Review: “Before She Sleeps” by Bina Shah


Release Date: August 7, 2018
Publisher: Delphinium
Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopian


In modern, beautiful Green City, the capital of South West Asia, gender selection, war and disease have brought the ratio of men to women to alarmingly low levels. The government uses terror and technology to control its people, and women must take multiple husbands to have children as quickly as possible.

Yet there are women who resist, women who live in an underground collective and refuse to be part of the system. Secretly protected by the highest echelons of power, they emerge only at night, to provide to the rich and elite of Green City a type of commodity that nobody can buy: intimacy without sex. As it turns out, not even the most influential men can shield them from discovery and the dangers of ruthless punishment.

This dystopian novel from one of Pakistan’s most talented writers is a modern-day parable, The Handmaid’s Tale about women’s lives in repressive Muslim countries everywhere. It takes the patriarchal practices of female seclusion and veiling, gender selection, and control over women’s bodies, amplifies and distorts them in a truly terrifying way to imagine a world of post-religious authoritarianism.” (via Goodreads)

My Thoughts

BeforeSheSleeps-coverDystopian fiction is a funhouse mirror held up to the present. It distorts our world just enough to exaggerate the differences, but not so much that it loses familiarity. In it we see how our society’s actions can contradict our values. There’s a reason the subgenre surges in popularity during periods of sociocultural turmoil. When done right, dystopian fiction reveals the chasm between who we say we are and who we really are by warning us of what we are about to become. When done poorly, it becomes a weak parable that neither pushes the conversation forward nor demands accountability. I want to tell you that Before She Sleeps by Bina Shah is well-crafted feminist dystopian science fiction. In many ways it is. But it fails for me in two key areas: queerness and authorial intent…

To read the rest of my review, head over to

I make it a rule to always leave the Client’s house in the darkest part of the morning, the half hour before dawn, when the night’s at its thickest and the Agency officers are at their slowest. This is the time of day I fear the most, out of all the hours in the day that pass me by like flies crawling in front of my face. The Client, a man whom I only know as Joseph – none of us use last names in this business – nods impatiently at all the rules as I set them down; he’s done this many times before, and not always with me. To my relief, he behaves himself, wrapping his arms around me and contentedly sighing every few moments, not attempting anything more intrusive than those chaste embraces.

Do the world a favor and buy this book from your local indie bookstore or borrow it from your public library.

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