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In the near future, lab-grown sex dolls are the pleasure toy of choice in this disturbing and provocative short story from Lauren Beukes, the bestselling author of The Shining Girls.

Actor and sex worker Nats is experienced at putting on a show. However, her new gig supplying intimate whispers for growgirls takes her to a place darker and lonelier than she could have ever imagined. The lab-grown dolls can respond to pleasure or pain; their synthetic heads contain only the simplest AI to prevent any pesky robo sex doll uprisings. But just because growgirls don’t have a brain, doesn’t mean they don’t have a voice…

Ungirls is part of Disorder, a collection of six short stories of living nightmares, chilling visions, and uncanny imagination that explore a world losing its balance in terrifying ways. Each piece can be read or listened to in a single disorienting sitting.

63 pages, Kindle Edition

First published June 27, 2019

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About the author

Lauren Beukes

94 books2,881 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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5 stars
289 (14%)
4 stars
495 (25%)
3 stars
653 (33%)
2 stars
339 (17%)
1 star
160 (8%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 240 reviews
Profile Image for Blair.
1,770 reviews4,248 followers
May 14, 2020
'Ungirls' more closely fits my expectations of what the Disorder collection would be. It's set in the near future and has a large cast of characters: a group of sex workers in Cape Town; an online community of men who own genetically engineered sex dolls, known as 'growjobs'; and a motivational speaker clearly modelled on Jordan Peterson. The backbone of the plot is that Nats, one of the sex workers, takes on a job as voiceover artist for the growjobs, and is then doxxed.

But 'Ungirls' feels like it wants to be more than a short story, and really, there's just too much going on. For example, a thread about Nats' teacher friend being outed as a porn actor has no connection to the main plot and doesn't go anywhere; the extra detail might work in a novel, but is unnecessary in a story. It all seems like it's trying to Say Something, and it's not clear what that is; the message is a bit garbled. Beukes knows how to make a narrative gripping and readable, so for all its flaws I didn't dislike it.

Read as part of the Amazon Original Stories Disorder collection.

Profile Image for Sonja Arlow.
1,080 reviews7 followers
September 5, 2019
3.5 stars

Its gritty, ugly and very bizarre.

This book is part of the Discord collection and although I am not planning to read all of them 3 are from authors whose books l really enjoyed.

Lauren Beukes may have become famous for The Shining Girls but my first encounter with her was Zoo City. This short is definitely more like her earlier work.

The story is set in a futuristic world where lab grown sex dolls, also known as growgirls are all the rage. The narrator of the story Nats, basically breathes life into these glorified fleshlights by adding her voice to the otherwise lifeless dolls.

The story explores the underbelly of the sex industry, the dangers of new technology, cyber bullying and female degradation.

The story may be a bit in your face and at times downright strange but the underlying theme was very powerful.

I will be reading The Best Girls by Min Jin Lee and Will Williams by Namwali Serpell soon.

All the stories in the Discord Collection are free with Kindle Unlimited
Profile Image for Tania.
1,202 reviews271 followers
December 12, 2019
Being South African I've always been a big fan of Lauren's very unique and original stories. I have to admit that I almost gave up on this novella in the first chapter or so, as I thought the opening was just too in your face and written to shock. I'm glad that I stuck with this though, as in the end everything comes together to form a horrible look at how vile people can be, and also a warning about the possible spin-offs of any new technologies created.

I really liked the audible version and think it added to this story.
Profile Image for TL .
1,824 reviews35 followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
July 6, 2019
*read for free with kindle Unlimited *

DNF at 32% .. guess I picked all the good ones first.

This one isn't bad just not my thing.. was bored.
Profile Image for Renee (The B-Roll).
322 reviews32 followers
July 5, 2019
The third installment of this collection, Ungirls, is set in a world where AI and electronics have advanced enough to allow companies to grow organs in laboratories (hmmmm.....) to use for medical necessities.  As this would naturally progress, some man has decided that these headless bodies can be grown and made into flesh and bone sex dolls that look and feel just like real humans, even with muscle memory movements.  Of course, laws have been bypassed because since this torsos do not have heads, they are not 'alive' or have a consciousness, making their sell and abuse legal.  This story follows a group of sex workers, one in particular who was used as the voice model for the sex dolls.  The real story begins when someone figures out who the voice actor is and exposes her.

While this story was not spooky or creepy, it was eerie in that it feels so plausible and almost even familiar.  In fact, I would be surprised if something like this wasn't already on someone table for planning or being developed because it is probably very possible considering today's technology. 

There wasn't really anything about the writing or atmosphere that drew me to this one.  I did enjoy how some of the chapters were not prose but emails back and forth and chatroom or comment board collections.  These varying types of communication types really help keep this story dynamic and add to the almost futuristic feel.  At the same time, it makes it feel even more real like it was just a news article you read or a story a friend was telling you.

Overall, this was not my favorite novella from the collection, as I am not a huge fan of this sort of story.  But, it was nicely done and I had a fun time reading it and seeing where this story ended. 
Profile Image for Bandit.
4,517 reviews456 followers
September 15, 2019
Continuing with the Disorder collection of Kindle shorts. This one had very underwhelming reviews, so my expectations were set pretty low, but actually I ended up quite liking it. Been meaning to check out the author and this story of futuristic sex workers in South Africa was a pretty good introduction. I liked the social commentary, the way MeToo and co. have spiraled into the world where men now have the option of organically grown women, essentially flesh clones created for sex and organ harvesting purposes. Satirical, but not quite, certainly not in a funny fun fun way. Because there is so much a clever author can say about the world we live in, but showcasing how people behave toward those they consider other or lesser than themselves. And Beukes is clever enough of an author to utilize it perfectly. She takes on inequality struggles, gender and sexual politics and so much more and does it in a very in your face sort of way, which I can only imagine might have made some readers uncomfortable and thus resulted in the lower ratings than this book by all rights deserve. This one is for the thinking audience. Very good story. And a surprisingly good listening experience. And I say surprisingly, because I tend to prefer male narrators (and yes, I’m well aware of the irony of that statement in relation to the story’s context), but the female reader did a great job in a proper South African accent no less as the story required. Recommended.
Profile Image for David.
Author 18 books336 followers
May 21, 2022
This short story is set in a near future where vat-grown "humans" have been created for organ harvesting, but predictably, some people have found... other uses for "growgirls."

They aren't sentient, they are basically just human-shaped meat puppets with nervous systems, but you can program them to do very simple repetitive motions (ahem), and the protagonist is a young voice actress whose sexy voice proved perfect for growgirl dialog scripts. She was supposed to remain anonymous, of course, but with a growing community of growgirl "fans," someone doxxes her.

Sex dolls have been around for a while, but the technology - both robotic and AI - is getting better and better, and I've seen a number of articles lately predicting that soon there will be a growing population of men willing to settle for an animated puppet that's almost as good as - or, according to some perspectives, better than - the "real thing." I've also seen some real discomfort, mostly from women, about the idea. Not that they actually want any of these hapless losers who'd settle for animatronic handjobs and canned "Me love you long time" dialog. But that incels will have available to them an outlet for their frustration and anger and desire that they can indulge and stew in in the privacy of their own basements. Some of this seems like understandable concern that it will warp their already warped view of women, but my own perspective is that while I can only feel pity for anyone that sad and sexless, leave 'em be.

Lauren Beukes seems to be writing more from the angry feminist end of the spectrum that regards incels as an existential threat and considers their ability to bang women-shaped fleshlights an affront to womankind. So the threads of this story are interspersed with the (predictably disgusting) online chatter of incels, and then their unleashed wrath and venom when the main character's identity as the voice of their growgirl sex toys is revealed. And there are some kind of pointless scenes with a smug Jordan Peterson character who seems to be inserted into the story just so the author can show how much she doesn't like Jordan Peterson.

It was a plausible story tying contemporary issues into very slightly futuristic technological developments, making it perfect for a SF short from Audible originals. But it did seem a bit ranty to me.
Profile Image for Richard.
1,774 reviews149 followers
January 19, 2021
A well balanced short story that runs with the idea that in the future the desire for a more human interactive sex toy will potentially lead to the same entrenched values but with more scope to dehumanise the role of sex workers.

Set wonderfully in South Africa it throws colour and gender politics into the mix and has fun with humour bubbling beneath this challenging subject.

The story is multilayered set around a group of friends whose lives are disadvantaged in a society that still calibrates on the colour of one’s skin. It has strong characters choosing to be involved in sex working but not justifying themselves to others. Managing the hypocrisy and double standards white men have regarding their fetish and inner desires. While dealing with the anger and venom directed to them.

Yet in this brave new world; growing non-human species to harvest organs has evolved into manipulating cell development and ‘creating’ near life like, interactive ‘living dolls’.

It is one of a collection of six stories set to authors with meeting a specific and difficult brief. Pulled off by this writer, for, as with her more recognised and appreciated works, her skills have been fully focused to produce a sad and sinister future.
In addition it shows that existing responses in acceptance, ambivalence and aggression to these subjects, especially women as a sex workers, will perhaps never change. More worryingly the ability to avoid trolling, shaming and endangerment may become more difficult in future.

This allows Lauren to bring the story to a terrifying conclusion and leave the sense of security lost forever.
Profile Image for Alan Teder.
1,990 reviews104 followers
November 20, 2020
Icky Incels
Review of the Amazon Original Kindle eBook edition (July 2019)

If sexbots weren't enough of a turnoff already this futuristic tale of growbots with organically grown parts will definitely do the trick. This seems like a sketch for a future novel as there are so many subplots and side characters that the material is spread very thin. There are sex workers sidelining as growbot voice artists, sex crazed incels on a reddit thread, an incel motivational speaker/grifter, doxxers, innocent families and stalkers. One unique aspect at least was the South African setting due to the writer.

Ungirls is the 3rd of 6 short stories/novellas in the Amazon Original Disorder Series. Stories that get inside your head. From small-town witch hunts to mass incarceration to exploitations of the flesh, this chilling collection of twisted short stories imagines the horrors of a modern world not unlike our own.
Profile Image for Tatiana.
211 reviews1 follower
June 28, 2019
Disturbing but entirely plausible and creepily familiar. Don't read it before bed, it may not give you nightmares but you'll probably be feeling too unsettled to sleep well.
Profile Image for Krystal Ayers.
166 reviews8 followers
July 16, 2019
Interesting story about artificial sex dolls and the girl getting exposed. What I didn't understand was the ending and the murders (?). I think her voice was manipulated and possibly it was telling people to do things like kill? I wish that part had been a little more clear.
Profile Image for Jenn.
280 reviews12 followers
December 26, 2019
This was a really strange read, but I did enjoy it overall. At first, I was confused about what was happening. After I realized how the story was structured and that it wasn’t just following one character, I became much more engaged.

For this story, I’d say the setting and atmosphere are stronger than the actual plot. There really isn’t much of a plot. Things do happen, but that’s not really the main point of this story.

I’d recommend this to fans of odd stories that have more to say than is obvious.
Profile Image for cindyhawk.
1 review
July 22, 2019
Interesting Idea Thin Story Line

Not my taste but an interesting perspective on this subject area. The author unsuccessfully tried to present several times and places without a seamless transition for the reader to follow and be able to arrive at the desired ending which in itself was vague. There multiple "shock" items inserted that only seemed to serve the purpose of adding bulk to a thin story line.
Profile Image for Mike Wallace.
180 reviews15 followers
July 10, 2019
This short story is better than most of the novels I've read this year. I know there are many authors who are said to have picked up where PKD left off but Lauren Beukes really has. I can't wait for another full length novel from her.
5 Stars *****
Profile Image for haze_books.
268 reviews18 followers
November 2, 2022
I thought I'd give this a go because it was short and sounded unique. although I thought the story was interesting. I felt the writing style was too repetitive for such a short book and also rushed and a little confusing with so many Povs in a short book
Profile Image for Nadine in California.
933 reviews92 followers
July 7, 2019
There have been plenty of books that look at the ways AI simulated women roil the already fraught waters of sexual politics, but this little 57 pager is one of the best, in my opinion. (Also, shout out to the movie Ex Machina and the episode of Black Mirror about a widow who buys an AI-simulation of her dead husband.) Lauren Beukes is one of my favorite authors, although I've been too much of a wuss to try her horror novels, The Shining Girls and Broken Monsters. I have bought them and they are sitting on my shelves though, staring me down.
Profile Image for Eve Stark.
171 reviews17 followers
July 8, 2019
In a not-so-distant future, lab-grown meat is used for ethical nutrition, growing human organs, and growing incredibly life-like sex dolls made of human flesh and with enough nervous system to actively participate in sex. However, they don't have heads and they don't have a consciousness, so it's legal and not creepy at all, right? WRONG. It's completely creepy.

To make the nearly-human more like a real woman, the users can buy heads to attach to the bodies where sex workers have narrated various scripts. One such woman has a distinct and very popular voice, and it turns out the horny men who have grown attached to this voice with their dolls find themselves wanting to know who - and where - she is.

This makes for an interesting short story. It felt like an episode of Black Mirror. The author, Lauren Beukes, writes a lot of sci-fi and fantasy. I would be willing to give some of her other books a try based on this. Another Amazon Collections win!
Profile Image for kari.
608 reviews
July 23, 2019
I was apprehensive at first as I didn't love Beukes' Shining Girls as much as most readers did, but Ungirls was splendid. Chilling, cutting, apt, set in the future but dangerously close to our present.
Profile Image for Cheryl DeFranceschi.
147 reviews13 followers
July 25, 2019
Holy wow! I need some distance from this before I can unpack it and say anything. 🤯
Profile Image for Sona.
261 reviews
January 16, 2023
Chaotic and sharp, this one kept me on my toes and made me work!

This one is bizarre, but only because it feels spookily prophetic. In fact, the technology populating this imagined future might be fantastical, but the sociology of this narrative is very current. The attitudes and gender politics are rooted in present-day realities. Women who choose to live out loud, set themselves up against unseen threats. Always lurking, just out of view. Bloody scary.

Similar stories have been told, over and over again, so I really appreciate the innovation. It's not an easy task to be able to control the mood of the narrative, and deliver thematic profundity, at such a break neck tempo. I am awestruck by the author's audacity and mastery.

Loved it.
Profile Image for Alfonso.
204 reviews
July 19, 2019
I had no idea what was going on in the last ⅓ of this short story. Hell, I didn't even know what the characters were doing half of the time. I had listened to the audiobook version (free for prime members) and everything seemed a bit jumbled together - it was difficult to know when the narrator was moving to a new scene or on to another character. By the end I was just confused. I have no idea what the hell happened at the end.
Profile Image for Dee Cherry.
2,945 reviews66 followers
July 8, 2019
This was my final read in this collection as I read them in no particular order. This story had an odd concept that will probably happen in the near future. Reading this collection of stories definitely makes one wonder....
Displaying 1 - 30 of 240 reviews

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