Xenogenesis series

When Amazon has sales on Octavia Butler works, I usually buy them. Since they are older works, I can usually get them at a good deal. And she has convinced me that she is a writer worth owning her entire bibliography, so I don’t even bother to read the plots for the books I buy. I just buy them because she is the author. So, when I had to read a book set on a different planet, a Goodreads list lead me to the first in this series, Dawn.

In Dawn, we meet Lilith, who has survived a nuclear holocaust on Earth and finds herself in a foreign land. She is alone, confused, and finds herself awoken by some unknown being or force. Turns out she has been rescued by aliens who claim they want to help her. Spoiler alert, they are friendly. This is the premise of the entire series- humans and aliens interacting. Lilith comes to terms with her new environment and tries to find other human companions.

In the next book, Adulthood Rites, we meet one of Lilith’s children. She has several children all through the help of the aliens. Akin is kidnapped by humans who fear the aliens and given to a mother and father who can’t have children of their own. Lilith is in the book, but briefly.

In the final book, we meet another of Lilith’s children, Jodahs, who is part alien, part human, and he is struggling with his place in the world. Through the series, we learn much about this alien race. They are kind and helpful. They are able to cure human ailments, even genetic ones. They help humans mate (yea, it’s weird), and they genuinely want mankind to survive, although not entirely on their own. They are producing “constructs” who are part alien and part human, which is a struggle.

The series is really interesting, but you definitely have to let reality go. Butler has created an excellent world and Lilith is a great female character. I didn’t give these five stars only because it was a little too sci-fi for me, and I got bogged down with all the alien reproduction stuff. But that’s not to say these aren’t great books. I’m still convinced to buy everything Butler has written, even if the books are more sci-fi than not.

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Kindred

If you aren’t reading Octavia Butler, you are absolutely missing out. I have read two of hers already: Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents and loved the little two book series. I simply could not believe how Butler managed to capture exactly what is happening today in her books published 20 years ago. Kindred is a stand alone book involving time-travel.

Sci-fi isn’t my genre of choice. I’m just too logical of a person to really let myself get into sci-fi, however, this book, time travel aspect aside, was so realistic. Dana a black woman, lives in 1976 with her white husband, Kevin. Somehow one day, Dana is transported back to the time of slavery. She sees a young boy drowning in a pond and manages to resuscitate him using her modern knowledge of CPR. He tells her his name is Rufus and then she is transported back home to Kevin. She was gone only a few seconds in his time, but it was a few hours to her.

The next time she disappears, Rufus is a bit older. Dana comes to realize that Rufus is her ancestor. His father owns a plantation and slaves and one of her long ago relatives was a product of a rape of a slave by Rufus. Every time Dana goes back, it is because Rufus is in trouble and needs her to save him from harm. And she has to do this, even though she hates him, to protect her own future life. Once Kevin was touching her when she was transported back, so he ended up in the past as well. Unfortunately, she returned without and he was stuck there for awhile.

This was a fantastic book. I quickly forgot how much sci-fi was involved because the slavery story line was so incredibly realistic. I highly recommend her books. I’m currently on the last book in the Lilith’s Brood series, so be looking for a review soon!

Parable of the Talents

This book freaked me out. Entirely. My jaw literally dropped as I was reading it. See my review of the first book in the series here: Parable of the Sower. And as much as I liked Sower, this one just absolutely blew me away. Because in 1998, Octavia Butler saw the future. She knew we would be making American great again. I shit you not.

Jarret is the hypothetical president of the United States in this future society. His followers are uneducated and zealous. They will follow him anywhere in the name of Christianity and “progress.”

Our story picks up a few years after Sower ends. The family Lauren haphazardly collects has started to thrive and Earthseed is spreading. I love that fighting the evils of Christianity, within this book, means creating a new religion of love and change. Because the Christians in the book are evil, plain and simple. Not all, of course, but enough that it is a major issue in the book. The story is Lauren’s, but some details are added by another narrator, who I won’t name here to avoid spoilers.

This is just a two book set, and it is worth every word. I don’t know how Butler did it, but she had the foresight almost 20 years ago to know where our country was headed. I look forward to reading much more from her.

Parable of the Sower

I’ve had Octavia Butler on my radar for awhile. Several friends have recommended her. And, at some point, her books were really cheap on Amazon, so I stocked up on some ebooks. So when I had to read a book written by a person of color, I immediately though of her and chose Parable of the Sower, knowing absolutely nothing about it.

The story is in my favorite genre, dystopia, and even though I’m a bit burned out on these books, I still appreciate a well written one. Butler isn’t a YA writer, but her book falls mostly into this category. It doesn’t explain how the world is the way it is (takes place in the years 2025-2027) but the world has fallen apart and life is hard. She makes some adjustments to the world by creating fictitious illegal drugs. One drug makes people obsessed with fires. Another leaves people with hyperempathy. Lauren, our main character, has this ‘sharing’ because her mother took the drug while pregnant. Lauren feels others’ pain. When a person is shot, it feels like she has been shot.

Lauren’s family lives in a cul-de-sac in California, and even though they have a gate and guard their property, one night, several homes are set on fire and all the homes are robbed. Lauren is lucky to escape, but most aren’t so fortunate. She and a few survivors travel north, looking for a place to resettle and gather other travelers along the way. Lauren, even though she has never lived outside her cul-de-sac, is very street smart and knows not to trust others. However, the people she meets along the way prove just how desperate they are for help as well.

Lauren sees God as Change. And through her religious teachings, her God evolves into something not good or evil, but as simply the natural process of the world. She calls this new belief Earthseed. While traveling, she tells her group about Earthseed and her beliefs.

Butler skillfully tackles important issues like gender, feminism, sexuality, and motherhood with such creativity and honesty.  Every decision the characters made felt authentic and sensible, given their situation. There is a sequel to this book, and I’m really excited to revisit Lauren and her fellow travelers.