Sunday, January 11, 2015

ARC Review: Unexpected Stories by Octavia Butler

Unexpected Stories
From the blurb:
Two never-before-published stories from the archives of one of science fiction’s all-time masters

The novella “A Necessary Being” showcases Octavia E. Butler’s ability to create alien yet fully believable “others.” Tahneh’s father was a Hao, one of a dwindling race whose leadership abilities render them so valuable that their members are captured and forced to govern. When her father dies, Tahneh steps into his place, both chief and prisoner, and for twenty years has ruled without ever meeting another of her kind. She bears her loneliness privately until the day that a Hao youth is spotted wandering into her territory. As her warriors sharpen their weapons, Tahneh must choose between imprisoning the newcomer—and living the rest of her life alone.

The second story in this volume, “Childminder,” was commissioned by Harlan Ellison for his legendary (and never-published) anthology The Last Dangerous Visions™. A disaffected telepath connects with a young girl in a desperate attempt to help her harness her growing powers. But in the richly evocative fiction of Octavia E. Butler, mentorship is a rocky path, and every lesson comes at a price.

Heather's rating:

I'm a HUGE Octavia Butler fan. In fact, her books were my first intro to queer lit of any kind and really defined my expectations for sci-fi. I think she was an unparallelled thinker, and I was devastated when I learned that she has passed years before I started reading her stuff. The idea that I would never get a new book from her was maddening. When I saw that a new collection of her stories was coming out, I almost cried I was so happy.

A Necessary Being- 4.5 stars

This story reminds me of everything that I love about Octavia Butler. Amazing, effortless-feeling world building, interesting commentary on gender roles and the concept of castes/races, and some excitement to boot. I loved it, though it was far too short for me, even at novella length. I could have used 200 more pages, plus a sequel.

Childminder- 3 stars

Short but powerful. This is more or less a direct commentary about race relations and wealth disparity, with the added element of telepathy. There is a lot of anger and desperation in this short story. I had trouble with the bleakness of it, though I enjoyed it all the same.

**Copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review**

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