarm reception with a grain of salt – your experience with it might be more like hers.
Profile Image for Andrew Smith.
1,052 reviews582 followers
April 17, 2021
I was worried about picking up a book centred on a pandemic, I mean the timing is interesting isn’t it. But two things quickly became clear:

1. The pandemic here is different - it only kills men
2. The whole thing feels completely tongue-in-cheek and is impossible to take seriously

Cole and her son Miles escape a camp in California set up to protect and exploit some of the few remaining males - semen is gold. We’re not yet clear on the details but it seems that during the escape Cole may have killed her sister, Billie.

Young Miles become Mila (i.e. he takes on the identity of a girl) as they make a Wacky Races style run for Canada, or maybe somewhere else if that won’t work. The early scenes are actually pretty good aided by flashbacks that allow us a glimpse of their previous lives and how the pandemic got a hold. And now we learn that Billie is alive (barely) and in hot pursuit.

Early on, my issue was that I found the exchanges between Cole and Miles/Mila irritating: the attempts at humour in their banter failed to hit the mark for me and the whole mood of the dialogue just felt off. I battled on, but when I came to a section where the pair became part of a travelling circus of saviour nuns I began to skim and soon after that I gave up at around two-thirds of my way through the book.

In truth, I’m not sure what audience this book is aimed at – young adults perhaps? And maybe I'm just struggling to see the funny side of a pandemic at the moment (my bad if that's the case!). Either way, this story definitely wasn’t what I was expecting and though I had a decent go at working through it I’d actually been tempted to set it aside from quite early on. Sorry, this one really wasn’t my cup of tea.

My thanks to Penguin UK and NetGalley for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Tania.
1,202 reviews271 followers
May 3, 2020
"You can’t imagine how much the world can change in six months. You just can’t."

Except that, now, of course we all can...

3.5 stars rounded up to 4. I’ve read all of Lauren Beukes novels and my favorites are Zoo City and The Shining Girls. The thing I love most about this South African author is her knack for wildly inventive plot-lines – criminals who gets assigned animal companions or time travelling serial killers. That said, I thought the story line for Afterland was the most “normal” of everything she’s done until now – not necessarily a bad thing, especially in a time when most of us are drawn to easy reading books.

The story is set in the future where 99% of men are dead after a global man plague. Cole and her twelve-year-old son Miles are on the run from her sister and a group of boy traffickers, but they also have to be on the look out for the Department of Men who wants to quarantine all surviving males. I found the mention of hand washing, sold out hand sanitizer, conspiracy theories, financial markets crashing and hospitals being overwhelmed a bit eerie and very prescient.

The writing is edgy, and I especially liked the parts where Billy (sociopath sister) is high on drugs while trying to catch up to Cole and Miles, as I felt like I was deep under the influence myself. The author uses a cool trick to point out how chauvinistic some of us are still in our thinking, by always mentioning a job description before the description of the person, and I found myself having to constantly change my picture to female from male a few sentences after we were introduced to a cop, security guard, taxi driver etc.

The real issue being addressed in this dystopia is probably women and violence. We are still very much programmed to think of women as nurturing even after watching shows like Game of Thrones and Ozark, so the brutality between females feels unnatural and/or uncomfortable, but as the one of the characters in Afterland notes – “But girls have more to prove. You have to hit harder, meaner, crueler if you want to step into the Big Men’s shoes” when the future is going to be female.
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 6 books3,977 followers
June 16, 2020
By now, a lot of us have read a lot of dystopias featuring sexual politics, often accompanied with some major disaster that leaves women a huge minority (The Book of Etta) or (The White Plague) or any number of bigger named modern authors.

This one flips the script. Men are seriously endangered.

The few men left must deal with the patriarchy of women. :) Yes, patriarchy. Because let's face it, patriarchies are learned.

All told, I loved the worldbuilding. There are a lot of great easter eggs and the research for the plague itself was brilliant. The characterizations of Cole and Billy and Miles was pretty fantastic. It reads like a convoluted cat-and-mouse, being on the run from the government and even from themselves.

My only real concern is not a dealbreaker, but a personal preference. The religious bits were fascinating and weird and well-thought-out BUT it wasn't exactly to my taste. Or maybe it was, but where it eventually led was... weird. Maybe that's a product of having read soooo many dystopias where religion gets funky automatically, but I'll give Afterland this: it doesn't go the same direction as the rest. :)

All told, I DO love the whole After-Man take on the world. :) It's more down-to-earth and pretty damn realistic compared to, say, The Power. Afterland is more character-led. I'm glad I got to read it.
Profile Image for Sonja Arlow.
1,080 reviews7 followers
April 16, 2020
3.5 stars

I have read most of Lauren Beukes’s books and loved all of them.

She has always had this undefinable element to her stories that made them stand out. From the bizzaro world of Zoo City to the creepy thriller The Shining Girls. The fact that she is a fellow South African made reading her unique books even more of a treat.

With this latest installment however, I struggled to get completely lost in the story.

There is not one glaring specific thing that bothered me just a few things that niggled in my periphery while reading.

This is a world where 90% of men have been wiped out by a virus that targets only men and cause fatal cancer. Any remaining males are hoarded into secure facilities and tested on like lab rats.

In this world women had to step in the void left by men, and it was bothersome that most of these women were portrayed as nothing more than men with vaginas. Some of these characters reminded me of the main protagonist in Artemis, she was more male than some men I know.

If you take out the post-apocalyptic theme of the story and replaced it with, say a woman running away from an abusive partner, 75% of the story would still be the same.

Its not a bad story and I do not want to discourage anyone from reading it, but I think my expectations were sky-high.
Profile Image for Eli.
201 reviews18 followers
August 2, 2020
With transmisogyny fundamentally baked into the premise, and apparently a long history of cissexism before this, the author's presumed insights into gender, power and humanity are nothing but a trainwreck.
Profile Image for Michelle.
740 reviews90 followers
July 14, 2020
Unfortunately this book was not for me. I almost DNFED it at 25%, 50%, and again even at 75%. As you can probably tell I do not like to DNF books, I think I owe the publishers and authors more than that. Even if I’m not enjoying a book I torture myself in hopes that the ending will blow me away—this HAS happened. But, alas—this was not the case here.

I really did not enjoy this book. For two people that are running from the law, there was zero excitement whatsoever. I didn’t even fear for them. The male gender has almost completely diminished due to a gender-specific cancer and I didn’t even feel sad. The writing was too monotonous.

Publication Date is 07/28/2020. Thank you very much to Mulholland Books for sending me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What I can promise you is that I have passed this ARC on to a book friend who REALLY wanted to read it and hopefully they will love and treasure it.

2 ⭐️
Profile Image for Crystal.
269 reviews30 followers
July 28, 2020
Hmm, sounds promising. I LOVE The Handmaid’s Tale, and this book said it would focus on a different type of dystopia, one where men were the rarity. Unfortunately, this book failed to live up to its promise.

The relationships between the characters is affected by a very cavalier way of describing their communications. Their deepest emotions are constantly trivialized with an odd, impersonal attempt at humor through unending pop culture references. In one passage, a woman comes to a realization about death and her own weariness,

“Tired and numb, the grief woven through with anger. Worst friendship bracelet ever.”

She just undermined her own … jeez I just … never mind. Hashtags, inside jokes and references to Ed Sheeran, abound in this book and I don’t think it has the effect the author was striving for. For one thing, it will really date this book, imagine reading Afterland again in 20 years time and actually understanding any of this nonsense? It really takes the reader away from the moment. I found it hard to connect to any of the characters and I partially blame the glibness with which they are treated.

The one thing that made me literally toss my kindle away and officially DNF was one moment in particular. An 11 year old boy is asked by his aunt whether he is masturbating yet, because she would like some of the sperm to sell on the black market. His response is horror (obviously) and titillation. Now we are subjected to an entire paragraph about how he is fighting an erection. The author goes on to trivialize his reaction by sprinkling in word jokes about how thinking the word “penis” makes it react, and say “pat me”. WTF. It goes on from there. Sexual abuse is not freaking funny. You know, I didn’t put up with this kind of shit when Murakami was writing it, why would I do it now?

On top of all that, I found the world building to be a little superficial. There was no real explanation for how and why culture, government and society changed. The world was just full of women now, and those women were distilled down to very predictable roles. I’m sorry, a world with an army now made up of all women women does not equal an army of only masculine women .. and I honestly dislike the inference that only a certain kind of woman will be in the military. It’s distasteful that non-binary people should be stereotyped into being just one type of person, or that they will all act in the same way. I feel like I don’t have the language to describe how annoying this is and I would hate to say something to offend, so I asked a couple of friends to help me arrange my thoughts… here’s what they came up with:

“The army is comprised of hyper-masculine women that play upon, both in behavior and appearance, harmful tropes regarding women who choose to present as masculine, lesbians and non-binary persons. Non-binary, rather than being removed from the binary as the word suggests and instead of providing a wide breadth of identity and expression, is used to pigeonhole characters into one type of person. In addition, the choice to make this army strictly beholden to a strict set of gender norms that forces the more masculine women or androgynous person into a role fit for ‘men’ is also a strange one to make in terms of what it says about femininity. The aesthetic appearance of a person, their hair, their swagger or style is not an inherent indicator of their skill as a soldier or how well they perform roles of manual labor often set aside as ‘male roles.’ The author has created a world without men which is still under the spell of patriarchal powers.” (thank you Cat & Eri for helping me with this!)

I feel the book showed a lack of real understanding of women and non-binary persons and how they should be portrayed.

This book made me actively angry, I’m annoyed thinking about it now. I know that sometimes a bad review might make some people more interested in reading it … more power to you. I hope you like it better than I did. Wholehearted DNF.

Disclaimer: I received this book free from Netgalley
Profile Image for The Captain.
1,077 reviews373 followers
July 28, 2020
Ahoy there me mateys!  I received this dystopian thriller eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  So here be me honest musings . . .

This be me fourth book by the author.  I adored her shining girls and thought it was one of the best time travel books I have read.  I also very much enjoyed zoo city cause who doesn't want a giant sloth? 

This is a dystopian thriller where a plague has wiped out most of the men.  The remaining men are locked up for their own protection.  A mom, Cole, and her teenage son, Miles, have escaped and are on the run.  They make their way across the US with Miles dressed as a girl.  I should have loved this one but I wasn't thrilled by it at all.

While I liked the concepts, everything was dealt with on a surface level. Instead of getting the interesting point of view of Miles as one of the last men on earth, ye primarily get an anxious mom's looping thoughts.  The government chasing the fugitives doesn't come into play.  The bad guy is a relative who only is able to track the duo because a) the son's bad use of social media or b) because mom actually gives directions!  The pandemic could have been removed and replaced with any other big issue and not much would have changed in the story.  Also minor points that are personal dislikes include the use of the religious cult and mention of current politics and people.

I was expected a fast-paced action thriller that delves into the social structure of a post-apocalyptic world run by women.  Instead it is an uninteresting take on family dynamics where not much really happens.  A miss for me but I will still be reading future work by the author.

So lastly . . .

Thank ye Mulholland Books!
Profile Image for Deb.
324 reviews71 followers
December 8, 2020
No recommendations

This book was so unoriginal. There are old movies about this subject line. Lots of lengthy nonsensical drawn out descriptions of events and particular characters. The mother is an idiot making mistake after mistake which were so obvious. The reason I read the entire book as hard of a time as it seemed I dredged through, is I kept hoping it would get better and I like to read to the end. Don't waste your time as there is so much more out there to spend your time reading.
Profile Image for Justine.
1,134 reviews309 followers
August 15, 2020
3.5 stars

My first book by Buekes! She's clearly a talented writer, and this was very good, just not a perfect fit for me at the moment. A little more gritty realism than I was looking for right now.
Profile Image for SheLovesThePages.
334 reviews99 followers
July 20, 2020
I just loved the idea of this book. A new virus has taken over which causes men B's boys to develop a fast acting prostate cancer. It then invaded the bones. A small percent of males are left over in this world. The book is told from 3 POVs. Cole (the mother), Miles (the son), and Billie (his aunt).
The book started out great, a page turner, and then it just lost a lot of steam for me around the halfway point. I didn't really enjoy any of the characters. I kept waiting for Cole to be vulnerable and it didn't seem to happen....maybe because of self-preservation. I kept wanted more emotionally. I think that's what the book lacked.
Profile Image for Ashley Daviau.
1,757 reviews757 followers
September 3, 2020
Who knew a book about the apocalypse would ever hit so close to home? It was eerie reading this with everything going on in the world right now, it was just a little too close for comfort. I definitely wasn’t expecting to be so creeped out by this! It was a bit of a slow go at first and I was finding myself wishing it would just got on with it and that’s part of the reason why I had to dock a star. Once it did get going though I couldn’t get enough of it and I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough to find out how it would end. The end wasn’t really the bang I was hoping for but I didn’t totally hate it, I just wanted more from it. Beukes is quickly becoming a favourite author of mine, she has a really gritty, dark and totally original writing style that I really enjoy!
Profile Image for Sarah.
1,212 reviews35 followers
August 26, 2020
Turns out it's not particularly enjoyable to read about a fictional global pandemic when you as a reader are in the midst of one.

The pandemic in Afterland is one which only affects men, and we find out that Cole has lost her husband to it, had some kind of altercation with her sister, Billie, as a result of the pandemic... and has a 12 year old son who has somehow survived unscathed by whatever this disease is. To protect Miles, Cole has him pretend to be a girl (Mila), and they go on the run to try and survive against the odds.

This premise was great but I found the story to plod along very slowly - not something you'd expect in a book with that plot description. The flashbacks were a bit confusing, and I found myself not really rooting for any of the characters. I'm struggling to gel with a lot of books at the moment (real life pandemic reading slump!) so I'd encourage others to pick this up if it sounds at all appealing.

Thank you Netgalley and Penguin UK (Michael Joseph) for the advance copy, which was provided in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Whispering Stories.
2,652 reviews2,559 followers
June 28, 2021
Book Reviewed on www.whisperingstories.com

Afterland is a dystopian novel set in a world where most men have died from viral prostate cancer. The book is set in the USA and begins right in the thick of the action as Cole flees with her son, twelve-year-old Miles, trying to get him to safety, preferable to South Africa, away from those who want him, including her sister Billie who Cole has just attacked and left for dead.

Cole and Miles are from South Africa and had travelled to America with Devon, Cole’s husband, when her nephew was diagnosed with cancer. Devon found work out there so they decided to stay for a few months but then the virus hit killing Devon and leaving Cole to fight for her son to have a normal life away from a government that wants to put him in a male prison to protect him and from the clutches of women who want him as semen is the new gold.

The plot is told from Cole and Billie’s point of view and moves back and forth in time. I was intrigued to see what a world looked like where women not only ruled but where very few men existed. It was fun to see some of the women dressing like men with fake moustaches, etc sitting at bars or women watching old football games so they can get their men fix!

From the off Cole announces that she is no Ripley or Sarah Connor, she doesn’t have their skills or knowledge to fight everyone and anyone coming after her son, but he is her son and she will die trying to save him. She makes Miles dress as a girl to hide him and calls him Mila. To survive they have to embrace this new life and identity and fit in with those they wouldn’t normally associate with.

Whilst I love the idea of Afterland and enjoyed the whole cat and mouse chase across America between Cole and Billie, I was left with an air that something was missing. I wanted to know more about the men that were left and especially more from Mile’s who as a young lad of twelve years old knowing that he was going to have to live the life of a female for the short-term at least, that puberty was creeping up on him and that it was likely that most of his friends had died from the virus that somehow he was immune too must have been hard, but Mile’s is there in Cole’s parts of the book so we don’t get inside his head.

Afterland is full of action. It is character-driven and it explores a world that is honestly quite frightening when you think about it. How does the world continue to exist without men?
Profile Image for Stacey.
107 reviews5 followers
June 23, 2020
**Let me preface this by saying, I'm sorry for the rant about antibiotics, but this is a real and serious problem the world is facing right now.

I didn't even come close to finishing it, didn't really start it either. Got to about page 11 and just had enough of the writing style. For a story that seemed original to me (a post apocalyptic earth where most of the men have died out due to a viral outbreak) the writing/dialogue seemed anything but original; "arrest her, throw away the key" for example (that phrase wasn't so bad but it really is overused), but it got much worse with "fad" phrases like "Holy living boys, Batman", the use of the word "Hilaire" instead of hilarious, "Just saying." or "Living Your Best Life" (eww, stop), and "Gotta catch 'em all!". As if an adult writing a story for adults would use the phrase "Holy blah blah, Batman" or reference Pokemon. The writing is just so childish, seems like something a young teenager would think was "cool". And still, it got worse. Besides the cringe-worthy "cool" phrases, the author actually used a hashtag as a sentence; "#bunkerlife.". Hashtags are meant to tag words to help others find a post, like on Reddit or StackExchange, they aren't phrases!! (Again, something a tween would probably write/say/do).

Moving aside from all that, on page 11 the author then writes about how Miles (the son) took French for 6 months in school, then goes on to say "which he sucked at, because back home in Joburg they did Zulu at school, not stupid French." Now, maybe I was just offended because I am, and my heritage is, of French decent, but I wonder how the general populous would feel if I wrote a novel and flipped that phrase around to mock and degrade the Zulu language... Yeah, I'm sure that would go over oh so well. Then again, I wouldn't do that because I see no point in debasing someone or something else just because I can't identify with it.

I tried looking ahead to see if this type of "cool" writing would continue or to see if the story would get any better, and it didn't (from what I saw).

The book gets pretty raunchy, some kind of sex club or sex slave traders at a place called Barbarella's (again, so original), where someone standing outside is wearing a "codpiece with a giant, erect purple dick...over her jeans" and that same "giant purple joke of a penis... wobbling in his "Mile's" peripheral vision" or the even better description of "a black-and-white photograph of a man's butt with a whip sticking out of it like a tail". Wow.
Now, I'm no prude, but why bother placing a 13-year old child in those circumstances or at the very least why write it that way--for shock value? Thanks, but I'll pass.

Now not only did the book not get any better/more interesting but it goes on to make light of and mock the way medical practices are controlled, as if the rules make no sense? Not only is this ridiculous and uneducated that someone who obviously has no medical understanding thinks it a good idea to bash these rules, it's irresponsible.

In chapter 42 the author writes about how a cashier "doesn't blink" when Billie (Cole's sister) buy bullets, but "the pharmacist refuses to give her antibiotics without a prescription. Fucking America."

At this point, I would say "the author, who is an adult, surely knows why pharmacists won't give antibiotics without a prescription" but considering the rest of what I read/saw, she obviously doesn't have a fucking clue. Then let me enlighten you: pharmacists can't give antibiotics without a prescription because a doctor needs to see you first and make sure that they are going to give you a strong enough antibiotic for a long enough period of time to fully kill off the bacteria inside you, that's why doctors say not to stop taking the antibiotics when you begin to feel better because if you do stop taking them and the bacteria isn't fully killed off, the bacteria will become immune to that strain of antibiotic which is how the likes of MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) and others were created, and not only do doctors need to ensure you are getting the proper antibiotics for the proper amount of time but they also need to know your medical history before prescribing such medicines, gonorrhea, for example, became resistant to many antibiotics because a doctor prescribed antibiotics to a patient for their cold without knowing the patient had the sexually transmitted infection, the antibiotics were either not strong enough or the patient did not have enough of them to treat the gonorrhea (because it was for his cold) and the infection became a much greater problem for everyone. People who are not doctors thinking they know how or when to take antibiotics which is the reason why serious medical conditions are created, about 14% of Americans store their unused antibiotics (that is more than insane, it is extremely scary) or buy them from flee markets of obtain them from other illegal means--YOU ARE NOT HELPING YOURSELF OR ANYONE ELSE BY DOING THIS!! This is actually a huge problem right now as many illnesses are becoming antibiotic resistant more and more everyday, to the point where doctors have nothing to fight off some bacterial infections, think about that for a moment and the very real implications the world will suffer from it.

Okay, I think I made my point.
The book was definitely not for me and was a major let down.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Jordan (Jordy’s Book Club).
374 reviews18.1k followers
August 18, 2020
QUICK TAKE: I am a huge fan of post-apocalyptic stories, and I was really looking forward to this story about a woman and her son trying to return home in a world where a majority of the male population has died off due to a mysterious disease. While I enjoyed the family relationships, I would have loved a little more world-building; as it was written, the story is a bit insular. That being said, if you're a fan of the genre, I think there's a lot that you will enjoy.
Profile Image for Mangrii.
870 reviews244 followers
June 10, 2021
3,75 / 5

Cole es una de las supuestas madres afortunadas. Su hijo sigue vivo, mientras que la gran mayoría de la población masculina ha muerto. En cambio, no es oro todo lo que reluce: su hijo Miles está encerrado en una instalación de investigación gubernamental, y solo lo puede ver unas pocas horas al día. Con la ayuda de su hermana Billie, Cole consigue sacar a su hijo de allí. Sin embargo, Billie solo quiere al niño por que vale millones en el mercado negro. Así se inicia la huida de Cole y Miles, tanto de su hermana como del gobierno, en una persecución constante que nos llevará por comunas hippies, casas abandonadas y sectas itinerantes en un mundo que ha cambiado menos de lo que parece.

Tras el fantástico noir policiaco que supuso Monstruos Rotos, la nueva novela de Beukes propone un viaje por carretera repleto de vicisitudes y dudas. Una huida hacia delante por la América profunda de un mundo distópico, trascendiendo géneros sin esfuerzo al mismo tiempo que añade un toque exclusivamente sudafricano en sus personajes. A priori, la premisa de la que parte Lauren Beukes no es novedosa. Beukes se planta ante el lector con la imagen de una utopía feminista que puede resultar más difícil de lograr de lo que imaginamos. El mundo de Afterland es desequilibrado y aterrador, sin importar quien esté a cargo de ello. La autora cuestiona constantemente las ideas preconcebidas de que un mundo de mujeres sería un lugar más amable, especialmente con vista puesta a pocos años de nuestra realidad actual y con estructuras de poder bastante similares a las ya existentes.

En esencia, Afterland es pura novela de huida y persecución. Una huida por todo Estados Unidos en busca de la salvación para una madre y un hijo que no quieren seguir encerrados. Beukes, mediante capítulos cortos y contundentes, cambiando el punto de vista entre los tres protagonistas, plantea un detallado viaje a modo de gato y ratón a través de una América postapocalíptica. Sin embargo, por el camino, las inquietudes de cada personaje se hacen vitales. Las dudas de una madre como Cole sobre hacer lo correcto, el narcisismo sin complejos de Billie y el descubrimiento del mundo para un niño inocente como Miles.

Los tres, salpicando el texto de coloquialismos sudafricanos y recursos comunicativos actuales (correos, videos,...etc), dosifican la información de modo brillante durante gran parte de la narración llevando siempre al lector de un capítulo a otro. Siempre queriendo saber más y ver la siguiente parada. Esta serie de viñetas entrelazadas construyen una narrativa de suspense total, haciéndonos reflexionar sobre ese nuevo mundo y todos los cambios que podría acarrear, siempre en simbiosis con la huida. A la vez, y dados los acontecimientos actuales, también permite al lector proyectarse dentro de esa pandemia global y pensar, una y otra vez: ¿Cómo cambiaría el mundo si un terrible virus acaba con casi todos los hombres ahora mismo?

Reseña más extensa: https://boywithletters.blogspot.com/2...
Profile Image for Octavia (ReadsWithDogs).
639 reviews101 followers
July 7, 2020
First of all, Afterland has one of the most beautiful covers I've seen this year!

Afterland was a fascinating read! Basically an illness has caused the majority of mean nd boys to die from prostate cancer and women are left to rule the world. Rad--right? Welll, not exactly because the US government wants to put all remaining men and boys in camps and keep an eye on them and do sketchy stuff like possibly harvest their sperm. Afterland tells the story of a mother and son stuck in the US and trying to get home to South Africa while fleeing a government camp and then a group of women who want that precious boy sperm.
There are lots of skeevy and uncomfortable moments that make the story seem very real.

The chapters each switched narrators which took a little getting used to at first and were confusing for parts of the story, but I enjoyed learning about how the patriarchy was taking over from different points of view.
I enjoyed the pop culture references and the Mad Max vibes. I did want a little more information about everything, but that's just how I am. The ending also seemed to be tacked on and didn't fully fit the feel of the rest of the story, but I can't think of how else it could have ended.

4 out 5 stars for this thrilling read.
Profile Image for Chris  Haught.
576 reviews214 followers
October 11, 2020
DNF @ 61%

I was provided an e-copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.

This book is well written and interesting, it just isn't my cup of coffee right now. I'm trying not to force myself through books I'm not enjoying, as that will only bog down my overall reading and make it a chore to do so.

If the blurb of this one looks good, I'd recommend giving it a try. It'll hit the right chords for someone, just didn't for me this time around.

Profile Image for Caitlin Ford.
387 reviews46 followers
February 14, 2021
DNF @ 54%. I am so bored and Billie’s chapters are so frustrating to read and there is no real plot direction and I’m not connected with anyone. Real cool idea, very poor execution.
Profile Image for Polly.
123 reviews25 followers
August 17, 2020
I think it's probably impossible to talk about this book – a book with a 2020 publication date that is about a global pandemic – without reflecting heavily on the current real world situation. So many of the small details of this story hit so much harder than the author could have possibly imagined while writing it.

“You can’t imagine how much the world can change in six months. You just can’t.”

This would be a powerful quote in any context, but it stood out starkly while reading it with *gestures wildly around* all of this going on.

Early on in the book, a holiday to Disneyland features, set in the summer of 2020. I jokingly said to a friend "well, there goes the suspension of disbelief!", only to find out a few pages later that Disneyland, summer 2020... that's where these characters pick up this new virus which goes on to cause an apocalyptic global pandemic. Huh, bit on the nose.

In the world of Afterland, the virus is only deadly to men – with an astonishingly high mortality rate. I say "men", but trans issues are discussed in the book further on, so it is more accurate to say that the virus is only deadly to people AMAB. The small number of male survivors are mostly taken to facilities, along with their female family members, for protection and testing. South African mother Cole is one of these family members, kept under lock and key by the government along with her son, Miles.

Thousands of miles from home (side note: a foreigner's narration of America makes for a brutally different one than you'd be likely to get from an American protagonist's perspective), they hatch an escape plan to get back to Johannesburg.

Some of the aforementioned small, world-building details that it turns out are painfully accurate include hand sanitiser selling out everywhere; scientific advice changing rapidly and older advice seeming quaintly naive in hindsight; and the pinpoint accuracy of the types of conspiracy theories that pop up (the virus being manufactured in a lab – a North Korean lab in the book vs the Chinese lab of coronavirus conspiracies; the virus being caused by vaping vs coronavirus's 5G masts, etc).

A scene that stood out to me as particularly poignant was a visit to Ancient Puebloan cliff dwellings, which sees Cole reflect on a fallen civilisation while the world of the early 2020s is changing and crumbling around them.

I do feel like trauma could have been explored in far greater detail. The majority of the story is set in 2023 so only 3 years after the virus begins to properly take hold in the world and kill off almost half of the global population, and although it's touched upon, it struck me as a little unrealistic for so many of the characters to be so... ok. There is mourning, sure, but there's little collective trauma.

I found this book engaging, and the fast pace of it kept my nose fully in it. I think it will be very interesting to come back to and reread in a few years though, when it's (hopefully) a story less relevant to actual life.

3.5 stars, rounded up.

And one final note, one that I'm not sure has a point but I wanted to touch upon – reproductive politics features heavily in the story, after all there are very few men surviving and procreation has been outlawed until the virus has been studied and conquered. I couldn't help but think about the fact that were the story about a virus that has killed off most of the female population, rape would have featured in the book fairly heavily.
Profile Image for Alan.
1,103 reviews109 followers
March 24, 2022
My aunt once said the world would never find peace until men fell at their women's feet and asked for forgiveness.
Jack Kerouac, in On the Road
Too late, Jack.

There are plagues, and then there are plagues, you see—and Lauren Beukes' 2020 novel Afterland brings us a pandemic we didn't get. The oncovirus called HCV ("Human Culgoa Virus") starts off mild, but goes to work on the prostate later... and by the time it's done, more than 99% of the world's people with prostates (most of whom are men) have died. What's more, there's no guarantee that the few fertile males left have any inheritable immunity. Their sons will die too.

The result isn't exactly paradise on Earth. Consider terms like "FEMA Mercy Pack" and "The Male Protection Act" just for starters.


Afterland begins in crisis. Miles and his mom Cole (short for Nicole—one of several masculinized names in the novel) are fleeing the overprotective custody of the U.S. government, across a post-apocalyptic America that felt profoundly alien to them even before all the men died, desperately trying to get to a plane, or a boat, or something that'll take them back to their home in South Africa.

Yeah, his mom. Miles (soon to be Mila) is one of the lucky ones, if by "lucky" you mean he lived—he's immune to HCV, which makes him precious. Which makes him a commodity.

And Cole's running from something more than just the angry guardians of a manless America, too: she's pretty sure she killed her sister Billie (short for Wilhelmina—see?), just before they fled the compound.

They stop at Walmart to buy clean clothes, a beanie to pull over her head, black with fluffy cats' ears, the only one that will fit over her bandage, and other essentials: a phone charger, bullets. The cashier doesn't blink at bullets, but the pharmacist refuses to give her antibiotics without a prescription. Fucking America.
The essence of the road trip.


Afterland fits squarely into a subgenre of speculative fiction that (I recently learned) is called "gendercide," but it did not seem like a typical example. Lauren Beukes isn't especially interested in creating utopias, or about scoring points in a pointless war. This novel does not come across as an especially feminist (or for that matter anti-feminist) polemic, nor a revenge fantasy, nor an essentialist attempt to sort out "real" men and women. (There was very little trans representation in this novel, but what was present seemed to me to be inclusive rather than exclusionary.)

The virus does not care whether people-with-prostates are worthy of survival—it just kills 'em. And the people who are left (most of whom are women) are left to pick up the pieces—a job they handle just about as well as one would expect human beings to do. A few manage quite well, but most of the survivors are, understandably, pretty fucked up.

Perhaps that very straightforwardness—that lack of subtext—is one of Beukes' more subtle points.

Afterland isn't really science fiction either, though. HCV gets rolling back in 2020, and the novel's action is set in 2023, much too soon to be plausible extrapolation. This is more of a horror novel, a thriller, and a travelogue for roads not taken in this timeline.


Afterland is the fourth Lauren Beukes novel I've read so far—the others being Moxyland, The Shining Girls and, most recently, Broken Monsters. Afterland gathers momentum toward the end, too, as a good thriller should. And while I would have to say this one was my least favorite of the four... it was still pretty damned good.
Profile Image for Ellis.
1,210 reviews136 followers
June 29, 2020
I received a copy of this from Netgalley in exchange for a review. Mulholland Books has also advised me that a positive review requires me to disclose that I received the book for free from them and since I generally mean three stars in a positive way, there we go. Thank you Mulholland Books!

Cole flees across the U.S. with her son Miles in Beukes's apocalypse, which features a highly contagious flu that mutates into prostate cancer and has killed off an estimated 3.2 billion carriers of the XY chromosome. They're on the run from Cole's sister Billie, who's been offered a lot of money for anything and everything one of the few remaining young men in the country can provide to the highest bidder (even those things to which a twelve-year-old cannot consent, ahem). This is a nailbiter right up until the last few pages; during the last third I'd read a chapter, get up and pace around for a few minute to wring my hands, then read another chapter, rinse, repeat. Herein lies a fine case for gender diversification in every industry, and though of course the mass death is terrible, the true horror at the center of this is the mundane process by which children grow up, how they pull away and stop needing their parents, how necessary and good and heart-breaking that is.
Profile Image for Karen’s Library.
1,064 reviews163 followers
August 4, 2020
I love the dystopian apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic genres so reading the description of Afterland as a Children of Men meets The Handmaid’s Tale, I was all-in!

In Afterland, we meet Cole, her 12 year old son Miles, and her psychopath sister Billie. 3 years before the book takes place, a plague hits which ends up killing 99% of the men. Parts of this story was very prescient with hand sanitizer and other supplies running out.

Told in current day and flashbacks, Cole and Miles were taken by the government and placed in quarantine for a couple of years as Miles is one of only a very few males left in the world.

Cole and Miles end up escaping as Billie is trying to kidnap Miles to sell him into sex trafficking for his rare sperm. Yes, VERY disturbing!

The story follows the three from each of their POVs as they travel cross country in a world of women. They’re trying to reach Florida to take a boat back to their homeland, Africa as they were trapped in the U.S. when the plague started. Miles is traveling as a girl, Mila, to disguise and protect him from being found and retaken by the government.

This was definitely an eye opener to see how the women in this world cope without men. A religious cult emerges in this world which Cole and Miles pretend to join to help get them cross country.

This premise was really interesting and I thought the world building was exceptional. I was really happy with the ending.

*Thank you to NetGalley and Mulholland Books for the advance copy!*
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