The dream will try again (93)
A serial killer who imagines himself an artist stalks the apocalyptic landscape of contemporary Detroit, where “Everything is choked with weeds and graffiti,” and “Broken bricks and concrete pillars [are] holding up the sky” (99). Unsurprisingly, he feels some eldritch force guides his deadly art. Surprisingly– as several characters whose stories converge on the investigation learn—- that eldritch force might actually exist.
Title: Broken Monsters
Author: Lauren Beukes
First published in July 2014 (Great Britain) and September 2014 (North America).
A young child has been murdered, his body bisected and fused with a deer’s into an unholy chimera. The investigation affects the life of a female homicide detective, her hactivist daughter and her best friend, a Youtube hipster, an art merchandiser, and a street-level activist.
The novel’s early portions may be confusing, but they lead to a disturbing and page-turning finale. Questions linger—but there’s no question that Beukes has crafted, once again, an extraordinary work of literature that defies easy classification.
I had some troubles with Layla’s plot. Although the author has been a teenage girl (and I certainly have not), Layla often seemed less real to me than the other characters, too much of a wish-fulfillment projection, a confused but kickass teen girl avenger. She becomes an integral part of the novel’s extraordinary conclusion (where we see her at her most convincing), and her story’s thematic concerns reflect those of the main plot. Nevertheless, her story feels, in places, like an edgy YA novel that somehow wandered into the already-complicated main plot.
Originality: 4/6 We’re seen some elements used in this book before, but Beukes the artist reshapes them into something unfamiliar.
Imagery: 6/6 Beukes has always been a strong depicter of worlds, and her descriptions of modern-day Detroit are both creepy and accurate. She also returns to the world of contemporary art, a prominent part of her debut novel, Moxyland.
Story: 5/6 The novel draws together many threads, not always smoothly. If the conclusion leaves some things unexplained, it justifies the effort a reader may have to invest in getting there.
Characterization: 5/6 Beukes, a journalist before she became a writer of fiction, has obviously done a good deal of research into various communities, and the characters, while not always likeable, are credible.
Emotional Response: 5/6 I enjoyed both the novel’s satiric and horrific elements.
Editing: 5/6 This may not be her strongest work to date (I would nominate The Shining Girls for that honour), and the story might have been trimmed in places. Regardless, Beukes deserves a Hugo and a Nebula nod for something, soon.1
Overall score: 5/6
In total, Broken Monsters receives 35/42
This is not to say she goes unrecognized. Zoo City won the Arthur C. Clarke Award; The Shining Girls garnered a handful of mainstream literary awards.