#SciFi Review: The Beauty by Aliya Whiteley (@AliyaWhiteley)

The Beauty is a weirdly beautiful novella from Aliya Whiteley that feels disconcertingly unfinished. It is altogether fascinating, with a sinister progression of themes and ideas, but it ends too soon, and Nate's narration keeps much of the story at arms' length.

In an undefined future, the world has been overcome by a fungal infection that has taken the lives of every single woman, young and old. The men who survive them know that they are to be the last generation, and exist in a sad sort of limbo, living for stories of the past. When strange yellow mushrooms begin growing from the women's graves, curiosity leads a trio of lonely men into an encounter with new life - oddly beautiful, inexplicably arousing feminine figures formed of soft, spongy, organic material.

And that's only where it begins to get weird.

Beneath all the dystopian horror and sci-fi surrealism, this is a fascinating look at gender, gender roles, and what it means to be human. Strangely, however, it is only after the arrival of The Beauty that the men begin to change. Where the promise of impending doom brought them together in a sorrowful sort of brotherhood, the question of new life - creepy and disturbing as it is - rekindles in them a desire to survive, setting them at odds with one another. That's where the story gets really interesting, and where I wish there were another narrator to broaden the story. While we see how the men have changed, it's a superficial appreciation, without the deeper emotional understanding that I think would have kicked this up a notch.

There's so much I want to say about the body horror and gender bending here, but it's one of those stories that needs to be experienced. It's weird, creepy, unsettling, disturbing, and more, with ever-bigger secrets revealed along the way. I want more, whether it be a sequel or a companion piece, but what's here is fantastically compelling.

Paperback, 208 pages
Published January 16th 2018 by Titan Books

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.