Saturday, January 12, 2008

Almost a Review: Blood Child & Kindred

I read a lot of speculative fiction long after it is fresh. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it certainly does not help me when I'm trying to figure out what I'm going to nominate for the Hugos. Case and point, the titular short story of Octavia E. Butler's collection Blood Child and Other Stories. It is a weirdly gay science fiction story. I don't think I'd ruin it for anyone by saying so as I think it fairly well known given that it won the 1984 Nebula for best Novelette.

On the one hand Octavia says nothing new with these stories. They're all very ordinary science fiction themes. The disease that makes the ordinary amazing. The sort of things that we'll risk for emotional reasons around making our families safe... and to be loved. Genetics and destiny. Yet, there is an extraordinary quality to her writing. I think it would shine through even if I did not know who she was already, very important late 20th century SF writer.

On the other hand her novel Kindred both impressed me with its unromantic view of people, but it was a sort of deadpan magical realism. The fantasy elements are perfectly ordinary and never explained, but not mysterious as it would be in the classic Latin variety of magical realism. I still do not know what to think of them having finished them the day before yesterday and one week ago, respectively. My ability to review falls short of the stories I have read.

But who would I recommend them to? More than anything I think Kindred will appeal to fans of historical novels. A Uncle Tom's Cabin without the stiff language or black and white view of the world. Blood Child and Other Stories might appeal to fans of Bujold's Ethan of Athos or Tiptree's Houston, Houston, Do You Read?. But it is a short collection and I think everyone ought to give it each of the stories a few pages to grab them.

Books 3 & 4

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