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Bloodchild and Other Stories Paperback – October 4, 2005
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"The Fifth Doll" by Charlie N. Holmberg
The Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Paper Magician Series transports readers to a darkly whimsical world where strange magic threatens a quiet village. | Learn more
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“An outstanding short story collection … [Butler] is an impressive writer whose work displays how science fiction readily transcends the perceived stylistic limitations of the genre.” —St. Petersburg Times
“Butler graces new mansions of thought with her eloquent, distinguished, and poignant prose. Although this book is little in size, its ideas and aims are splendidly large.” —Booklist
About the Author
- Item Weight : 7.4 ounces
- Paperback : 224 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1583226982
- ISBN-13 : 978-1583226988
- Product Dimensions : 5 x 0.6 x 7.2 inches
- Publisher : Seven Stories Press; 2nd ed. Edition (October 4, 2005)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #23,194 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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I mean, sure, everyone has their gaps in their reading history, where there's an author here or there who you've always meant to get round to reading but just haven't. But Butler has been a glaring hole in my reading - until now.
She freely admits in her introduction to this short story collection that novels are where her heart truly belongs, but this is a good way to delve into her writing, a gentle starter with the main course ready and waiting to follow, if you will.
There are seven stories and two essays in this collection, kicking off with the award-winning title story. Bloodchild is a complex story of interdependent relationships, with humans being used as hosts to nurse the infants of an alien species, but at a cost. There are questions of what one is willing to exchange in order to survive, issues of abusive relationships and personal sacrifice, all heady topics swirling within the confines of a short story.
Award-winner that it is, though, personally I prefer another story in the collection, The Evening and the Morning and the Night. It's a story of a society where a drug created to cure ailments such as cancer has after-effects, with the descendants of those who took the drug affected by a condition which can cause them to "drift", losing touch with the society around them and slipping into dangerous psychosis. Told from the perspective of the children affected by this disorder, as they face a future which seems inevitably to slip towards madness and death, it's a deeply poignant tale of how society deals with those it cannot cope with, and what happens to those individuals themselves - whether they can carve out their own future in a world that offers them none.
These two stories stand out above the others, but there's still plenty of great reading to be had in the collection. There's no binding theme - though a recurring focus is on issues of biology and illness. One nice feature is that each story has notes after it with the author detailing her thoughts on the tale. For example, she addresses the fact that many think Bloodchild is about slavery - it isn't, though talk in the story of selling people hints that way. It's more complex than that, though, and very much worth discovering if, like me, you've been lagging behind on exploring Butler's work.
What really struck me about Bloodchild was the sheer emotional impact of each story. Because each story is such a perfect little world, and because the characters are so well realized, every story really packs a punch. I put down the book between each story, incapable of doing any real thinking because I was so blown away by what I had just read. I think the effectiveness of the stories comes from a mix of excellent writing and characterization and the way Butler uses those characters to explore complex ideas. One of Butler's strengths is in never letting her work become preachy or one-sided. Butler's ideas are as complex as her characters, and that makes her stories resonate in a very real and powerful way.
Usually, this would be the part of the review where I would tell you which stories were my favorite and which ones to skip, but I can't really do that with this collection, because they are all absolutely worth reading. I believe that Butler's most famous stories are Bloodchild and Speech Sounds, both of which are in this collection and both of which are absolutely mind-blowing. Bloodchild actually left me speechless and shaking by the time I finished it. Her other stories are more subtle, but are still incredibly well-written. There are also two essays included in the book, my favorite of which was Positive Obsession. Since I bought the updated version of the book, I got an extra two stories on top of the original five stories and two essays. If you are going to get it, I recommend getting the updated version, because the two added stories are both very good, especially Amnesty. In all of the stories Butler's characters are absolutely convincing, and her story-telling is so smooth that you never need time to get adjusted to the story, even when you are dropped right in the middle of the action. That is, to me, a sign of a great writer.
I know this review is vague, but that is only because Butler's stories are so good. I don't feel like I need to speak for them, and I'm not sure that I could even if I wanted to. If you want intelligent stories with concise yet vivid writing and realistic characters, then Octavia Butler is absolutely the writer for you.
Rating: 5 stars
Vivid writing, engaging plot, convincing characters, and intelligent world building. Highly recommended.