Kindred by Octavia Butler

Nominated To The Writers’ Reading List By Litopia's Members

Kindred by Octavia Butler

Our Summary

Despite being written 45 years ago, it feels like a modern work. It’s at once Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Speculative, and even Literary. Everything a writer needs to know about sparse and impactful prose can be found in these pages.

What I Learned From It

Pithy writing has power. Take a look at the first paragraph…

“I lost an arm on my last trip home. My left arm.”

We don’t know why Dana lost her left arm – or where she was when it happened. However, most of us would keep on reading to find out.

The minimalist approach doesn’t end with the hook. Throughout the novel, the writing is direct and matter-of-fact. There’s no purple prose to distract the reader.

Butler’s worldbuilding is likewise utilitarian. She sets the stage with everything we need to know, and little else. If something more is needed to move a scene forward, she’ll drop it in later so readers aren’t overwhelmed.

There is brutality in this world, and Kindred doesn’t shy away from it. Slavery in the US was a cruel business. Still, she conveys the humiliation and suffering of human bondage with an economy of words. There’s no need for intricate detail.

There’s also no need to explain why slavery is wrong. Butler trusts her readers enough not to lecture them.

The author falls into a common conceit of the era – chapter titles. However, she doesn’t abuse that conceit. Each title is short and to the point with neither wit nor irony. There are no spoilers, either. The meanings are clear upon finishing a respective chapter.

Kindred has both a prologue and an epilogue. Few books need one, and even fewer need both. However, this story demands both. There is nothing extraneous about their inclusion here. Unlike many novels, neither feels bolted on to the main narrative. The prologue hooks the reader while the epilogue provides the necessary denouement.

Not everyone agrees Kindred is Science Fiction. If it’s not, there’s a lot here for Sci-Fi readers (including myself) to like. If it is Science Fiction, the characters and dialogue are much more realistic than most contemporary works.

Most importantly – this book remains relevant to readers and authors alike.


Buy UK Buy US