Jan. 27th, 2007 04:20 pm
threemonkeys: (Waxlion)
Another day, another engrossing book. I could get used to this again. There is only one problem - the book is clearly meant to be the first in a series. Don't you hate that feeling when you know that you are going to have to wait until the next book comes out to continue the story. How much worse when you know that there will not be a next book. Fledgling was the last book written by Octavia Butler.

Butler's books were all about community and family. In many cases how such community and family can be formed after a catastrophe. As has been noted by others more clever than me, she also incorporated race, gender, politics, religion and sexuality into something that was also a well told story. This time she did it with vampires. Yes vampires, although inevitably, I guess, not the standard vampire lore. These vampires live in family clans in a symbiotic relationship with humans. What happens when a young vampire loses her family, her memory and her human symbiotes and has to rebuild her life. This is the story of Fledgling. The story was clearly meant to continue to more volumes but it is self contained enough to read without the added anguish of a cliff-hanger ending.

For those who have read Butler before, Fledgling is quite close to the nature and issues explored in the Xenogenesis trilogy* except that I think it is actually better. For those who have not read Butler then it is hard to describe just how good her work is. If you think that powerful, disturbing, thought provoking and entertaining are important adjectives to describe your taste in books then you really should try reading this book or any of her other work for that matter.

*I note that the Xenogenesis trilogy has just been re-released in a single volume edition.


Apr. 5th, 2006 03:39 pm
threemonkeys: (Default)
Part of my plan for my time off is to spend a good chunk of time every day doing some sort of physical activity. With particular emphasis on the tangle that I laughingly refer to as a garden. Yesterday I was thwarted by the weather. Today I was almost thwarted by the overwhelming desire to finish Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents by Octavia Butler. These two books have been on my to-read shelf for ages but I kept putting off reading them. Maybe because the copies I have are a bit scruffy - yes it makes a difference, especially when the books are printed on poor quality paper. Or maybe the reason is that the good number of Butler novels I had read previously told me that while worthwhile, reading these books would be an intense experience. In any case, her recent death has prodded me into reading these books and they certainly proved worth the reading.

The story of Parable of the Sower is about the breakdown of society. This isn't something written about very often. Many authors have dealt with the post-breakdown scenario and used it as a place to set stories, but I can only think of a few where the actual process of society disintegrating is looked at. Also, written about a decade ago, this book is starting to look a bit disturbingly prophetic. It is told through the eyes, or more precisely the diaries, of a young woman who sees the fall and survives it with a vision of how regrowth can happen. This book is her very personal journey through the chaos. It is a journey which reveals so much about the character as well as the story of the world. The writing reveals a complicated, driven, charismatic and flawed character - I don't have enough adjectives to describe all the facets revealed. There is real power and real feeling here. There are other characters but they are just scenery swept along by the vivid personality of the lead.

The sequel Parable of the Talents picks up a few years after the first book and completes the story. It suffers a little from a "more of the same" feeling about the story. But to compensate, it has an occasional second voice added. This voice acts as a counterpoint in hindsight view of the main character and adds thus gives more insights into her character. For this alone, it make it that rarest of animals - a sequel as good as the first book.

These two books are not an easy read. Not at all because of the beautiful clear language and storytelling but because of their emotional intensity and the rather chilling future they portray. Read them anyway.


threemonkeys: (Default)

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