Book Review: Unexpected Stories by Octavia E. Butler
Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy
Publisher: Open Road (June 24, 2014)
Wendy’s Rating – 4 of 5 stars
“Our worldview is transformed by an imagination that sees no border between thought and what is real.” ~Walter Mosley on Octavia E. Butler
American novelist Walter Mosley opens this short story collection by expressing exactly how I feel about the loss of Octavia E. Butler and how it feels to find these stories so long after that loss.
She was a woman who defied convention on every level to give us incredible, award winning stories; all of which feature prominently on my bookshelf. That isn’t to say that I blindly love all of her work. But I do love the mind behind them. My introduction to her work was Lilith’s Brood. I became an instant fan and I wanted nothing more than to sit down with this woman and pick her brain to find out where these incredible ideas came from. Her death meant I could never have that opportunity, but thankfully, others have, which is why one of the books I treasure most is Conversations with Octavia Butler.
Unexpected Stories are more than just an addition to my treasured collection. They are earlier works, still rough around the edges and not nearly as rich as her subsequent stories, but they are no less impressive for the opportunity to see how this woman evolved as a writer.
“A Necessary Being” and “Childfinder” are very characteristic of Butler’s work. They are both stories helmed by strong women who must deal with dire situations, and make significant decisions and sacrifices in order to protect those they lead. Both women bear heavy burdens and are fueled by loss, but also by hope. Butler’s stories are often quite bleak and realistic, despite the science fiction and fantasy stamp. Her work never shies away from the harsh topics, and even in her most fantastical stories, everything remains so very human as she holds up a mirror to the darkness within us; the complicated dance of power that defines humanity. I cannot recommend her work to anyone who needs their speculative fiction to be sunshine and roses, but to everyone else? Octavia Butler should be necessary reading.