Summary Octavia Butler “Kindred”

What we ‘liked’ about the book / what was interesting:

  • Beautiful, crystal clear prose, reading the text was enjoyable
  • Black History Month: fitting book
  • Audiobook made the language especially enjoyable
  • Immersive, horrible in parts, but rewarding to read
  • Time-travelling worked really well for the topic
  • Mysterious connection between past and present
  • Compared to Kafka’s “Die Verwandlung” –> does not need to be explained, very uncomplicated, supernatural just happens
  • Maybe even HG Wells + Kafka –> time travel + nothing is explained
  • Straightforward story
  • Sci-fi aspect was unexplained, but that was okay, it didn’t need an explanation
  • Concept really intriguing
  • Story shook me to the core
  • Time-travel just the thing that is needed to tell the story, but not the point of the story
  • Made us feel uncomfortable, which is a good thing, not enjoyable, but important
  • Story feels very up to date even though the novel is ‘quite old’
  • Prose easy to understand, did not feel ‘dusty’
  • Made one feel unsafe, off
  • Distancing oneself from it hard
  • We did not enjoy it per se, was quite extreme
  • Made us experience a slice of history
  • Emotional distance helped
  • Novels that are more ‘fantastic’ (speculative fiction-wise) are easier to distance yourself from
  • Partially very hard to read, makes you feel, especially as a woman reading it; would be even harder to read it as a BIPoC; necessary read for white people
  • Felt invested in the characters (same feeling: “Underground Railroad”), scenes stick with us
  • Dana + Kevin likeable, complex, multidimension; relationship depicted very well –> relationship remained stable throughout this whole ordeal
  • Historical characters: multidimensional, too, but some tropes; Rufus switching between extremes –> eugenics, slavery ingrained in him, Dana changing him totally would’ve been unrealistic
  • Rufus: hope for him, but also hate him; got what he deserved in the ending; one also pities him –> potential was there
  • Dana and Kevin together were cool, we ship them
  • Dana remained quite cold and sober –> typical book protagonist who handles everything; she has also experienced a lot of racism in her life and knows how to keep calm and handle things –> but she could’ve reacted a bit more emotionally; Dana more clear-headed than we would’ve been; purpose: figured out link to ancestor out early on –> gave her something to work for –> a purpose –> helped her
  • Novel felt like a nightmare
  • One cannot escape the system (in the past), Kevin also becomes involved and cannot do what’s right
  • Dana’s stoicism is great, refuses to adapt to her timeline; refuses to take on another accent; refuses to back down; also helped her distance herself from the timeline; continues to wear men’s clothes
  • Feminist ideas superb
  • Relationship between D. & K. also suffers from the time travel: becomes more complicated
  • 8/10 would def. read other stuff by Octavia Butler
  • Writing style was superb, will check out more Octavia Butler; 4.5/5
  • 5/5 superb
  • Hard to rate, uncomfortable, but very good
  • 4/5, couldn’t put it down
  • Will pick up “Parable of the Sower” too

What we discussed:

  • Historical characters could’ve been better, stuck to some stereotypes; felt a little weaker
  • Love/hate Rufus, complicated character
  • Dana’s lack of feelings would’ve made it easier to emotionally engage with her
  • Felt a bit dusty in parts because it’s so old (but no biggie)
  • Some of us don’t like time-travel novels because it feels a bit far-fetched; Dana’s ordeal weird (works in connection to the narrative and the symbolism) if you take it at face value (no suspended disbelief) –> flaw but cannot be changed about this novel and there are worse examples out there (e.g. “Cursed Child” just cheap nonsense)
  • If you are caught up in the story, you do not care for logic or the time travel mechanics –> Octavia Butler did it quite well, but the characters could’ve questioned it a bit more; they just accepted it
  • Questioned time travel after reading, while reading it worked quite well
  • Rufus was able to hear Kevin & Dana in the present day –> how did that work? Unexplained
  • Two parts of the book (past vs. present) felt a little imbalanced –> present better than past parts; wittier; historical part much more black and white (some experiments like Rufus), but more clear cut –> simplifying? Felt a bit like an essay, novel would’ve been good for pupils to read
  • Dana’s lack of emotion in connection to the past made it feel a bit more bleak –> she accepted it as history and not something she could change; resigned herself to her ‘fate’ too easily; could’ve struggled more, but she is also very headstrong; tries to keep part of herself safe

Other books we talked about:

  • Jackie Kay “Trumpet: Enjoyable nice, not specfic –>
  • Becky Chambers: “Records of a Spaceborn Few”: really enjoyable, sweet
  • Alice Osemann: “Heartstopper” Graphic novels are wholesome and queer; characters likeable; high school kids innocent but sweet; webcomic great, will continue after March –>
  • McGuire “Across the Green Grass Fields”: fun, wholesome, centaurs and dumb unicorns; Wayward Children #6 (we all liked “Every Heart a Doorway”)
  • S. J. Jones “Winter Song”: historical Bavaria; German incorporated (not always correct); “quite a wild ride”, very interesting; fantasy; about a goblin king (Erlkƶnig)
  • Tamsyn Muir “Gideon the Ninth”: THAT BOOK IS HOT; SO GOOD (sequel “Harrow the Ninth” — according to Marthe — even better than the first one!)
  • “A Memory Called Empire” is really good –> Sequel: “A Desolation Called Peace” also great

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