So I’ve finally made a little more progress on my 2018 Must Reads list and picked up Kindred by Octavia E Butler. I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this book. I have read Dawn (though I still haven’t read the rest of the trilogy) and Butler’s short story ‘Bloodchild’ but everything I’d heard about Kindred was different. And it really was.
The other work I’ve read by Butler was very much hard science-fiction, and though Kindred was technically SF it had a very different vibe. The story follows Dana, a young black writer in the 70s who is suddenly transported to the 1800s to the antebellum south to save the life of her white, slave-owning ancestor. This becomes a recurring thing, with Dana becoming trapped in the past for various periods of time and becoming a slave whilst she is there.
Though the concept was amazing, the characters and subplots were crazy interesting, and the prose style was simple and effective, but there was no real explanation for what was happening. Whereas every question in Dawn and ‘Bloodchild’ were answered we just have to accept that Dana time travels to an ancestor for no real reason we know. This sounds pretty negative, but believe me it doesn’t hinder the story itself, and it’s a story about not having answers, even though Dana visits the past she still has huge gaps in her knowledge and has no means of really controlling what she sees or learns. The only small issue I had was that it put me off a little at the start, and that’s probably why it took ,me so long to get into.
Though there may be no explanation the narrative makes up for this in other ways. Dana’s relationship with her white boyfriend comes under a lot of strain when she begins to understand the history of race relations a lot better. Tensions just keep rising and rising throughout the narrative and you really start to feel Dana’s anger and frustration yourself.
Honestly Octavia E Butler is just incredible, even though I wanted a little more SF than I really got I was still just in love with the story.