cover image Afterland


Lauren Beukes. Mulholland, $28 (416p) ISBN 978-0-316-26783-0

In this intriguing and all too timely near-future thriller from South African author Beukes (The Shining Girls), human culgoa virus, “a highly contagious flu that turns into an aggressive prostate cancer in men and boys,” kills more than 99% of the world’s male population within six months of its outbreak. The global response to the disease includes a ban on pregnancies until science can prevent the virus from afflicting future generations. Miles, a healthy 12 year old, has been held by the Department of Men in California’s Napa Valley, where healthy young males are being guarded for their safety, until his mother, Cole, frees him in a violent encounter that leaves her sister, Billie, seriously injured. Cole disguises Miles as a girl, and they embark on a perilous odyssey aimed at escaping the U.S. for Cole’s native South Africa. After Billie recovers, she sets off in pursuit of Cole and Miles so that she can sell her nephew’s sperm for millions on the black market. Though Beukes’s worldbuilding isn’t on the level of The Handmaid’s Tale, in which a pandemic renders most women infertile, this is a worthy addition to the pandemic fiction subgenre. [em]Agent: Oli Munson, A.M. Heath Literary (U.K.). (July) [/em]