Thursday, July 26, 2012

Review: Kindred by Octavia Butler

Kindred by Octavia Butler
Publisher: Beacon Press
Science Fiction-Time Travel, Historical Fiction
My own purchase
4 stars

Dana, a modern black woman, is celebrating her twenty-sixth birthday with her new husband when she is snatched abruptly from her home in California and transported to the antebellum South. Rufus, the white son of a plantation owner, is drowning, and Dana has been summoned to save him. Dana is drawn back repeatedly through time to the slave quarters, and each time the stay grows longer, more arduous, and more dangerous until it is uncertain whether or not Dana's life will end, long before it has a chance to begin.

I first was introduced to Butler's writings when one of my college English classes assigned her Parable of the Sower to the class. Although we never got to reading it for class, I read it anyways, and I loved it. I've been on the look out for more of her books ever since. Kindred has the same easy to jump into writing that I remember from Parable of the Sower.

Butler is known for being a science fiction writer, but this book is fairly light on the science fiction aspects. The only science fiction aspects is going back and forth in time, and worrying about whether something she does in the past will change the future. The vast majority of the novel takes place in antebellum Maryland, so it very much reads like historical fiction. If you like historical fiction but aren't big on science fiction, this would be a good book for you to try.

The depiction of slavery in this is a bit unusual, when compared to a book like Gone with the Wind for example. Rufus's father is not a rich man. Nothing is said as to just how many slaves he owns, but the house is described as modest sized. And neither are the Weylin men exceptionally cruel masters, or treated their slaves like one of the family. Rufus's father takes a rather Machiavellian approach- making the punishments for disobeying significantly harsh so other slaves would fear disobeying. Its not a portayal I am used to seeing. Especially since the slave experience is seen through the eyes of someone living as a slave.

I really enjoyed the novel, and couldn't stop reading it.


Sam_TinyLibrary said...

I keep seeing this book crop up and bloggers whose opinions I trust have enjoyed it. I'm wary of science fiction but think I will definitely give this one a try.

Book Nympho said...

Hmm, I do love science fiction but I usually like it to be full on sci fi, not primarily another genre (e.g. historical fiction) with a bit of sci fi thrown in. Still, I do enjoy reading about this time period so maybe this book is worth picking up. Tons of people seem to enjoy it and I've never read anything by the author...yet.

Sarah Williams said...

If you can handle Gabaldon's Outlander, then you would have no trouble with this.

Sarah Williams said...

If you can't handle Gabaldon's Outlander, then you wouldn't have a problem with the science fiction in this.

Sarah Williams said...

Have you tried her Parable series? It was more traditional sci-fi than this one. Parable of the Sower is a dystopian novel.