Review: The Beauty by Aliya Whiteley

The Beauty by Aliya Whiteley

Synopsis

Somewhere away from the cities and towns, a group of men and boys gather around the fire each night to listen to their stories in the Valley of the Rocks. For when the women are all gone the rest of your life is all there is for everyone. The men are waiting to pass into the night.

The story shall be told to preserve the past. History has gone back to its aural roots and the power of words is strong. Meet Nate, the storyteller, and the new secrets he brings back from the woods. William rules the group with youth and strength, but how long can that last? And what about Uncle Ted, who spends so much time out in the woods?

Hear the tales, watch a myth be formed. For what can man hope to achieve in a world without women? When the past is only grief how long should you hold on to it? What secrets can the forest offer to change it all?

Discover the Beauty.

The Beauty
Aliya Whiteley
Publisher: Unsung Stories
Publication: September 2014
Genre: New Weird, Dystopian, Horror
I received this title for free in exchange for an honest review
Locate: amazon | b&n | worldcat
Rated: ★★★

The Beauty by Aliya Whiteley

The Beauty was described as a novel depicting the bleak future of humanity after a catastrophic event wipes out all women and men are dependent on storytellers to keep their memories (and hope) alive. Yes, The Beauty is about that, but it’s also… more that detracts a great deal from what the reader expects going into the novel. Though this is how it begins, the plot quickly progresses into a sci-fi/horror story about strange creatures slowly invading the men’s lives.

It was then that I took a look at the notes section and realised that it was classified as New Weird. Now, this is the first time I’ve ever heard of that genre, as previously I would have simply classified a novella like this one as horror/sci-fi. New Weird works much better and is a perfect fit for The Beauty.

The writing itself is amazing and worth five stars alone. Whiteley’s word choice and structure is superb. Her word craft is exquisite and not something I expected to find when I started reading. In fact, there are so many wonderful, quotable parts to the book that I eventually had to force myself to stop highlighting passages because I would’ve highlighted everything. If you just want to read an amazingly written story, regardless of genre, then you cannot go wrong with The Beauty.

If you’re wondering, after reading the previous paragraph, why I reviewed the story at three stars instead of something higher (after re-reading it, I bumped the review up to four stars), it’s simply because of the strangeness of the plot. If you’re a fan of Weird, then this has a good chance of becoming a four or five star novella. If you aren’t, then an almost four star review might be as high as you’ll get.

Readers learn early on that it was a type of fungal disease that killed off all of the women — in the world the men of the story speculate. A yellow fungus grew out of women, emanating from the womb it would seem until it consumed them whole. Now, six years later, the same fungus is seen growing on the graves of the women whose lives they took. Nathan, the narrator and group storyteller responsible for cultivating their history and the memories of women alive, is concerned and voices them to the de facto leader of the group, William, who dismisses his concerns. He then takes group cook Thomas to determine whether they are edible and they determine that they are likely poisonous. Finally, Nathan brings a sample back to Doctor Ben so he can study them in case they have medicinal benefits, or at least to discover if it is soon coming for the men. Once evening falls and it is time for the group to begin their storytelling, Nathan realises that a few people are missing. He goes off in search of them and instead finds himself in trouble when he comes face to face with a creature made completely of the yellow fungus.

The rest, well, you’ll have to read it for yourselves as I really don’t want to spoil the story for anyone interested. It is good, it is thought provoking, but above all it is weird, and we could all use a bit of weird in our lives sometimes.

Quotes & Excerpts

Only six years have passed and yet I mythologize them as if it is six thousand. I am not culpable. Language is changing, like the earth, like the sea. We live in lonely, fateful flux, outnumbered and outgrown.
-Part One

Marriage was a piece of paper and on it you wrote your name and the name of the woman, like paper could be a stone to the mouth of a cave and you could both be sealed within.
-Part One

[…] how does one fit in to other people, all edges erased, making a seamless life from the sharp corners of discontent? I don’t find anything that fits in such a way. Certainly not in nature. Nothing real is meant to tessellate like a triangle, top-bottom bottom-top. The sheep will never munch the grass in straight lines.
-Part One

This loneliness I feel is of the womb, borne by women. I was sixteen when they all died and I thought I understood this loss, but it comes to me that I didn’t know what women gave to the world. It wasn’t about their lips, their eyes or the gentle quality of their voices. It was about the way that all men are a part of them. And now we are part of nothing.
-Part One

‘Some of us are born to be free on the wings of imagination and some of us are held down by the chains of reality’
-Part Two

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About Lulu

Thirty-something year old educator based in New York, Lulu loves books, blogging, gaming, and the three cats with whom she shares her life. Book reviews specialize in all kinds of fantasy, some YA, some romance, and some contemporary, especially in the gothic genre.