Friday, October 10, 2008

REVIEW: Kindred

Title: Kindred
Author: Octavia E. Butler
ISBN: 0807083054/Beacon Press
Protagonist: Dana, a 26-year-old black woman
Setting: Altadena, California in 1976 and a plantation in Maryland in 1815
Rating: A+

First Lines: I lost an arm on my last trip home. My left arm.

Dana is a 26-year-old black woman. She and her new husband have just moved from a small apartment in Los Angeles to their new home in Altadena. With no warning other than dizziness and nausea, Dana finds herself in the antebellum South. Rufus, the white son of a plantation owner, is drowning, and Dana has been summoned across the years to save him. After the first summons, Dana is drawn back again and again to the plantation to protect Rufus. Each time the stay grows longer and more dangerous, until it is very uncertain whether or not Dana's life will end...long before it has even begun.

I've said before that I love well-written time travel novels, and Kindred certainly exceeded my expectations as far as the time travel and writing. The method of time travel is never explained, and that suits me just fine. I don't need exposition on dilithium crystals, the space-time continuum and quantum physics. As long as the author makes me believe that the person actually is in another time, I'm good to go. Butler's writing is marvelous. The plot flows like white water rapids, both time periods are utterly believable, and the characters are so vivid that I had strong emotional reactions to them.

If you like books that keep you well within your comfort zone, please stay away from Kindred. Butler's novel grabs you by the throat and shakes you over and over again. This is so much more than a mere "time travel" book! Kindred has so much to say about love, about hate, about slavery, about racial dilemmas--both then and now. It is supremely thought-provoking, superbly written, and will doubtless take a place on my Top Ten Reads for 2008. It goes without saying that Kindred will not be the last of Butler's books that I read.

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