‘Afterland’ is the latest book by Lauren Beukes
Three years after a virus wiped out 99% of the men on earth, a mother and son are on the run. All Cole has left in the world is her boy, Miles. With men now a prized commodity, keeping him safe means breaking hastily written new rules – and leaving her own sister for dead. All Miles has left in the world is his mother. But is one person enough to save him from the many who would kill to get their hands on a living boy? Together, Cole and Miles embark on a journey across a changed, hostile country, towards a freedom they may never reach. And when Cole’s sister tracks them down, they’ll need to decide who to trust – and what loyalty really means in this unimaginable new world.
The story is set sometime in the future when a terrible virus causes the majority of the males in the world to die. In a world now run by female, reproduction is at a standstill as they figure out what to do next.
Miles is a young boy who is one of few survivors and him and his mother Cole have been taken into a secure location. They are to be tested on to help with future vaccines and reproduction. When Cole’s sister Billie turns up to rescue, Cole is delighted but she’s unaware that Billie has an ulterior motive, to sell Miles. Once Cole figures out what is going on, she flees with Miles disguising him as a little girl called Mila. The story then follows Cole and Mila as they flee to safety hiding from Billie and her disgruntled buyers.
The story is written in the past and present sequences and starts at the point that Cole and Miles escape Billie’s clutches and leaves Billie in a car accident. The past sequences feature when the virus first hits the world and when Cole and Mila are in the secure location. The story is seen from the narrative of Cole, Mila and Billie.
Multiple narratives in this story give an interesting slant to the tale, as Cole’s maternal instinct kicks in and her primary objective is to get her son to safety, no matter. Travelling across America with the desire to travel home to Johannesburg who she could finally feel a bit safer. Miles is adapting to a life with being a rarity in a world of women and is trying to remember a happier time when he wasn’t on the run and his father was still alive. Whilst lacks any maternal instinct and is led purely by money and where Cole has a kind nature, Billie is fierce.
This dystopian and bleak book makes for despairing and unsettling reading, that was definitely up there with the likes of ‘The Road’. It’s vividly descriptive, with a barren landscape and the desperation of trying to find a cure and how males are essentially being sold on the black market.
For me, what was striking about the story is the emphasis on how a world can change in 6 months and that is certainly reflective with what’s happening in 2020 and the pandemic. For me, dystopian stories are always set much further in the future, so when the likes of Ed Sheeran is mentioned, it quickly reminds the reader of how close in time it is to the future.
’Afterland’ is a gripping story of survival and a mother’s love with a storyline that scarily seems almost similar to the world that we currently live in.
You can buy ‘Afterland’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.