Title: Afterland
Author: Lauren Beukes
Publisher: Michael Joseph
Genre: Science fiction, Thriller, Dystopian
Book format: Digital (pre-release copy)
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Description:  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.

*Free copy provided by publisher for review…

Review:  This is an interesting story which is strangely relevant given the current circumstances around the world. It’s the year 2023 and almost the entire population of men has died due to a terrible virus. Twelve-year-old Miles is one of only a few remaining male survivors who lives with his mum in a special govermnment facility to keep him and other males safe. But through some unfortunate events he and his mum Cole end up on the run, trying escape to freedom, while the government and others are hunting them down.

This is a really interesting and gripping novel. Set just a few years in the future, the story feels a little eerie given the fact that the book features a global pandemic that has lasting consequences for the survivors. The story is written in the thrid person but alternates each chapter between three different characters, Miles, Cole and Cole’s sister Billie. The story is easy to get into right away, with Cole on the run with her son. Through the chapters you slowly discover what has happened to make Cole and Miles go on the run as well as how the virus has caused the deaths of so many men.

Each chapter reveals a lot about the characters and although there is the wider issue of the virus and its effects, having left the world filled with mostly women, this story focuses much more on the personal tale and journey of Cole and her son trying to get back home to South Africa from America, a journey that takes them across different states and through some difficult moments. The story has a good fast pace and I felt unable to put this book down, constantly eager to see what would happen next.

Throughout the story Cole’s chapters show how determined a mother she is but at the same time she’s troubled by something that’s happened with her sister. Meanwhile Miles’s chapters focus on him growing up, facing puberty while hiding the fact he’s a boy, and his own struggles with sexuality, while dealing with the loss of his father and the idea of being one of the last males alive. I like what happens to Miles in the story, especially later on when he becomes more invested in something which causes him to struggle with what he wants in life. Billie’s chapters are the darkest ones to read but I like the way they are written, especially towards the beginning. Billie’s chapters are written very much like her thoughts which are a bit muddled and although she seems a bit all over the place at first, I found them an interesting contrast to Cole and Miles’ chapters.

As the story continues it becomes more and more interesting with Cole and Miles hurrying through different states across America. Throughout it there’s a constant urgency and worry that they’ll get caught and I just love how this book kept me turning the pages. With both the government and Billie chasing after them for different reasons it makes for a very interesting and thrilling read. I really like what happens to all the characters in this book, Cole and Miles have an interesting story between them of running away and what happens when they meet certain individuals of groups of people. And although Billie’s story is interesting and exciting too, I did find it harder to connect with her character as she was always so angry.

The ending is a satisfying one for all of the characters involved, with an epilogue that wraps up the story well, but if I’m honest I do feel like there was something missing at the end. While there’s a lot information about the virus and its effects on the wider world, alongside the personal story of the characters, the ending only focuses on the characters and I’m left wondering what would happn in the future with the virus and its lasting effects. It’s still a good ending for the characters, but I can’t help but feel that there could have been a bit more of an ending or an epilogue set further into the future. There is frequent swearing in the book with the f word used often and one character’s chapters mention the c swear word  quite frequently too. There are also some sexual references.

Overall I do like this book. I think the idea of the virus is a good one for a novel and I find it all the more compelling and eerie to be reading about it now, given how our current lives have been ruled by worries of another virus. Although the situations in the story versus reality are very different, there are lots of parallels in this story too, mentions of things like lockdown, quarantine and keeping certain people safe which all feel spookily similar to the way the world is right now. Because of this some people might find it to difficult to read, however I do think it’s still a great and gripping thriller, a tense story about people on the run, and it’s especially interesting as it can show us how society could end up in extreme circumstaces. Definitely a book that’s worth checking out!

-Afterland is available now in ebook and hardback and the audiobook will be available on the 24th September!

What do you think of this book?  Do you like stories that feature near-future dystopian events?  What about this book’s closeness with current real-life events?  Let me know what you think in the comments below 🙂