May was a slow reading month for me. But I got to read two good books.
Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler
So I've heard so much about Octavia E. Butler being royalty in the sci-fi world, and I finally have given her a chance, and let's just say I'm keen to read more of her work.
I've recently come to realize that I'm a sucker for sci-fi, particularly anything with a survivalist plot. Parable of the Sower is such a novel, where we follow a girl who escapes her community after it gets burnt down, and finds a new community of her own as she travels through California.
It's simple and a pretty straight-forward read. However, what kind of a sci-fi book would it be without a few sprinkles of druggie murderers on the loose, a condition that enables some people to feel other people's pain, post-modern slavery, and a ton of other threats to make our characters' journey difficult? I love these kind of stories, because even though not much happens action-wise, there's really more happening with who the character is and the choices they have to make.
The way the book is written is through diary entries, so a lot of the time, we aren't in the present moment with our main character, she sort of gives us a retelling of what happened on certain days, and it works really well. The tone is very serious and dreary, though there's some dry humour tossed every now and then. Also, I find it interesting that even though the story is set in the future, the US is such a mess and has deteriorated a lot. Poverty has skyrocketed, depravity is all over the place, misogyny and patriarchy seem to have increased, racism is still evident (though we see a very good racial mix of characters), and all government authority seems to exist only in name.
I think the edition I read was not the best one (Four Walls Eight Windows, 1993), because there were so many writing and editing errors. There were also some things which seemed to have importance, which I didn't really understand well its importance, like the pain sharing ability. I wish we saw more of this in action to have it be a major point of the book. Also, the main character was so plain and seemed a lot more older than she was, but then I guess if you're living everyday to stay alive, you have to mature a bit more when you're young.
But the book is interesting, it's so different from anything I've read before. It would be perfect for a discussion. Butler has a way of writing that seems so casual, yet, so attention-grabbing.
I will definitely be looking out for her other books.
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender
Aimee Bender is a magnificent writer and this book proves it. A little bit of a slow paced book in my opinion, but filled with lots of vivid imagery and character action, lots of small details that make the story all the more robust. It took me a while to get through this book, mostly because there was so much to take in at once.
There is a fantasy/mystical element to this, which is the fact that our main character can taste people's feelings through what food they make. We see her through the years as she learns to cope with this skill. The interesting thing is that through her skill she gets to understand the dynamics of her family, and gets to actually know why each family is the way they are.
It's an O.K. read, be it a little bit long, and not really a memorable read, but the writing is great.