Aliya Whiteley is an award-winning British author with an extensive catalogue of novels, short stories and non-fiction articles to her name. As well as being incredibly prolific, she was also kind enough to read over the early chapters of my own first novel and give me some very valuable words of encouragement and direction.
Her horror novella, The Beauty, was published back in late 2014 and I wrote an Amazon review at the time. But, as I am now publishing reviews on this blog, I thought it was more than worthy of being included in its own right, for it is ‘beautifully‘ horrific. In fact, this little book is very much a thought provoking piece of disturbingly brilliant writing. A 94-page gem of a story that will haunt you with its imagery and leave you sadly resigned to the nature of man (and woman).
The rhythm of the language is a reading pleasure in its own right let alone the multi-levelled layers of meaning and intent. On the surface, the story is predicated on the simple, if shocking, revelation that there are no women left on the earth. None at all. Not even a plucky survivor who will be a Jennifer Lawrence-esque heroine. Nope, they are all gone and only men remain.
The vision of the world that is portrayed is a resigned society, lost without the female dynamic. The surviving males, their masculinity suppressed in a hopeless inevitability, are waiting to end the last generation of humanity. They keep their memories alive through stories and the overall effect is unsettling, uncomfortable and yet somehow, calming.
The end is nigh, it would seem, but the coming of the strange and mysterious Beauty promises a relief. However, you get nothing for nothing and the upheaval it causes, the shift in roles, the oppression, dependency, horror and bloodshed of the new world reflect so many of the horrors found in our own reality. The subtle yet insightful considerations of women’s power when removed from society and the dominance of a stronger gender over a weaker one is frighteningly (and sadly too often) reflective of the world today. I found it enthralling, not least because I found the imagery so disturbing and the language so rhythmic, well structured and not a single superfluous word or phrase in the whole of it. Tight, compact and brilliant.
I shake my head sometimes as I read books that have become best-sellers and wonder how, when I see books that have been turned into movies and wonder why. It is even more galling when you read a book like the Beauty and have to ask, why isn’t this topping the NY Times lists? It deserves to be acclaimed.
The Beauty is published by Unsung Stories (never was a name more apt) and is out in paperback or Kindle. You can have a quick preview of it, or buy it direct, from the links underneath the cover image above.
Ian Andrew is the author of the alternative history novel A Time To Every Purpose, the detective thrillers Face Value and Flight Path and the Little Book of Silly Rhymes & Odd Verses. All are available in e-book and paperback. Follow him on social media: