Bloodchild and Other Stories by Octavia Butler.
Bloodchild is a collection of short stories by the famous science-fiction writer Octavia Butler. The problem with short story collections is that they are usually a mixed bag, populated with mostly mediocre stories speckled with a few stinkers and a few gems. Well, I am happy to report to you that Bloodchild is not like that at all. Every single story in this collection is captivating, intelligent, and written in a style that is clear and accessible without losing any of its sophistication.
What really struck me about Bloodchild was the sheer emotional impact of each story. Because each story is such a perfect little world, and because the characters are so well realized, every story really packs a punch. I put down the book between each story, incapable of doing any real thinking because I was so blown away by what I had just read. I think the effectiveness of the stories comes from a mix of excellent writing and characterization and the way Butler uses those characters to explore complex ideas. One of Butler's strengths is in never letting her work become preachy or one-sided. Butler's ideas are as complex as her characters, and that makes her stories resonate in a very real and powerful way.
Usually, this would be the part of the review where I would tell you which stories were my favorite and which ones to skip, but I can't really do that with this collection, because they are all absolutely worth reading. I believe that Butler's most famous stories are Bloodchild and Speech Sounds, both of which are in this collection and both of which are absolutely mind-blowing. Bloodchild actually left me speechless and shaking by the time I finished it. Her other stories are more subtle, but are still incredibly well-written. There are also two essays included in the book, my favorite of which was Positive Obsession. Since I bought the updated version of the book, I got an extra two stories on top of the original five stories and two essays. If you are going to get it, I recommend getting the updated version, because the two added stories are both very good, especially Amnesty. In all of the stories Butler's characters are absolutely convincing, and her story-telling is so smooth that you never need time to get adjusted to the story, even when you are dropped right in the middle of the action. That is, to me, a sign of a great writer.
I know this review is vague, but that is only because Butler's stories are so good. I don't feel like I need to speak for them, and I'm not sure that I could even if I wanted to. If you want intelligent stories with concise yet vivid writing and realistic characters, then Octavia Butler is absolutely the writer for you.
Rating: 5 stars
Vivid writing, engaging plot, convincing characters, and intelligent world building. Highly recommended.