A Review of Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes

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*Broken Monsters* is not your run of the mill, average, ordinary read. It becomes a mind warping, engrossing read that’s full of suspense and unimaginable horrors in all different shapes and styles. The title itself leaves the reader to question if whether everyone in some way or another is broken, and if perhaps deep down we are all monsters. Broken Monsters focuses on a handful of characters that find themselves joined together thanks to a serial killer that leaves disturbing signatures of when it comes to their work.

The reader is introduced to Detective Versado, the investigating officer in the Detroit Monster case, her teenage daughter Layla, a freelance journalist Jonno who is desperate for his breakthrough piece, and Thomas Keen a man familiar with the streets and all of its natural horrors.

I dreamed I was a dream of a dream

In a serial killer’s mind the perception of a dream, well let’s just say… The Dream… is for others a nightmare. In a serial killer’s outlook destruction of life is art, and taking lives is setting a person free. To reform and redesign is the nature of the Dream. The Dream guides the serial killer to help him make his victims become what they always dreamed. Yes… it all sounds so bizarre and hard to wrap your head around, but that is what Broken Monsters is. The book is bizarre and twisted and unnatural but you cannot stop reading. It pulls you in and much like Night Film by Marisha Pessl you find yourself questioning as you read what is ‘reality’ and what is delusion, hallucination, fear, and imagination.

…evidence of the dreaming everywhere. There is a world beneath the world that is rich and tangled with meaning.

Beukes leaves her reader fascinated and left questioning… is this how the mind of a serial killer works? It seems like the Dream itself is left to the reader’s imagination because the purpose of the Dream is never truly explained. All we know is that the Dream wants to make your wishes come true. Wishes and dreams where a little boy is cut in half and given new legs of a deer so that he may perhaps become a fawn, a sculptor becomes her own work of art, and a cop is reborn into a phoenix rising.

The end of everything

The visuals are disturbing and visceral. One in particular left me questioning any future choices of tattoos. Not all of the horrors are part of the Dream. Not every horror is so much a fantasy, a dream in Broken Monsters. There is the reality of other horrors of the struggling homeless, or the interactions of Layla and her friend Cas as they play vigilante against a pedophile.  No matter what shape the monster takes in this book, there are plenty that haunt Broken Monsters as shades and spooks of the night. If anything Broken Monsters helped me reconfirm that horror comes in all shapes and forms, and doesn’t always have to do with blood and guts. Sometimes it comes in the shape of despair, the feeling of loneliness, the drive of desire and need. The Dream understands and wants everyone to know what it understands… that there are doors to be open.

…and their seeing will be horror and glory and wonder and it will pierce the skin of the world, collapse dimensions, and open the doors and the work will breathe and dance in his shoes and the dream will be able to escape.

Escape, freedom, transformation. Horror, glory, wonder. All these words describe the nature of Broken Monsters so well. It is not what is to be expected, but coming from Lauren Beukes, maybe we shouldn’t expect anything less. Even the interaction of the serial killer and Jonno is something transfixing and cinematic it leaves the reader drawn in to the possibility of the Dream and what it stands for. Killing to make someone become what they wanted to be. Isn’t what we always wanted deep down? To become what we always wanted? Obtain our dreams. It is human nature after all… and maybe being human is what breathes life into a monster within, what makes it all cracked and broken.

The book leaves the reader thinking. I don’t believe it is Beukes intention to make human nature seem so bleak and hopeless, and make us believe we are damaged and all deranged deep down. The characters that defend themselves against the serial killer and the Dream do come together as a unified front to help each other. That in itself should prove that no matter how flawed any one is, there is always the opportunity to rise above it all. Like a phoenix.

Better have a happy ending…

And that’s not such a bad thing… even if the Dream is still alive… but that’s a story for another time…

Yes. It was all real. It lives in me now. If you’ve seen it, there’s a splinter of it in you too. We can change the world. You just have to open the door.

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