Unexpected Stories by Octavia Butler

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After a few years of watching the human species make things unnecessarily difficult for itself I have little hope that it will do anything more than survive and continue its cycle of errors.

What it’s about: Two never-before-published short stories from the late Butler available only as an ebook.

What I liked about it: These two stories are unexpected, and a great treat for fans of Butler’s work who have already read through her published oeuvre. Even though both stories were written early in her career, they already demonstrate Butler’s command of storytelling and her willingness to explore deep themes of identity, power and the human potential to evolve. The first and longest story, “A Necessary Being,” is a fantasy set in a desert land where a person’s position in society is immediately apparent by the tint of his or her skin, which ranges from green-yellow to purest blue, marking the leaders. It is a fully realized alien culture that still comments on how we view skin color in our own world. The second shorter story, “Childfinder,” is about the nascent development of psychic powers in people. One woman has been finding and training psychic children, trying to build a resistance movement to the government’s efforts to control the psychics. Both stories are absolutely readable, bursting with ideas, and far too short. Either one could have been the opening chapter to a novel that I would have loved to read.

Who might like it: Fans of Octavia Butler’s work; readers of speculative fiction short stories.

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