SOMETIMES LIFE IS JUST weird. As she got set for the publication of her new novel Afterland, a story set in the aftermath of “a man-killing plague” that takes out “99% of people with prostates”, Lauren Beukes realised that she was witnessing an actual pandemic catching fire around her. “It meant I was more paranoid than some in the beginning – early mask adopter, hardcore social distancing – because I’d already done the research, and all this seemed to line up,” she says.

As is so often the case with Beukes’s work, Afterland – her first new novel since 2014’s Broken Monsters – is in part a way of exploring a theme that’s at the centre of the culture: in this case, gender. Rather than offering a The Handmaid’s Tale story of misogyny, by “flipping the narrative” it’s a 12-year-old boy, Miles, who faces being reduced to “a reproductive resource”.

It’s also a book which explores the notion that a world without

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