Kindred – Octavia E. Butler

Published November 4, 2014 by bibliobeth


What’s it all about?:

Dana, a modern black woman, is celebrating her twenty-sixth birthday with her new husband when she is snatched abruptly from her home in California and transported to the antebellum South. Rufus, the white son of a plantation owner, is drowning, and Dana has been summoned to save him. Dana is drawn back repeatedly through time to the slave quarters, and each time the stay grows longer, more arduous, and more dangerous until it is uncertain whether or not Dana’s life will end, long before it has a chance to begin.

What did I think?:

I’ve only recently started reading more science fiction as I didn’t consider it a genre I was particularly interested in. However, I have been pleasantly surprised from the recent books I have read and this is no exception. Many thanks to the lovely people at Book Bridgr and Headline Publishing for allowing me to read a copy and although I have never come across the author’s work before, I am now eager to try some more. The story is set across two main time frames – the current, contemporary period (1970’s) and 19th century Maryland where our main character is a young black woman called Dana. When celebrating her birthday with her husband Kevin all of a sudden she is transported back to the South at the height of the slavery period, obviously a very dangerous time for a black woman to be on her own. First of all however, she must find out why she has travelled back in time in the first place. It appears that whenever the son (Rufus) of a rich plantation owner is in danger, Dana materialises and she deduces that she must be travelling back in order to save his life.

Dana’s first trip back in time where she saves Rufus as a young boy lasts merely minutes but with each subsequent journey her stay in the South becomes longer. This heightens the danger that she is in as being a young black woman without an obvious white owner may lead to her being beaten, raped, even killed. Rufus himself is not a particularly likeable character as he grows up and takes on the mantle of his terrifying father and although he grows close to Dana with every visit, there is a risk that he may become just as much of an adversary to her. In the contemporary time, Dana’s husband Kevin is also desperately worried about the effects of her time travel, especially when she comes home with injuries having run into the path of the wrong (white) man. He is determined to be with her the next time she leaves, even if they both have to be careful regarding the particulars of their relationship as he happens to be white. He manages to time travel back with her successfully but cannot reach her side quickly enough (they have to be touching) for the return journey home leaving him stranded in the past, his only hope of return being Dana coming back. Attempting to guess when Dana will next return is highly unpredictable and when she does, her life is increasingly at risk to a point where the likelihood of her FUTURE self even being born is becoming more and more unlikely.

As a science fiction novel, I thought this was a good addition to the genre. I enjoyed the parts set in the 19th century South better than the contemporary story as I felt the latter felt a little thin and under-developed. As historical fiction it is beautifully written and captures perfectly the voices of all black people kept as slaves in a dark and shameful part of our history. I found that some characters were drawn better than others, for example Rufus, whom I ended up despising by the end of the novel was a fantastic “love-to-hate” character compared to Kevin, Dana’s husband and the “goodie” of the story who just felt a bit wishy-washy and slightly two-dimensional. However, the novel was exciting and intriguing enough to keep me turning the pages and I would definitely try something else from this author.

Would I recommend it?:


Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

8 comments on “Kindred – Octavia E. Butler

  • I’m like you re science fiction (and fantasy!), I don’t think it’s my bag although I’m sure if I really looked for something good I’d find it…though I’ve so much crime fiction to read it’d be hard to introduce another genre!!

      • I have – I decided to read 3 or 4 books in a row, with the intention of having plenty of “backlog” to review, as it were…the problem was, when it came to reviewing them, I found it hard to remember individual details about each book – not that any of them were bad, far from it – Someone Else’s Skin, and another one, The Winter Foundlings, were absolutely excellent! I think I’ll just have to do a short blog featuring all these books with a mini sum up of each one, what do you think? I’m pretty new to the blogosphere, so I’m feeling my way, but I was embarrassed to realise how little I remember once I’ve finished each book – I tend to finish them and immediately pick up another one…so many books, so little time! Anyway, I hope you enjoyed it – I suspect you will have – and look forward to reading you and Chrissi’s review!

      • Sorry for the late reply! I know what you mean, I have such a backlog at the moment, sometimes I worry I’m never going to catch up. And then like you I worry I’ll forget the book and write a really rubbish review. A mini sum up sounds like a great idea to me, you should definitely do it. I tend to make little notes on my phone as I go along which helps a little bit.

      • Great idea – I don’t have a great phone, but I think I’ve an app on here for taking notes, plus a rather nice brown notebook beside my bed (I love stationery – it’s such a girly hangover from school – even now I get urges to buy notepads and pencils in September!)…It’s necessary, for me anyway, to take notes when it’s a fairly complex book, say a murder investigation. Even if I’m not going to reveal what happens in the review, it helps me keep the “shape” of the book in my head, and reminds me how I reacted to the characters.

  • I’m wary about science fiction as a genre but having read so many bloggers comments I’ve come to realise that the subject matter wasn’t all as uniform as I thought and there are probably a few books that fall into the genre that I’d enjoy. Great review 🙂

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