lifetime book-lover who writes about - what else? - a variety of books.
The Shining Girls had a strong ending, which bumped this from a three to four star book for me. the plot: a serial killer, Harper, uses a mysterious house to travel through time to kill girls who "shine." here, "shine" seems to mean girls with special potential and energy. Harper's home of operation is Chicago, which is expertly evoked by Beukes. the city in all its grittiness, beauty, and potential really comes alive in The Shining Girls - a pretty great feat since Beukes is herself from South Africa. as Harper travelled through time hunting his next victim, i was usually more interested in the city than I was in how Harper would claim his next shining girl.
and, as to that . . . my god, this book was graphic. i learned something about myself: i am not into reading graphic descriptions of women being gutted alive. i can stomach one or two such scenes per book, but not eight or nine. those scenes were so deeply unpleasant that picking up The Shining Girls became a chore. it was easily my least favorite part of this novel, which is unfortunate since it's such an essential part of the story.
as with all time travel narratives, if you think too much about the cause and effect mechanics of this book, you will loose hours only to find yourself right back where you began. but not coincidentally, i think, this circular thinking very much mirrors the structure of the novel where you end essentially end where you began. Buekes wants us to question the nature of cause and effect, and it is one of the strongest aspects of this novel.
another saving grace of The Shining Girls: our heroine, the one who survives a brutal attack by Harper, Kirby. she's very Lisbeth Salamander-esq in a good way. she's a survivor, prickly and punky, but she didn't feel like an archetype when she easily could have. i enjoyed her character, particularly when she's interacting with Dan, her cynical and much older sidekick.
the graphic nature of the violence just didn't do it for me. but to those for whom that's not a concern, i'd recommend The Shining Girls. it's an atmospheric novel which raises some interesting questions about time and inevitability. and, while The Shining Girls wobbles in the execution a little, it definitely sticks its landing.