Showing posts with label Octavia Butler. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Octavia Butler. Show all posts

Monday, October 1, 2018

Book Raiding Reading TBR

I only read two books in September.  One was–undoubtedly–the latest J. D. Robb release, Leverage in Death.  The other was Tracy Clark’s Broken Places–which I wrapped on the 11th of the month.  And that’s it.  Nothing read since the 11th.  And that’s mainly because Shadow of the Tomb Raider came out the following day and it has consumed my life.  Both in good–considering I’m a long-time fan and veteran of the Croft–and wrong ways.  Nonetheless, a game such as this pulled me entirely away from my first passion: books.  However, I’ve already read about 60 books this year, so I think it’s okay for me to take it easy from here on out if I choose to.

But I just can’t do it like that.  I have to read.  I MUST be reading.  I covet and crave books.  Even when I’m not actively reading a book, I’m pausing to touch a book and rifle through the pages just for comfort.

So I decided to make myself an Book Raiding TBR.  I choose unread books from my shelves that’ll cover 5 areas that I love most about the Tomb Raider series (both old and rebooted).  One: Crafty Female Lead.  Two: Sprinkles of Mythology.  Three: Survival Adventures.  Four: Ancient Musty Tombs.  Five: History and Relics.  This TBR will work.  And it will stick.  And it will bring me back to reading daily.

On a photography assignment in the northern territory of Mount Marsabit, American adventuress Jade del Cameron and her friends hope to film the area's colossal elephants. Instead, they discover the mutilated remains of four elephants and a man. Although the authorities suspect Abyssinian poachers and raiders in search of ivory and slaves, Jade has her own suspicions. Could it have been Harry Hascombe, her nemesis and unremitting suitor? Soon the Kikuyu boy accompanying her is captured by slave traders. Ultimately, it will take all of Jade's mettle to rescue her guide from slave traders, protect the animals, and expose another kind of beast.
As of today (October 1st) I’m already 140 pages away from the end of the first book on my Book Raiding TBR, Stalking Ivory by Suzanne Arruda.  Last time I read a book in this series was as far back as 2014.  More or less moved by that entry [Mark of the Lion], I haven’t picked up anything by this author since.  However, last year I did purchase the following three books for potential future reading.  And here I am finally jumping back into African safaris during the 1920’s with Arruda’s bold and sharp war vet (does being a nurse in WWI count as a vet?) turned photographer Jade Del Cameron.  Though Arruda’s plotting often comes across as “random” and “rash,” I’m having fun.  I can definitely see this series sticking around after all.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

#ReadSoulLit TBR

All right. I need to bring my ass back to the blog and get to work. No, for real. I do. Still, I wanted to spend January reading. No social media, and very little blogging. I wanted nothing but books to kick off 2017. And I managed to read 15 books, all included in Susan Wittig Albert’s China Bayles series. Hell, I ain’t never read so many books in one month. I took them down one after the other and had fun the whole way. Lowkey: I kind of miss them already. Anyway, I’m now current with the series, and awaiting April’s new release. So it’s all good.

With that said, I’m kind of prepped (as well as pumped) to flush in some readings for Black History Month. Particularly through the running hash tag #readsoullit. Here’s the stack that I have planned to read. Instead of going out to buy books, I pulled each of these from my shelf. And I wanted to make sure I mixed things up. Including tossing in that Toni Braxton autobiography that I bought in September. As well as another Barbara Neely mystery, and even some sci-fi (Octavia Butler and Seressia Glass).

This is going to be fun.

And for those who didn’t catch my last announcement video. We’ll be reading Bedrock Faith by Eric Charles May. Everything you need to know about the read-along noted in the Goodreads group linked here:

I’m rushing to write this post so that I can go read. I haven’t figured out which I’ll pick up first, though.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Book Openers Revisited ~ PART TWO...

There’s a lot of history behind this opening scene.  It began in the first book in P. D. James's Cordelia Gray series, An Unsuitable Job for a Woman.  In the opening of that book Cordelia Gray worked as an assistant–turned intern–to a private investigator.  Yet, stepping into his office in that book's opening, she had the misfortune of finding her boss's body.  His death was a suicide, and one with a good-bye letter passing his business on to Cordelia.  
Already an awkward character stuck in a financial crunch; Cordelia wavered on his final request.  Eventually she made the decision to take over his business–just as he trained and legally prepared her.  Fast-forward to this book where Cordelia is completely on her own, and still a little uncomfortable with her new career path.  
So I love the self-conscious reflections seen through a nameplate.  Among other slices of imagery, of course.  To me this opening continues to make Cordelia's character human.  She's uncertain.  Juggling her confidence as an investigator.  However, she recognizes she's already on the path and have to step up to the plate.
Pun intended.
Sadly, there was never a book three.  A TV series featuring a pregnant Cordelia Gray shut James's vigor for writing this character down.

I’m going to keep this extremely simply by saying: if you haven’t read Butler’s Patternist series, then I FEEL for you!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

While We're on the Subject of L. A. Banks...

I miss this lady.  Still can't believe she's gone.  But I really want to reiterate the magnitude of her work by sharing one of my favorite interviews with her.  Especially as a black female author writing sci-fi and fantasy novels.

Monday, September 8, 2014

(2) Octavia Butler Shorts

The remaining two stories in Octavia Butler’s short-story collection, Bloodchild, are “Amnesty” and “The Book of Martha." These two stories were published as recently as 2003, and are just near novella size. Wait, what’s the word count used to define a novella?

In any regard, “Amnesty” is a story that reflects closely to its title’s definition. Amnesty is a means of official pardon, usually surrounding some kind of political affront of some sort; and that’s what takes place in the story as an alien species invades Earth before peacefully asking humans to co-exist with them as a source of "food." Not “food” in the carnivorous sense, but something much more abstruse and cerebral. You see, these aliens are called Communities, and they are made up of thousands of small aliens clustered together in a shape that resembles a large floating bush. Eerie, much! I think I was sick most of the time thinking about these aliens, considering I have a slight case of trypophobia. Nonetheless, that’s just another layer to Butler’s tale. The thing is that the Community came to Earth on a one-way trip, and while they have the means of taking over the planet, they try to co-exist peacefully. As a human woman who has survived both an abduction and harsh military interrogation, Noah Cannon’s job in “Amnesty” is to orient a handful of men and women looking to work alongside The Community for payment. Once more, distress sat in throughout reading this story. The good kind of distress I should say. To me “Amnesty” boils down to the snatching of human discretion. Put man over a barrel and let it be–so to speak. The aliens land, they offer mankind a choice. Should mankind decide not to respond nicely, it wouldn't matter one bit because the aliens will have their way regardless. Nonetheless, like most governing systems across the globe, citizens have no choice but to work with what is given to them.

“The Book of Martha” appeared to be one of those contemplative-grabbing, philosophical stories written by Butler outside of sci-fi. Really, it’s about a woman who finds herself standing before God. Summoned, actually. It seems God needs a human to construct a Utopia for mankind. What would work best? How would it work? And how would God’s chosen, Martha, conceive such a place? When you find out Martha’s idea, I wonder if you’ll agree with her. Or is a Utopia for mankind even possible? I enjoyed this story, but it wasn't one of my favorites.  That's mainly because I couldn't wrap my head around the importance of Martha and God's conversation.  Not that I didn't get it, I just wasn't sure there was an answer.  And the answer given wasn't all that convincing to me.  I should also add the slippery-slope fallacy encouraged by Martha's ideas and God's rebuttal of them. Really, I think it deserves a second read.  Or I should just stick to Neale Donald Walsh's take on a conversation with God.

The recently released collection of short stories by Butler are featured in the book Unexpected Stories. There are only two here, both noted as her early works according to Walter Mosley’s foreword and Butler’s once agent, Merrilee Heifetz (noted in the afterword). And early they seem; one story I completely abandoned and another I managed to sweep through nicely, seeing that it was like a prototype story to Butler’s grandness Patternist series. So yeah, let’s start with the story I abandoned first...

“A Necessary Being” is exclusively alien in its totality. Yep. That’s the way I’ll put it. An alien world. An alien cast. An alien story. Humanoid, if you will, in both their language and behavior. One of the main exceptions is that their skin changes color in accordance with their emotions. Nonetheless, from what I gathered (before I jumped the ship) Tahneh is an alien woman with a status similar to a Native American princess or priestess of some flavor (work with me here as I peel this story apart from my own imagery). She’s given this role because she comes from a race of aliens called Hao. Hao are kidnapped and held by another, similar alien species that uses Hao to govern over their race. Since her father’s passing, Tahneh has been alone, ruling and governing over her community of kidnappers. The story opens up with another Hao crossing through her territory. And she must decide whether to kidnap him and put him in a position such as hers, which subsequently provides her companionship. Or her other choice: let the young Hao pass freely and on into freedom. And that’s pretty much where I kind of bailed on the story. The truth is that I kept envisioning the creatures in the Avatar movie. Couple that with a general lack of interest, and I just decided to move on. I plan to come back to the story at a later date, seeing that Butler kind of started cutting her teeth on this story.

Nevertheless, I did finish and enjoyed the second story, "Childfinder."  Butler wrote and sold this one to her mentor, Harlan Ellison, back in the 70s. In “Childfinder” a telepathic (interchangeable with the term “psionic”) woman uses her gifts to locate, mentor, and mold telepathic and gifted children. These children are the future, and must be groomed in preparation for the possibilities it has in store for them. (You could say an alien invasion is one.) Nonetheless, this lone woman isn't the only one involved, as another, larger organization reaches out to do the same.  The different is the larger organization has a couple of “tougher” methods to get special children to cooperate. The story reminded me of the old 70s and early 90s version of The Tomorrow People (we won't speak on the 2013 remake). The Tomorrow People were about kids with special abilities, who were often dubbed as "the next stage in human evolution." They could teleport. They were telepathic. Some could even see the future. Meanwhile, the government and other smaller organizations were dead centered on capturing these kids for a host of not-so-comfortable levels of research.  In the meantime, the Tomorrow People thwarted alien wars and even an evil, resurrected Egyptian pharaoh. I also found “Childfinder” to be a preview of the eventual novels Butler would write in her Patternist series–particularly the second book in that series, Mind of my Mind. Though it was short and not totally expansive in its telling, I would say that I enjoyed “Childfinder” much more than the previous story. Butler makes it perfectly clear and evident that the future would be grim and mankind must arm its children's psionic evolution for the things to come if they want to stand a chance.

And that’s all there is. If you haven't read Bloodchild or Unexpected Stories, I urge you to do so now. Butler fan or not, these two books are the perfect introduction to her as well as the perfect expansions on her catalog of stories.  In either case, you shouldn't miss them!


Sunday, September 7, 2014

(1) Octavia Butler Shorts

So scratch everything I said about re-trying Mercedes Lackey’s high fantasy novel, By the Sword, for the sake of getting out of this dilly-dally summer reading slump. That didn't work out. I got about 20 pages into that book and was still impossibly disinterested seventeen years later. Part of that disinterest comes–in fact–from my recent mention of balancing exposition in fantasy novels. Nonetheless, sure, I’ll try By the Sword again some time in the future. Until then, I decided to try the short story method of getting myself back into the groove of reading regularly and with a pace. And seeing that I can only seem to read short stories via the Kindle, I dug through the available books and found my digital copy of Octavia Butler’s short-story collection, Bloodchild. I suppose saving it for a rainy day worked; I quickly hammered through this award-winning collection of stories with easy and deep, familiar curiosity.

It’s been a minute since I visited one of Octavia Butler’s worlds. The last book I read by her was the final book in her Patternist series (which I highly, highly recommend). Nevertheless, I never forgot how many of her conceptualizations made me feel claustrophobic, terror and uncertainty.  She writes sci-fi–or speculative fiction–after all.  So all of those feelings her writing gives me probably isn't that much of a surprise, considering her genre of choice.  Still, altogether she is different. And maybe her advantage is that she’s a woman of color who features the same leads in her stories.  Leads that look, in part, like myself.  I also love how Butler often rearranges or reconstructs the sort of energy and presence of mankind in her post-apocalyptic stories.  Usually her stories are of mankind damn near pushed to extinction.  Subsequently, mankind has to evolve and rely on taxing alien beings to keep themselves extant.  And there is always, always a price. To me her writing is a blend of terrorizing and complicated choices that reflects American society (or the future thereof) to some degree.

While the majority of Bloodchild consists of short stories, each of those stories comes with an insightful afterword by Butler herself. In the afterwords she explains what she meant to achieve in each respective story as well as the thought behind their conception. A little over halfway through the book, we also get two essays written by Butler.  Following that are two novella length stories published within the last decade and before her death in 2006. Combined, all of this material was previously published in various magazines and literary publications throughout her 30+ year career. And if that wasn't enough, as recently as June of 2014, two of her early short stories were published in another collection titled, Unexpected Stories.

So what are the stories featured in Bloodchild? I'd better tell you a little about them and hope that you'll pick the collection up also.

The title story, “Bloodchild” is about how mankind is taken from Earth and onto another planet where an alien species–that resemble large centipedes as far as I can tell–develop relationships with human men before using them to nurture their offspring (eggs in this case). While that may sound not so disturbing, the truth is that this nurturing process comes in the form of impregnating human men. And with that said... I thought this was the perfect story to glide back into Butler’s work with *cue chuckle*. After over a year and half of having not read her, I immediately got that familiar claustrophobic feel back! “Bloodchild” brought me back to the entanglements present in Butler’s first book in her Xenogenesis series, Dawn. The only difference (besides length) is that "Bloodchild" seems slightly more distressing.  Not because this is Butler's sort of “pregnant man” speculative fiction story, but because of the imagery used to tell it.  Maybe it's because I have a problem with bugs and parasites.  I think that may be the better explanation.  Either way it was an outstanding read.

“The Evening, The Morning and The Night” tells the story of a nameless young woman who reminds me a lot of Lauren Olamina from Butler’s Parable of the Sower. I say this because they both seem to be philosophical in their thinking; filled with thought-provoking questions, and deeply interested in mankind's available resources.  Well, maybe Lauren had all those things going much more than said nameless young woman.  So maybe their similarities are within their narrative tone. In any regard, the nameless woman is born with a fictional disease called Duryea-Gode. The symptoms of this disease cause sufferers to go insane, enough so that they attempt to claw their way out of their own flesh. Those afflicted are treated through a number of humane and inhumane experimental treatments.  These treatments has taken place throughout decades as scientists research for a cure. And while that research is being conducted, those afflicted are seen as threats to society because of the late, and threatening, symptoms of the disease.  Therefore, society turns their backs on them in fear. However, there’s an institution (or facility) where the unnamed narrator visits with her boyfriend.  His mother is afflicted with Duryea-Gode, and she's in the "insane" stages of the disease. The facility the two visits kind of made me think of Waverly Hills Sanitarium, a place where tuberculosis sufferers were isolated during the early 20th century. Nevertheless, it turns out that the director of the facility manages the maniacal behavior of her patients through a pheromone she was born with. This pheromone calms or pacifies the patients. During the visit, our unnamed narrator discovers she also secretes this pheromone. Now what will she choose to do with that knowledge of herself?

The next short story, “Near of Kin” isn't speculative or sci-fi. However, it is thought-provoking as a modern story that follows a conversation between a young woman and her uncle. The two come together to sort through the young woman’s mother’s estate. The young woman's relationship with her mother was not good, as her mother was mostly withdrawn from her daughter. As the two sort through the dead woman’s estate, they also sort through to the bottom of her estrangement from the family. You may or may not see the truth before it’s announced. Me, I managed to catch what took place a good few pages before it was proclaimed between the two. I'll leave it at that. I ended this story feeling just as uncertain as the characters within it. “Near of Kin” left with that “where do we go from here?” kind of atmosphere.

“Speech Sounds” is probably one of my favorites. Once more, Butler uses disease to paint the complexity behind her story. This disease isn’t named, but what it does is take away speech and language as the basic means of communication.  The protagonist of “Speech Sounds” is a woman named Valerie Rye.  While a large percentage of the world is afflicted with the speech-less disease, Rye hides how she still retains her ability to speak. To share this truth puts her in danger with the world. During a routine bus ride, Rye witnesses a mute argument taking place between two men. Before it gets explosive, she jumps off the bus. This is where she meets a man who was once an LAPD police officer. Through a tumbling ASL exchange, Rye discovers his name is Obsidian. In this near dystopian world, Obsidian hasn't given up on law and order.  He uses tear gas to halt the bus fight. Afterwards, Rye and Obsidian slowly attach themselves to one another. Unable to speak, they ride around the city in Obsidian’s truck until they find themselves in another deadly conflict involving children. Silently, the two proceed to put a stop to this crime. One doesn’t make it out alive. It took me a moment to realize that “Speech Sounds” is absent of dialogue. It wasn't until much later when the speech-killing disease was revealed that I noticed. And like that one episode of Buffy called Hush, Butler pulled the lack of dialogue out cleverly. And like always, while the story is always wonderful, it once again shows the sort of lack of trust Butler has in the relationships between people.  Meaning how there always has to be something incomplete, threatening, or just on the cusp of misanthropic.

The last story before we move into Butler’s essay portion is a story called "Crossover." And you know what? This was my favorite of all the stories. It isn't sci-fi, but it hit home with me like none of the others.  “Crossover” is about a woman working a factory job. There’s no future here. No way out. Just a lump sum of absolutely nothing to look forward to. And not only is she crippled physically, but also mentally. She has a complex, formed by low self-esteem and other mental propaganda.  She even suffers from hallucinations. Her trips to the liquor store doesn't help her headaches.  But she keeps going.  This all clicked with me. I understood her story. However, I can see why some may see "Crossover" as their least favorite in this collection; I have to repeat that it’s my favorite.  I got how this unnamed woman, who works this horrible job, walks around with a headache, drinks liquor, and hallucinates about ghost, is not the woman Butler wanted to become in the early stages of her writing career. And latterly, how writing saved her. I got it. I understood it. I’ve lived some of it. And in my heart, I, too, am still living a life where I am afraid of becoming such a character. When I tell people that keeping a blog and having the ability to write and share my thoughts are saving me, they usually chuckle. Not a lot of people get it. But I was glad to see that one of my favorite writers did.

This is what Butler had to say in the afterword regarding "Crossover." I highlighted it and read it repeatedly:

“I didn't wind up hallucinating or turning to alcohol as the character in “Crossover” does, but I keep noticing the company oddities [coworkers] everywhere I worked, and they went right on scaring me back to the typewriter whenever I strayed.”

The last two stores in Bloodchild will continue into the next post where I also talk a little about the two stories in the Unexpected Stories collection.


Total Pageviews