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An Unkindness of Ghosts

I love Octavia Butler. Her books are just brilliant sci-fi. Parable of the¬†Sower and Parable of the¬†Talents are her best. The second is prophetic. She speaks of a president who wants to make America great again. Seriously. Kindred tells the story of a black woman who mysteriously time travels back to the days of slavery. And the Xenogenesis series is her most sci-fi book in which humans meet aliens. All this said, when I see a book blurb that compares the novel to one by Butler, I’m in.

At some point, this book came on my radar for the above mentioned comparison. While doing my research for the PopSugar Reading Challenge, I discovered that Rivers Solomon is non-binary, which was one of the categories I needed to fill. I was curious of their non-binary status would impact their writing. And I was right. This book isn’t just a great sci-fi book, it also places non-binary characters into a world where their status is simply the norm.

The story follows Aster who lives on a ship in space. The ship has been traveling from decimated Earth for over 300 years. The lower parts of the ship are for the Black people who do the manual labor. The white people are essentially aristocrats who live on the upper decks of the ship. Aster is the Surgeon’s assistant, so she commands a tiny bit of respect, but she’s also outspoken and angers Guards a lot. She doesn’t fit in well anywhere. She’s methodical, logical, unemotional, and just says things point-blank. She’s endearing, though, and you cheer for her from the beginning.

As Aster uncovers more secrets about the ship and her dead mother, the story unfolds, and the story takes you down a path of revolution. Aster knows the system has to change, how unfair her life and the lives of her friends is, and she knows she must overthrow the regime. Aster is a fantastic character, and I loved this powerful novel.

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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!

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Caught in Amber

I selected this book for my “Romance set in the future” book knowing full well that I really don’t enjoy romance books or ones set in the future (aside from dystopia). However, this book was a pleasant surprise in that it wasn’t overly romantic or futuristic. So, I’m not sure if that bodes well for those looking to read those genres specifically, but for me, I enjoyed this book for what it was.

Books like this aren’t ones to be analyzed to death. They are simply for enjoyment and don’t require much thought. This is definitely not a bad thing at all. I’ve been reading some pretty heavy books, as of late, so this was a nice break from those. It’s pretty short (200ish pages, IDK, I read it on my kindle in 2 days), and has a fairly simple plot, which is established in the first chapter. It is set in the future because, instead of meth, the addicts use Amber, and there’s some references to being chipped and tracked if you are a convict, but no one was riding around in spaceships or anything.

As of this moment, this book is 1. 49 on the Kindle. If you enjoyed these genres, check it out. Nothing spectacular, but a solid book with believable characters and situations.