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review 2017-08-15 19:46
Imago / Octavia Butler
Imago - Octavia E. Butler

In the third book of her Xenogenesis series, Octavia Butler gives us the alien’s perspective.  It makes the Oankali marginally less creepy, but only a tiny bit.  Butler excels at creating truly alien life forms, with wildly different forms of reproduction.

 

The Oankali having stinging cells and tentacles, giving them some resemblance to jellyfish (Cniderians) in our world, but they are upright walking, hand-and-arm-possessing, intelligent life forms.  And, it turns out, they have a three stage metamorphosis like Earth’s insects do.  This installment follows that mysterious third sex, the Ooloi, as one of Lilith’s children matures sexually into the adult form (hence the title, Imago).

 

In the first book, the Oankali have rescued the small remainder of humanity from a disaster of their own creation and have begun combining the two species.  That’s what the Ooankali do and they consider it their payment for their rescue services, but that’s not what it looks like or feels like to humans.  Lilith gradually becomes convinced that she won’t be allowed to live as human and reluctantly gets involved with the aliens, although it is against her true wishes.

 

In the second book, we follow Lilith’s construct child, Akin, who actually has five parents and who understands the relationship between the two species better than either the humans or the Oankali.  He sees the basic incompatibility between the two species but also how they can also become compatible.  Seemingly a paradox, which Akin reveals as a prejudice of the Oankali against humanity—we’ve always known that humans are prejudiced against the aliens.

 

This third installment reveals just how much the Oankali need and long for relationships with humans.  To this point, they have seemed very unemotional, almost clinical, in their desire to revitalize their own DNA through incorporation of the human genome.  Jodahs, who is metamorphosing into one of the mysterious Ooloi, shows us the depth of feeling, the intense sexual need, and indeed the pain of separation that we have been missing so far in the story.

 

Despite gaining understanding, the whole sexual system of the Oankali feels deeply creepy.  The human male and female in the sexual constellation experience repulsion when they touch one another directly, but when joined by an Ooloi, experience intense sexual pleasure.  Pheromones by the Ooloi make the situation addictive—being apart from one’s group becomes torment.

 

Butler is skillful in her refusal to “pick a side.”  She provides logical reasons for the aliens’ behaviour and points out both the logical and totally illogical responses of humanity.  She explores co-operation, coercion, limited choice, and unequal power without making it obvious which species she favours.

 

In some ways, this series makes me think of Arthur Clarke’s Childhood’s End, in that humanity is being absorbed into a genetic continuum, but likely won’t survive on its own ever again.  Do we mourn the loss or celebrate what survives?

 

Book 260 of my Science Fiction and Fantasy Reading Project.

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text 2017-08-04 17:15
Reading progress update: I've read 42%.
Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation - Damian Duffy,John Jennings,Octavia E. Butler

I love Kindred by Octavia Butler. I chose it for World Book Day, when the U. S.  was participating, and everyone that I followed up with enjoyed it. So, when I heard that there was going to be a graphic novel of the book I was very hesitant to give it a try. I saw pics of the drawing on Instagram and wasn't impressed. Just like movie adaptations, I didn't want the graphic novel to taint my love and disappoint.

 

To my surprise, I'm really enjoying it! I have a few issues, but so far so good. I thought reading it would be a nuisance on a Kindle, but it working out great on my Fire 8.

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review 2017-07-08 16:34
Review: Kindred by Octavia Butler
Kindred - Octavia E. Butler

 

 

As part of the TBR Canine Jar Challenge, Kindred was chosen by Enya

Kindred is her third pick from the jar this year,

her previous picks being The Exorcist and Middlesex

 

 

 

I went into this expecting it to blow my socks off as I've seen many people raving about it, but that's not what happened. Don't get me wrong, I really enjoyed it, it was engaging, the plot was great, and I flew through it in no time, but it wasn't what I was expecting.

 

The writing was simplistic and easily readable. It didn't require much concentration or dedication to get through and I wasn't expecting that. I don't know if I am disappointed because my expectations were too high, or because the author approached the important topics of race relations and slavery using such simplistic language and writing style.

 

I went into it with something more complex in mind, a deeper hard to read story and message, but I feel it was overly simplified and somewhat dumbed down in order to entertain or make it a lighter read. I highly doubt it was used as a plot device for entertainment purposes, but at times it felt that way. Perhaps it's a victim of its time, had it been written more recently this wouldn't have been the case as today's readers are more open to the truth of the brutality and realism of slavery.

 

The above makes it sound like I didn't enjoy it, I did and I'm keen to read more by Octavia Butler, but I'm left with questions. The time travel just happens, there's no explanation given for Dana being pulled back in time. How was Rufus able to pull Dana back to his time? What effect did her interactions with her past relatives have on her present timeline, family, and bloodline?

 

 

 

 

Reviews also posted to my blog: Scarlet's Web
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review 2017-07-07 01:21
Kindred
Kindred - Octavia E. Butler

I know, it's about time right? It seemed like everyone was reading this a while back and I know that it isn't exactly a new book to begin with. I wanted to read it because of all the reviews and rave it was getting but had this gnawing fear that I would hate it. But then I listened to Bloodchild and other Stories by Octavia E. Butler and fell a little in love with her. I realized, though I should have trusted all the good reviews flooding in, that this was not about to be the same fictionalized book set in the antebellum South designed to make me feel sorry for slaves, hate slave owners, or convince me that there were really plenty of really nice slave owners. Butler goes a long way to introduce a lot of nuance and dimension to her antebellum characters that I'm not accustomed to reading about.

*And that's about all that I can muster for a spoiler free section of this review. Proceed if you've already read it or know the story.*

I loved the way Butler used Rufus and Dana to show the dynamic of both slave and slave owner and the ways they could play off each other. I appreciated that Rufus grew into his atrocities as he learned that being like his father could get him what he wanted. He learned how to manipulate and abuse along the way while somehow maintaining the delusion that his way was overall best. At the same time, I love that he listened to Dana for so long and that he didn't want to sell off slaves or separate families. He didn't really have compassion but he was also wading into being monster instead of jumping in like its easy to assume. We got to watch him descend into it because he could, which I always thought of as one of the scary things about living in an environment like that.

I loved Dana's introspection on everything in the past and how she felt it was easier to assimilate than she anticipated but I also loved Kevin's disgust with the family and his inability to tolerate people of the time while he was left behind. It was interesting that he had been alone there for so long and that the changes he went through didn't seem to change his feelings for Dana or about the beliefs of the time but that it all did affect him. I loved that he kept searching for a place for himself because nothing there fit while maintaining communications with the family in hopes of Dana's return.

For as much as the story revolved around Dana and Rufus, most of the slaves were well developed. Butler made it easy to understand how one might stay in that environment and what made running so much more dangerous even while staying was slowly killing you (or not so slowly in some cases). But I also appreciated that she introduced slave owners worse than Rufus's father to not ignore the range of the atrocities committed against the slaves and free blacks to not ignore that they existed either. Not that Rufus's father was depicted as a particularly benevolent slave owner like they are in many books written at the beginning of the twentieth century.

Then there's the story and the time travel. The involuntary nature of the time travel was great for moving the story forward and for getting Dana to where she needed to be. I wouldn't imagine the antebellum South would be an intentional destination for any time traveler who could oppressed in it's time, so I get that it had to be involuntary. At the same time, the involuntary way she came back to her present seemed to make every conflict more tense.

The delicate balance that Dana had to ride in the past between her need to be born in the first place and to preserve the life that she had made her decisions more interesting. I appreciated that she didn't want to tell Alice to go to Rufus or not to. She left her survival up to Alice's horrible decision alone. While it may have been tempting to influence Alice for her own survival, she knew she'd regret it. She probably knew that Alice was going to do it anyway because it was the unfortunate best alternative in her situation, even though it was horrible. When I first read that Rufus was white and her ancestor, a big part of me hoped that it was going in a different, less believable direction. The story really resonates with honesty in a way that none of the other antebellum South stories I've read ever have, not when it comes to the slave/slave owner dynamic.

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text 2017-07-01 15:14
On sale
The Terror - Dan Simmons
Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident - Donnie Eichar
The Blue Sword - Robin McKinley
Night Train to Lisbon: A Novel - Pascal Mercier,Barbara Harshav
Mornings in Jenin Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; 1 Reprint edition - Susan Abulhawa
Fledgling - Octavia E. Butler
Arthur and Sherlock: Conan Doyle and the Creation of Holmes - Michael Sims
Medicus - Ruth Downie

On sale this month for kindle US.  

 

Also several Marvel masterworks

 

The Terror is slow, but good.

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