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I have the first US hardback edition, published by Four Walls Eight Windows. It's very nicely produced, and a good cover for the book. Odd that "a novel" is upside down, but hey, designer... Blurb not quite so spoilery as former books, and author bio is lovely, crediting all nine previous novels and with lots of laudatory quotes attributed to prestigious sources.

I'm reading this for the second time. I wrote a review the first time (posted earlier), almost exactly 22 years ago, and have reread the review a number of times since for various purposes. This is the book of Butler's that I remember best.

First person female narrative, again, told in the form of journal entries written on the day of or shortly after the events described, which is very effective and manages to be both direct and reflective at the same time. Lauren Omalina is the daughter of a Baptist preacher. She has hyperempathy which causes her to suffer sympathetic pain when she sees someone hurt. Just noticed that the blurb says that is hereditary; it is not, it is teratogenic, the consequence of her mother taking a drug in pregnancy, like thalidomide. She lives in a walled community in a disintegrating California. She has her fifteenth birthday at the beginning of the novel, on Saturday 20th July 2024, and she can see that the community will not survive.

The book is divided in two almost-equal halves. In the first half Olamina describes her community and way of life, frets about survival and prepares to survive. In the second half Olamina is on the road, testing her theories on the world outside her walls. The world outside the walls is dreadful, but Olamina does pretty well, considering. Her theories work out better for her than she had any right to expect. There is a happy ending, of sorts.

I am struck this reading by the great and essentially unexplained vacuum at the heart of the book: although "cops" are a feature, they are corrupt or absent or both; but there is no state or national authority maintaining the peace, no regulated refugee camps, no national guard keeping order. It makes for good story, but is difficult to accept when the USA is depicted as still functioning as a political entity. On the other hand, maybe this is the way it would be there: Butler knows more about California than I do after all.

I think this book must have had a greater effect on me than I understood at the time. Olamina has a theory of religion, she calls it Earthseed, and its essence is that God is Change. There is a passage (pp199-202) where she explains her theory to one of her companions, and it sets out very clearly the basis for how I think and act for myself. I have to wonder...did I get it from her wholesale? Wherever it came from for her or for me, it is one that many people might do very well to live by.

Notwithstanding the faintly unrealistic aspects of the world Olamina describes, this is a very good book. I would put it with Kindred as one that people should continue to read.


I looked again at my earlier review. It's a bit flowery, but I can stand by it, I think. I didn't notice the speech marks this time round, except in one conversation I had to go back over a couple of times.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
28th Jun, 2016 09:19 (UTC)
I've been enjoying your Octavia Butler reviews, thank you.
29th Jun, 2016 09:26 (UTC)
Thank you. Two more to come for the novels, then to chase down the extras I found out about at Swecon, and then round up.

It's been an interesting reading project.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )


Caroline M

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