Monthly Archives: January 2013

KayKay #CBR5 Review #07 Wild Seed by Octavia Butler

WildSeed

**SPOILER ALERT**

My book reviews are written as a discussion of a book, and not as an advertisement.  Please be aware that there may be information that some would consider  spoilers and continue on at your own risk!

I started the year with Octavia Butler’s Lilith’s Brood trilogy, and it was fantastic.  I read all three books back to back and reviewed them as one.  I have decided to take a different approach for her Seed to Harvest series.  It contains four books and instead of reading them all at once, I am going to try to read a different book in between each installment.  I also plan on reviewing them separately.  Here are my thoughts around the first in the series, Wild Seed:

Plot

This book is about the journey of Anyanwu.  She starts in Africa, during a time period that people were being sold into slavery.  She is living peacefully among her people- although separate from them because they know there is something strange about her.  She is ‘special’, she has lived hundreds of years and has immaculate control of her body.  She can change her body shape and understand everything that is going on in her body.  Her ‘specialness’ attracts Doro, who is a collector and breeder of special people, and he convinces Anyanwu to move to America with him.  Anyanwu must learn to adjust to a new land, new ways, and to Doro’s philosophy.

I did not feel this book contained a lot of action, it felt like a set up for a longer series.

Plot Score: 3/5

Location, Location, Location

The story takes place in Africa, then travels to New York and eventually Louisiana.  This story starts during slavery, and I assume the overarching series will come into the present.  It was interesting to see Anyanwu’s cultural adjustment from Africa to the US.  When she initially leaves Africa, her loneliness almost drives her to suicide.  I believe she missed the land itself as much as the people.

I enjoyed her observation of the how Africans tend to co-exist with nature, but the towns in the US seem to impose upon it. “The villages of the towns were well-organized, often long-established, but they were more a part of the land they occupied, less of an intrusion upon it.”

Location Score: 4/5

Characters and Relationships

When Doro meets Anyanwu, he realizes she is the most special person he has come across.  He offers her the opportunity to come with him to America and help him breed and create his race of special beings.   She agrees, for several reasons, including protection for her children and her own desire to be among other ‘special’ people.

Doro  is a ‘body thief’- meaning he doesn’t die, he just takes over other people’s bodies.  One interesting point, is that no matter what body / voice he takes, people can recognize him by his voice.  Doro has plans to breed a special race of people.  The people that he breeds treat him as a God, “They believed that since he was their god, it was his right to do whatever he chose with them. “Jobs” she called them in her thoughts.  Like Job of the Bible, they had made the best of their situation.  They could not escape Doro, so they found virtue in submitting to him”

Anyanwu’s relationship with Doro evolves over the book, she is a ‘wild seed’ (a ‘special’ person that was not breed by him), and does not revere him like his own people.  She starts out curious, then she is resentful, then I believe she learns to tolerate him.  Anyanwu had a hard time forgiving  “Doro’s unnecessary killings, his casual abuse when he was not courting her, his open contempt for any belief of hers that did not concur with his, the blows for which she could not retaliate and from which she could not flee, the acts she must perform for him no matter what her beliefs”

At one point, Anyanwu escapes Doro and lives as a dolphin before coming back to Louisana to live as a human.  At this point she realizes “…even when I hated you, I believed in what you were trying to do.  I believed that we should have people more like ourselves, that should not be alone.  You had much less trouble with me than you could have because I believed that.  I learned to turn my head and ignore the things you did to people.  But, Doro, I could not ignore everything.  You kill your best servants, people who obey you even when it means suffering for them.  Killing gives you too much pleasure.  Far too much”

Characters Score: 4/5

Life Lessons (fka Bigger Meaning)

When I read the Xenogenesis series, it was obvious from the first book the meaning of the series (humans are intelligent, but hierarchical).  In this series, the bigger meaning is a little less obvious.  Here are some threads of meaning throughout the book:

1-  Religion is a way to control people.  Doro’s people worship him since he is the one in charge of bringing them together and taking care of them- and because of his long life, and because of that are happy to sacrifice themselves for him.  There is also a side comment that illustrates how religion is used to validate slavery.  “We don’t pretend as your slavers do to be acting for the benefit of our victims’ souls.  we don’t tell ourselves we’ve caught them to teach them civilized religion.”

2- Science vs. Morality.  Doro is breeding a special race of people.  This sometimes means he puts relatives together to have children.  Anyanwu believes this is an abomination, but Doro just sees the end goal.  I’m not yet sure whether the author is siding with Science or Morality- and maybe she never makes a stance.

3- Assimilation vs. Tolerance.  Anyanwu has to determine when to let go of her traditions and ‘evolve’ to new standards, and when to hold on to her feelings of right vs. wrong.  Doro leans towards rapid assimilation: “You know you must change to suit the customs here.  You have not lived three hundred years without learning to accept new customs.”  But Anyanwu, in some cases, holds to her beliefs and customs, in one case after eating food made with milk: “Their shame is their own, But now you want me to shame myself, make myself even worse than they.  How can you ask it of me, Doro? The land itself will offended! Your crops will wither and die!”

“Civilization is the way one’s own people live.  Savagery is the way foreigners”

Bigger Meaning Score: 4/5

Style

I enjoyed the writing style of the book.  I always feel like Butler is ahead of her time with the concepts in her books.

1- Microbiology- In this story Anyanwu was able to heal her self, and make antibiotics with her own body.  She can analyze infections by tasting them and bringing them into her body.  “As soon as I know them, I can kill them within myself.”

2- Natural healing- “She rechecked familiar substances, found that as simple a thing as garlic had some ability to help, but not enough”

Style Score: 4/5

Final Thoughts?

– Does Anywanu have any hope of escaping Doro?

-Can Doro really change?

-Once Doro creates his people (and with his long life, it’s only a matter of time), what does he plan to do with them?  Conquer the world?

Total Score and Recommendation
19/25- This was a good standalone novel, but I hope that it will be a great series.

 

KayKay #CBR5 Review #06 The Great Bazaar and Other Stories by Peter V. Brett

thegreatbazaar

**SPOILER ALERT**

My book reviews are written as a discussion of a book, and not as an advertisement.  Please be aware that there may be information that some would consider  spoilers and continue on at your own risk!

I read this one night when I could not sleep, and it was almost if I had dreamt reading it.  I am going to review the main story ‘The Great Bazaar’, although this collection does include other stories that were cut from The Warded Man (which is one of the BEST books ever.)  I waited to read this until before the 3rd book in this series is released (it’s coming Feb 12).  It was a reminder of characters, settings, and plot that I have forgotten since it’s been a while since the second book was released.

Plot

Arlen goes into the dessert to find a dead city so he can gather it’s treasure.  It’s at a point in the series where he doesn’t have offensive wards, so the trip is particularly dangerous.  He trades his find with Abban (at the Great Bazaar) for information on another dead city that is rumored to contain offensive wards.

Plot Score: 4/5

Location, Location, Location

I always imagine this world as a future earth, where these demons come at night for destruction.  The concept is that man once conquered the demons with wards, but the demons when away, we forgot our defenses, and stopped believing in the demons, then they returned and reek havoc.  There are various settings in this world (forest, small towns, mountains, island folk) but this short story took place in the dessert.  The dessert people is like our middle east, and Brett does a good job of showing the cultural differences between Arlen (from more of a forest area) and Abban (from the dessert area).

The demons are location specific- there are clay demons in the dessert, snow demons where it’s colder, on top of the wind, mind, rock, etc. demons.  And the wards needed against the demons need to be specific to the demons for maximum effectiveness.

Location Score: 4/5

Characters and Relationships

We learned more about Abban and how he gets his merchant role at the bazaar.  We also saw Arlens intolerance of the caste system.  I would not say Arlen and Abban are BFF’s, but their relationship is mutually beneficial.

Characters Score: 4/5

Bigger Meaning

Hmmm…I can’t really say there is a bigger meaning to this short story.  It was pure entertainment.

Bigger Meaning Score: 0/5

Style

Reading Peter V. Brett, is always a contradiction for me.  On one hand, I want to read as fast as I can to find out what happens.  On the other hand, I want to slow down so that the book never ends.  Brett edits his stories with love and precision.  The stories here that were cut from the book, are better than other authors entire novels.

Style Score: 5/5

Final Thoughts?

– Reading Brett’s writings feel so effortless- I blink and the book is over.  I don’t know how he does it, but he’s masterful.

Total Score and Recommendation

17/25- This was a great refresher before the next book comes out.   

KayKay #CBR5 Review #05 Tranquility’s Blaze by Krista D. Ball

Tranquility_s_Blaze

 

**SPOILER ALERT**

My book reviews are written as a discussion of a book, and not as an advertisement.  Please be aware that there may be information that some would consider  spoilers and continue on at your own risk!

I couldn’t pass up a book about a half elf /human girl who kicks butt…and happens to be the daughter of a goddess.  It ended up being an easy book to read with a few bumps…here’s what I thought:

Plot

Bethany, a half elf, half human, daughter of a goddess (the elf side), falls in love and is suckered by her twin sister.  Wow, I summed that book up in one sentence.  One of my issues with the book, is that it feels like the foundation story for a larger series (and there are already more published).  The only person pushing the plot forward is the evil twin sister (Sarissa).  She is fiddling with magic (which is evil) and generally trying to kill Bethany.

In one part of the book, Sarissa had her husband rape a prisoner, then let her go since she was pregnant and Sarissa could track where she was with her connection to the baby.  WTF?  The girl was supposed to lead her to some type of magic books, but that whole thing didn’t pan out…

The plot is OK at a high level- as long as you don’t dig into the details (sort of like Twilight: OK concept, execution flaws).

Plot Score: 2/5

Location, Location, Location

I never felt as if the location really came alive for me.  I knew Sarissa was some place cold, and Bethany was some place warm.  As far as the religion, it was never really explained.  The people worshiped Bethany and Sarissa’s mom (Apexia- who could pop up when she wanted, but rarely speaks to her girls).  Then there was some mention of Creator Gods, but no further information (next book maybe?)

Location Score: 2/5

Characters and Relationships

Let’s start with the sister who actually *does* stuff, Sarissa.  She is SUPER evil, I mean, watching her husband rape prisoners, killing babies (yes all that actually happens).  She started the book off in a funk, until the prisoner helped her get ‘control’ of her magic (right before her husband raped the girl).  She showed a bit of humanity when her mother told her that Bethany thought Sarissa was the favorite.  But it didn’t change her course, she just kept going for total world domination.

Bethany is the complete opposite, she is the Queen of hesitation.  It takes Bethany the entire book just to admit she loved Arrago- and we won’t get started on the *blink and they are in love* stuff.  This chick has awesome powers- and she is the daughter of the goddess that everyone worships.  There are only a select few people who know this, and she does whatever she can NOT to use the power.  I also felt it was odd that Bethany, as a pretty old and experience elf warrior (third in command and in charge of weapons training) was a pretty weak fighter.  Needless to say I didn’t really like this girl, she had a chance to be pretty awesome and she was just so BORING.  Even when she knows her sister is coming for her, they didn’t seem all that concerned, just upped the guards a bit.

I won’t even mention the other characters because they were completely forgettable- I still can not distinguish Kiner, Jovan and Allric because their personalities don’t shine.

Characters Score: 2/5

Bigger Meaning

I guess the bigger meaning is kill your sister when you get the chance.

Bigger Meaning Score: 0/5

Style

I thought the writing style was easy to read, although parts of the story seemed like unnecessary filler.  Perhaps the first two books should have been combined and edited down to one book.  I am not planning on reading the second book to find out.

Style Score: 2/5

Final Thoughts?

– Why did Sarissa hate Bethany? (some childhood jealousy? is it all the magic’s fault)

– Is Aargo the Elf King from the prophecy? (Probably)

– I kept waiting for some kind of inside traitor (Javon, Allric, Kiner?)

– Why won’t Bethany kill her sister?  Is she too tender or too stupid?

Total Score and Recommendation

8/25- If you want an easy fun read, try the Eli Monpress series by Rachel Aaron.  I remember her characters to this day- and she could really wrap up a book and still leave the overarching plot points for future books.

KayKay #CBR5 Review #04 A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. LeGuin

Image

**SPOILER ALERT**

My book reviews are written as a discussion of a book, and not as an advertisement.  Please be aware that there may be information that some would consider  spoilers and continue on at your own risk!

A few years ago I watched Tales From Earthsea and enjoyed the story and world that was created.  I remember having a hard time trying to find the novel ‘A Wizard of Earthsea’ in an eBook version.  Recently, I found it on the Kindle and decided to read it.  It was not until I sat down to write this review, did I notice that I had already read this book (I had rated it on GoodReads).  I read a lot of books, and I can’t remember them all, but sometimes if I am re-reading something, I will remember tidbits and pieces will seem familiar.  Perhaps when reading this time, I chalked up any familiarity to the animated movie that I watched.   Any ways- here’s what I thought (this time around):

Plot

A young wizard, Ged (aka Sparrowhawk) goes to wizard school, and out of rage and jealously ends up setting lose a shadow from ‘beyond’.  He graduates from school (because, you know, the shadow can wait) and goes out to hide and eventually confront this shadow, which represents the darker qualities that are in all of us.

Plot Score: 3/5

Location, Location, Location

This novel takes place in Earthsea.  The location is like medieval earth, with wizards and dragons.  It’s nice to note that in this book (unlike several others) wizards are actually accepted and celebrated.  There was no mention of fear or hatred of wizards.

Location Score: 2/5

Characters and Relationships

This was really Ged’s story of self discovery.  At the beginning he is proud and arrogant and at the end humble and cautious.  This reflects huge character growth, and it was very realistic.  He didn’t grow in one day, the events were laid out in such a fashion that his growth was very realistic.  However, there is something about this character that I never really liked.  He did not open himself up to many friends in the book, and I never felt as if he opened himself up to the reader.  “For the most part he was all work and pride and temper, and held himself apart.”  I feel like one of his peers at school- we see him, we may have a brief interaction, but we don’t really know him.  Perhaps if this book had been from his perspective we could have come to know- and care about-  his character.  To me, Ogion, who barely spoke, was more ‘open’ than Ged.

Character Score: 3/5

Bigger Meaning

A lot of times, books will be all plot and no lesson, no unique perspective on the world, nothing to take away other than a simple tale.  I always like when a book has more to it than just interesting characters and a good plot line.  It is that little extra that gives a book something special.

WIth this book, the bigger meaning was the best part.  This story speaks to finding yourself, being honest with yourself and understanding until you do that, until you know your own name, you can not move forward.  “A man: who knowing his whole true self, cannot be used or possessed by any power other than himself, and whose life therefore is lived for lie’s sake and never in the service or ruin, or pain, or hatred, or the dark” If you run from the darker qualities within yourself, they will just grow stronger, it’s not until we turn and face them head on that we have a hope of defeating them.  And there is no one, not our best friend, mentors, teachers, who can do this for us, we must take it on ourselves.

There is also a theme of the importance of language and the power of words.  The concept of being able to speak a word and cause something physical to happen, whether its creation of a world or just control of someone else, is interesting.  “My name, and yours, and the true name of the sun, or a spring of water, or an unborn child, are all syllables of the great word that is very slowly spoken by the shining of the stars.  There is no other power.  No other name”.  We speak so much and say so little, perhaps we should listen to hear the great word that is being spoken.

Bigger Meaning Score: 4/5

Style

For me this story didn’t flow.  Sometimes the plot moved very quickly (one paragraph would talk about Ged’s naming day being months away, and then it happens in the next paragraph). And sometimes the plot just sat there and did nothing.  There were several parts I skimmed, as they offered no additional value to the story (useless descriptions that didn’t help me imagine the world any clearer and didn’t factor into the plot).  I will say that I like action and I like a plot that moves, I feel that if you (as a writer) are dragging the plot out then you don’t have enough plot.

Style Score: 2/5

Final Thoughts?
– I read this book, forgot it, read it again and will probably forget it again.  Hopefully I won’t pick it up for a third time.

-This is supposed to be the most powerful wizard of all time, I was hoping to see him do something fantastic (other than just conquering himself)

Total Score and Recommendation

14 / 24- Skip the book, if you are really curious, watch the animated movie.

KayKay #CBR5 Review #03: Zahrah the Windseeker by Nnedi Okorafor

Zahrah The Windseeker

**SPOILER ALERT**

My book reviews are written as a discussion of a book, and not as an advertisement.  Please be aware that there may be information that some would consider  spoilers and continue on at your own risk!

I am a fan of Nnedi Okorafor (I enjoyed both ‘Akata Witch’ and ‘Who Fears Death’) and Zahrah the Windseeker did not disappoint.  Here’s what I thought:

Plot?

Zahrah, was born with a gift known as ‘dada’.  ‘Dada’ people are rumored to either be wise or rebels.  However, her visible differences (tree vines growing in her hair)- and the towns fear of the unknown (there have not been any dada people for a long time) make her the object of ridicule at school.  She does have one friend, Dari, who is a natural adventurer.   When they decide to practice Zahrah’s new found gifts (levitation and flight) in the Forbidden Greeny Jungle Dari gets bitten by a poisonous snake, and the only way to save him is to venture even deeper into the Forbidden jungle to find a Elgort Egg.  To save her friend, Zahrah must overcome her fears and embrace her potential.

The plot itself is a simple journey of self discovery and empowerment.  It’s all the other elements of this story that make this book special.

Plot Score: 3/5

Location, Location, Location?

The Ooni Kingdom is a fantastical place where materials are all growing, living plants.  Glass is transparent plants, computers are grown from a seed, and the buildings are live trees.  What a wonderful world where man and nature are so in balance.  The northern part of the kingdom, where Zahrah resides, is a very civilized area where “no way the typical northerner would go outside without wearing his or her most civilized clothes and looking clean and nice”.  Their clothes are covered with little mirrors, and they carry around mirrors.  This could have made these people seem vain and conceited, but in the author’s hands, these qualities did not villainize the characters.   I particularly loved the description of the north westerners as ‘gloriously fat!’

The other main location was the Forbidden Greeny Jungle.  This setting comes to life with all of the amazing wildlife, talking panthers and gorillas, huge mystical frogs, little furry rodents, etc.  I felt as if the Ooni town was black and white and stepping into the Jungle was full color!

I also found it interesting that they referred to a mystical place called ‘Earth’!  At the end, we find out the one other dada person that Zahrah knows has a mother that came from Earth.

I once read that the world we see in a well-written book is like an ice berg- we see a small percentage of what the author had created.  This was definitely a ‘tip of the iceberg’ location.

Location Score: 5/5

Characters and Relationships?

This book is really Zahrah’s journey, she starts out timid and scared.  For the most part, she acts very mature for her age.  She does not respond to the bullies at school, taking the attitude “silence is the best answer to a fool” and “the less I talked about it, the less of a role she played in my life”.  She is very cautious when she first learns she can levitate, and even when she knows she can fly, she is too scared to try.  Her journey begins when she goes into the dark market to find oil for her hair and for the first time meets another dada.  Her only friend, Dari, is the one encouraging Zahrah to be more adventurous.  It’s his need that drives her to push past her comfort zone, go into the dangerous jungle, find the elusive egg that will save his life.  By simply surviving she realizes that she is stronger than she thought.  She learns she can survive, that she can face danger and that she can trust her instincts.

After reading this book, I am now ready for the adventures of Dari and Zahrah.  There personalities, hers cautious and his adventurous, should make things interesting for their future endeavors.

Character Score 4/5

Bigger Meaning?

As a mother, this book was filled with a lot of little life lessons that I’d like to teach my daughter-

1- “It’s a general fear of the unknown that plagues the entire society”  The world is small, and there is so much we don’t know.  We should not let the fear of the unknown stop us from exploring- with an open but cautious mind.

2- “There’s nothing wrong with being differnt”  It’s OK to be different, and we should not judge others who are different.

3- “It’s OK to care about what other people think, but you should give a little more weight to what you, yourself, think”.  This is one of my favorite lines in this book.  It is cliche to say we shouldn’t care what other people think, and I love this concept of respecting yourself.

Bigger Meaning Score: 5/5

Style?

I really enjoyed reading Zahrah’s journey.  For me, this book was more ‘YA’ than ‘Who Fears Death’ and ‘Akata Witch’.  I saw a review from a 9 year old on amazon!  The forest journey, at times, got a little tedious for me, and I didn’t always enjoy reading from a child’s perspective.  Everything is well written and well presented, and my dislikes here are due to personal preference.

Style Score: 3/5

Final Thoughts?

– Each novel by Nnedi Okorafor is written which such thought and planning, I feel like several more stories can take place in that world.  I don’t think she normally writes sequels, but man, who else wants to read the adventures of Dari and Zahrah??

-Did anyone else catch the reference to The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy?  “The answer is fourth-four.  That machine was off by two” Loved it.

-It’s great to read a SciFi / Fantasy story with something other than a white male lead.

Total Score and Recommendation

20 / 25-If you want a break from some of the heavier ‘adult’ novels, this is a great YA read.

KayKay #CBR5 Review #02: The Rook, Daniel O’Malley

TheRook

**SPOILER ALERT**

My book reviews are written as a discussion of a book, and not as an advertisement.  Please be aware that there may be information that some would consider  spoilers and continue on at your own risk!

I recently read a list of people’s top books of 2012.  One reader recommended 3 books that I had read and enjoyed, and the fourth book was The Rook, which I had not read.  Since we seemed to have a similar taste in books, I decided to give this one a chance.  Here’s what I thought:

Plot?

A girl wakes up in someone else’s body, and that body has special abilities (like controlling other people’s bodies).  The previous occupant of the body has left the new girl instructions on how to take over her life (or she could just run away and live comfortably- but then we wouldn’t be reading a book about it).  Oh- and the body’s original owner is a high ranking member of a secret British force that fights bad supernatural guys.  The New Girl takes over the body and does a better job with it than the previous owner.

While reading the book, I was not sure whether the Original Girl had amnesia and couldn’t remember herself, or if the New Girl was someone who had a previous body, but had taken over a new one.  Come to find out, the Original Girl had part of her memory wiped, so she couldn’t remember who she was, which I suppose freed her up to be a bad ass.  A better plot twist might have been the option that someone separate had taken over her body.

The plot is interesting, but standard.  Girl loses memory (although no one seems to notice due to extensive documentation left by the Original Girl).  Girl discovers traitor.  Girl kicks supernatural booty.  There were some ‘plot holes’ for me- for example, this is a top secret organization that recruits members as children, and does their best to hide and protect them (for example, by tracking anyone who even googles one of their names).  But they don’t change the kids names?  Myfawny’s sister finds her because of tax records.  If you don’t want to be found, step 1 is changing your name.  There is one part where she says “It’s not a case of putting all your eggs in one basket; it’s a matter of keeping your valuables in a safe”.  (Referring to the fact that all the recruited children- and some adults- are all kept at the same estate).  I thought this saying was stupid, because if you had several valuables, you would keep them in separate safes- at separate locations.  What a lame way to validate why you got all the kids together.

Plot Score: 3/5

Location, Location, Location?

This book takes place in London, mostly at facilities run by the Checquy Group (the supernatural super secret British spy agency).  Even though this was a super cool secret spy agency, it just didn’t come to life for me in that way.  There are a few secret passages- but one leads to her onsite residence, which she was afraid to even re-style after the previous male occupant left.

Location Score: 2/5

Characters and Relationship?

The Original Girl – Myfanwy (Miffany- rhymes with Tiffany) had cool supernatural abilities, and is one of the most powerful people in Checquy group, but she is meek and timid and always afraid.  Just the type of character that is unworthy of a book.  The New Girl- also Myfawny Thomas, takes more of an aggressive role.  I’m not sure how a memory wipe would make you starting kicking major booty, but it worked for Myfanwy.

Although there was no romance in this book, Myfawny did make two friends, both were developed very quickly (Shantay- who became her BFF after one conversation) and Bronwyn, the Original Girls sister (they were separated when Bronwyn was 3 and Myfawny was 7-9, so no need to tie up lose ends on why they didn’t remember the same stuff).  I felt it was odd that someone waking up in this type of scenario starts to latch onto strangers and developing BFFs after a conversation.  Her executive assistance, Ingrid Woodhouse, was developed more slowly, over the course of the book, which was more realistic.

Character Score: 2/5

Bigger Meaning?

None.

Bigger Meaning Score: 0/5

Style

This is where the book really fell apart for me.   This is what I like to call a ‘skim book’.  There is no reason to read every word, because most of it makes no difference- in fact, there are entire chapters you can skip (the tiring letters the Original Girl wrote to the New Girl).  I had originally liked the concept of getting glimpses of the Original Girl through letters (why wouldn’t she leave video messages so that the New Girl could see her mannerisms- which would help with blending in), but after a while, it just was information overload.  I don’t need the complete history of every character she comes across!  And at one point, these summary notes would break up the little bit of action that the book contained.  I felt this book could have been cut down by about 100 pages (It was a total of 487 pages).  At one point she lists about 80 types of manifestations, couldn’t you go with 2 or 3 and leave it at that?  Who is reading all that?  It adds nothing to the advancement of the story.

The other issue I had with the Original Girls letters, is that she would write them as if the letters were a novel- for example she wrote

“Good evening, Sir Henry,” I said demurely. “Welcome.”

Who writes in a journal like that?  Did she really remember that she spoke ‘demurely’?  Then she would have journal entries where she could only partially remember things.  Does the Original Girl remember everything- down to how she spoke, or can she not even recall a conversation properly?  Pick one…and stick with it.

Style Score: 1/5

Final Notes?

-At first the letters from the Original Girl were interesting, but after a while I just started skipping those chapters…boring!

-Once a book is on the same list with ‘Name of the Wind’, it has a huge expectation to live up to.  Perhaps my expectations were too high for me to really enjoy this one.

-The magical children at the estate reminded me of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.  Any one else get that feeling?

Total Score and Recommendation

8/25 – Skip it.  If you want an entertaining supernatural read that is lighthearted, read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid series or Patricia Brigss Mercedes Thompson series.

KayKay #CBR5 Review #01: Lilith’s Brood by Octavia Butler

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**SPOILER ALERT**

My book reviews are written as a discussion of a book, and not as an advertisement.  Please be aware that there may be information that some would consider  spoilers and continue on at your own risk!

Between Christmas and New Years, I read the Xenogensis series (Dawn, Adulthood Rites and Imago) by Octavia E. Butler. This was my first time reading Butler. Here’s what I thought:

Plot? 
Dawn– Due to chemical warfare, the citizens of Earth have nearly destroyed themselves. Without the intervention of the Oankali (aliens) all humans would have died. The humans now have the option to breed with the aliens or become extinct (they will not be able to reproduce). Lilith is the first human the Oankali awaken (they have healed the humans and kept them in animated suspension, occasionally awakening them for interviews) with the intention of breeding together. She is then responsible for waking several other humans to go back to Earth to live and mate with the Oankali.

Adulthood Rites-This is the story of Akin- Lilith’s ‘construct’ (mixed breed of human and alien) son. His dual nature enables him to understand both races and eventually work out an agreement to allow the humans to live and reproduce on Mars- without the Oankali, in essence, preserving the human race.

Imago– This is the story of Jodahs, another of Lilith’s construct, but this one is an ‘ooloi’, which is the no sex alien (the aliens have male, female, and no-sex- and all three are needed to reproduce). He is the first ooloi construct. This is the first story of a mutually desired relationship between humans and Oankali.

Plot Score: 4 / 5 

Location, Location, Location?
The story takes place either on the alien spaceship- Chkahichdahk or Earth, as reconstructed by the Oankali. The spaceship is a living organism that grows and can be molded by the Oankali (they can build rooms, etc.) The ship is so big, they have a simulated jungle, that makes the awakened humans feel they are on Earth. Back on Earth, there are some new vegetation and animals.

Location Score: 4 / 5 

Characters and Relationships?
The three main characters are Lilith, Akin and Jodah (each have their own book). Nikanj, an Oankali ooloi is also a main component of all three stories.

The nature of the humans vs. the nature of the aliens is a huge part of this story. The book focuses on two characteristics of humans- their hierarchical nature and their intelligence. Basically, humans care more about conquering then they do about survival (evident in the destruction of the planet). The Oankali don’t want to conquer- they want to combine. They want to take the best parts of humans and the best parts of the Oankali and build something better. This basic difference makes it impossible for Oankali and Humans to understand each other. I felt this was extreme- perhaps for the sake of making a point. In an age where the x-men and captain america, and the hulk (and other genetically modified super heroes) are popular, it seems hard to believe that no humans would be excited to gain long life, health, strength, etc. It is not until the third book, where a group of humans is found who have fertility, but also have a genetic disease really seem to be okay with mating with the Oankali- and would pick that option over moving to the human only colony on Mars.

The humans that did mate with the Oankali (before the deformed village) did it grudgingly- even Lilith. She never lost the resentment for the aliens, although they became her family and I believe she cared for them.

Characters Score: 4 / 5

Bigger Meaning?
I love when the author has a viewpoint and it shines through the story. (Atlas Shrugged is one of my favorite stories- there is no doubt that the reader knows how the author feels about individualism). Butler makes the statement several times that humans have a hierarchical nature that is entrenched in our characteristics- even more than our intelligence. This concept rang very true with me, I believe everything is about wining and competing and being better than others (either by true worth, or by artificial means- like race or wealth). We are always measuring ourselves against others (how many times have I heard that America is the best country in the world?). I’m not even sure how the world would function if we didn’t have those hierarchical tendencies. Would we appreciate our differences, would we value life, would we search to create by combining- like the Oankali do? During the story- Akin convinces the Oankali to allow the humans to rebuild a purely human colony on Mars. The Oankali believe that without their intervention the humans will do the same thing they’ve always done and end up destroying themselves. The point was made that ‘Human purpose isn’t what you say it is or what I say it is. It’s what your biology says it is- what your genes say it is’. Does that leave us with no hope of ever overcoming our hierarchical nature?

Bigger Meaning Score: 5 / 5 

Style?
I enjoyed the writing style of this book. I did skim certain parts of these books, it was a total of 745 pages on my Kindle, and towards the end I could feel the story coming to an end.

Style Score: 4 / 5 

Final Notes? 
– Am I the only one who would be excited about awesome sex, super strength and healing?

– This would make a great movie with today’s special effects- I can just see someone brining the Oankali with all their tentacles to life

– The Oankali are always ‘tasting’ things to find out what they are made of (at a molecular level), at one point Akin taste plastic and calls it poison- I recently (2010) stopped using plastics when possible because of this- then I realized this was written in the 1980’s…was Butler ahead of the times or what?

-Why can’t we all just get along??? Man, the human resisters couldn’t even get along with each other- knowing they were the last of their kind- they couldn’t wait to makes guns so they could steal, rape and kill.

Total Score and Recommendation
20 / 25 – I would recommend this book to a friend!