Octavia Butler, 336 pgs, Seven Stories Press, sevenstories.con, $27.95 USD
Shori is a young vampire who has caught amnesia. No, wait! Hear me out. I know these two tropes are clumsy cliches for many, but in the wily hands of Octavia Butler they come together in an engaging page-turner. I count myself a vampire connoisseur to an embarrassing extent, from your fantastic True Bloods, to your fangless Twilights, through every Dracula iteration I can sink my teeth into. And most of this book struck me as an absorbing modern vampire tale with a science fiction twist.
But then that ending dropped like a cold slap to the face. What seemed like an entertaining vampire adventure with somewhat sophomoric social insights blossomed into maybe the most poignant metaphorical commentary on racial politics I’ve ever read. And with-out a hint of preachiness. You won’t find the like in Anne Rice. This was my first Octavia Butler book, and her reputation preceded her as first I cracked into these pages. So I had high expectations, and though it was a slow burn to get there, the rollercoaster final third of the book pays off in droves.
Fair warning, this book is not for the squeamish. It is preoccupied with sex of a problematic nature. Even for a vampire story. Shori is fifty-three years old, but she presents physically as a girl of about eleven. So proceed with caution, but I think one would be mistaken to shy away from this provocative book. It invites you to wallow in messy morality, but Shori’s adventure is ultimately as enlightening as it is entertaining and touching.
This was my first Octavia Butler book, and while it may have been her last, it won’t be mine.