Here’s where I have to admit something that’s embarrassing as a science fiction blogger and former English major: I had never actually read any Octavia Butler works before now, and I am honestly pretty ashamed of myself. I have known of Butler for years, but for one reason or another, hadn’t ever made time for her books. When I was given an eArc of Subterranean Press’s forthcoming collection, Unexpected Stories, by the one and only Octavia Butler, I knew it was time to finally dig into some of her work.
Unexpected Stories includes two recently unearthed short works by Butler, which appear in this collection, posthumously, as their first time ever in print. Not only did I love these two stories, but I actually think it was a great introduction for me into Butler’s oeuvre. Both of the stories had very prominent themes of class and race, and both explored really fascinating (and totally different) worlds.
The first of the two stories, and the longer of the two, is “A Necessary Being.” This novella explores a world much changed by drought and climate, and centers on the leaders of two separate, and possibly competing, tribal groups. The people in this world are divided in different castes by their skin color, which varies widely from dark green to yellow to true blue. It is an obvious and powerful commentary on class and race within our own world, and features a strong female leader who is both older in age and not ashamed of showing her sexuality. It’s beautiful to see, and the story is compelling to read. I could not put this story down.
The second entry in this collection, “Childfinder,” was rather short. It’s a story of class and racism, and also about children with some largely-unexplored psychic abilities. This world is much closer to a near-future dystopian or alternative version of our own world, and packs quite a punch into its almost-too-short 13 pages. I wanted more from the story; I wanted more about the kids and I wanted more about their powers and I wanted world-building. Ultimately, though, this story is mostly successful in that it left me thinking considerably about it and its world.
“A Necessary Being” comes in at 4 stars for me, while “Childfinder” is probably closer to a 3.5. The experience of reading of this collection as a whole, however, including it’s foreword and afterwords, is a solid 4 star reading experience. It’s a lovely collection, and I am glad Subterranean Press is putting these stories in print for the world.
I’d absolutely love recommendations on where to go from here on Octavia Butler’s works!
Thanks to Subterranean Press and NetGalley for proving me an eArc of this collection in exchange for an honest review! This collection comes out through Subterranean Press on April 30, 2020, but you can preorder it now!