Dawn (Butler)

Okay, I’m going to go ahead and say it. I don’t think Butler is a great writer. I find her prose, particularly her dialogue, contrived and clunky. There’s even a moment in this novel, the first of the trilogy calledĀ Lilith’s Brood, that made me wonder if she knows that. She has her protagonist, the not-so-subtly named Lilith, ask another character, “Do you really talk like that?” I find myself here – and with the two other Butler novels I’ve read – wanting to ask the same thing. (I do wonder if any of her books have been adapted for the stage. I think they could be adapted successfully.)

She doesn’t seem quite concerned with gaps in the plot either. Her books, to me, read like drafts of books – attempts to get ideas out and, especially here because sequels clearly were planned, to get from Point A to Point B.

Still, her ideas, her concepts are ambitious and original. And there is just enough plot to keep this one from falling into the genre of books by writers who really want to write philosophy or commentary, but instead, dress their bromides up with a frivolous plot. (Yann Martel, I’m talking to you.)

I get the Futurism part here. Her utopia / dystopia set-up is excellent and enticing. I may continue the trilogy. And I have been struck by the number of female authors who are finding a home in this genre. But I didn’t get, at least not beyond the superficial level, the “Afro” part of Afro-Futurism. As a white male, somewhat distracted by the less than electrifying prose, I may have missed things. A few references are made to Lilith’s skin tone but beyond that? Again, Butler’s concept of a bold female of color, one who is a leader, who is physically active and open sexually, may have come across as revolutionary in 2000 when this was first published. Is there more? Is there more in the next two parts of the trilogy? Was that enough? Is that enough?

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Parable of the Sower (Butler)

I had decided a while ago that it was time for me to move past justĀ Kindred, and this title kept popping up after the recent election. As with Kindred, I wanted just a little more nuance and polish in the writing. The ideas in both books are thought-provoking, but the prose, especially the dialogue, can be a bit wooden and didactic.

I have never really understood the purpose of genres – beyond marketing and shelving things in libraries and bookstores. I don’t see why this title was in the Science Fiction section at the legendary and awesome Strand Bookstore. It is no more science fiction than any other dystopian novel. And those are generally found in the general fiction section. I only know the two titles I’ve mentioned, so perhaps her other books are more obviously science fiction, so people tend to put all of her work in that section.