Tag Archives: Science Fiction

Review: Kindred

Kindred

Kindred
By Octavia Butler
Beacon Press, 9780807083697, 2004, 264pp.

The Short of It:

Not your typical science fiction read.

The Rest of It:

Dana and her husband Kevin find themselves in a unique situation. While celebrating her 26th birthday at their home in California, Dana becomes dizzy and then disappears before Kevin’s eyes. In an instant, Dana is transported to a Southern plantation. Her mission is apparently to save the white child who is drowning in front of her but this simple act of kindness earns her a shotgun pointed at her face when the plantation owner believes her to be the cause of his boy’s condition, not the other way around. As a black woman, Dana quickly realizes that if she doesn’t watch herself, she could end up enslaved along with the other slaves on the plantation.

This novel uses time travel to tell its story. Each time Dana goes back, Rufus, the young boy she saved is a little bit older and more like his father every day. Although Rufus makes disappointing choices which often result in a beating for Dana, she somehow feels a connection to him. And then when Dana’s husband Kevin enters this strange world along with Dana, things become much more complicated as Kevin is white, and the people of this time period don’t believe in a marriage between a white man and a black woman.

This is a strange story. I was immediately pulled in by the premise but it continually felt wrong to me and no explanation is given regarding the events in this story. We never learn why Dana has been called to return to this time. There is a short mention of ancestors and it is implied that Rufus is family. I suppose you don’t really need an explanation for the story to work but I was looking for one.

Butler does a good job of depicting plantation life and expressing the horrors through Dana’s eyes. If you’ve maxed out on slavery books this one might be one for you to try because it’s very different and hey, it’s science fiction.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: The Need

The Need

The Need
By Helen Phillips
Simon & Schuster, 9781982113162, July 2019, 272pp.

The Short of It:

I’d be lying if I said I fully understood everything that went on in this novel.

The Rest of It:

Molly is a scientist. I believe a paleobotonist if I’m remembering correctly. She spends her day analyzing fossils and giving tours to people curious about her team’s findings. Of late, some strange things have shown up in the pit, including an alternative Bible where God is a “she”, a shiny penny, and some pottery pieces. These items are odd enough to draw an interesting crowd. Religious fanatics begin to show up along with dozens of pieces of hate mail.

When not at work, Molly is completely overwhelmed by motherhood. One morning, while her husband is away on business, she finds herself scrambling for safety within her own home when an intruder shows up and threatens the well-being of herself and her two young children.  An intruder, wearing a deer’s head mask.

This is a bizarre read. It’s labeled as speculative fiction and I would agree with that. I honestly did not know what the heck was going on. Is Molly out of her mind? Is she dead? Dreaming?  On drugs? What? In a short amount of time, the identity of the intruder is revealed and then it gets REALLY weird.

Without giving anything away, I will say that if the point of the novel is to emphasize how motherhood can completely overtake you and change you both physically and mentally, then Helen Phillips accomplished that. Molly’s adventures in motherhood completely drain her. She is literally sucked dry by her breastfeeding son, and her daughter’s astute observations of what is going on serve to remind Molly just how much her brain has turned to mush since becoming a mother. This part, is very accurate.

But the rest of the story is very Twilight Zone-ish and odd. Some of it was disturbing to read only because it made me uncomfortable. Much of it is raw and blunt. The scientific element was interesting but not fully explored. I hesitate to say that this would be a good book for a club to discuss because I can see many hating it. Especially those who have never been a mom. But, it’s odd enough and pieced together in such a way that it warrants a discussion. In that sense, it would be great book to discuss.

Have any of you read it? From the cover, I thought the story would be about alien plants. Seriously.

Source: Review copy provided by the publisher.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.