I don’t always like science fiction, especially when I think it is going to be too complicated or too stressful. Post apocalyptic, people trying to survive in a world pretty convincingly having gone to crap in the not so distant future isn’t always the relaxation and diversion I am looking for in a book.
But reading challenges are about expanding the mind and the possibilities, right? To make us uncomfortable for the sake of growth?
I found both of the books I am posting on here engaging. One I didn’t expect to be engaging and another has been one I have been looking to read for awhile now and when it fit a category, even though I had already read the first one, I had to do it, too. Two on a category I tend to have to talk myself into reading, no less! I know. I didn’t expect it either. An added bonus, but not a fact that made me anticipate not liking these works is that the protagonists aren’t only women, but women of color.
And on reflection for the purposes of this post, it makes sense I’d get absorbed into females in sci fi. It’s the ultimate of girl power. Both of these are about pulling gender roles into greater equality. Both are about women who have special powers who, among other things, greatly enjoy their sexuality. And women kicking butt!!
Parable of the Sower, Octavia Butler
It’s difficult to consider myself well read if I have never picked up Octavia Butler. I have this fuzzy list in my head of whose works I might not gravitate toward but who I still think are important, and Octavia has always been one of them, along with Ursula K. LeGuin.
I was immediately captivated by this book. I wanted to know about their world and the dangers within and how she gets out of it when it inevitably burns down from the violence and the desperation they are steeped in. It’s later in the book when they say that the time frame is about 7-10 years from now, or I wasn’t paying enough attention to that fact in the beginning for it to turn me off to reading it. I don’t think things will be in that state in that short a time frame, with the gross corruption and people having to live in walled communities to stay safe from the larger world. I had to push myself a little to do this one, and then I was hanging on every word.
Some who reviewed this on Audible thought it was ‘preachy.’ The protagonist is building her own religion but she is developing it as a lens through which to make sense of and manage the crazy chaotic world she was placed in. Science fiction, to me, always has that taste of philosophy that goes with it, like in Le Guin’s Tales of Earthsea, when so much hinged upon knowing a name and what that meant. If you are building special worlds then there are considerations for world building and religion for the people. It is part of context, not meant to be preachy. And in this book, she becomes a religious type leader, but I think it is to have rules with which to organize and give her new group purpose. They are trying to survive in a new way and that new way is going to need a framework, whether it be that ‘we lie and steal and everyone for themselves’ or “God is change’ and wanting to promote the good of the group. She has her nay sayers, like in any believable group, but she also has the best chance of making this whole survival thing work.
This book was captivating and I didn’t expect it to b.e The world was clear and I wanted to know what was next with her surviving in it. There was always something going to crap, like I would think is the norm in futuristic apocalyptic sci fi. I listened to this, mostly, and I liked the narrator as a woman of color as the protagonist was. It all made it seem more real and pulled together. And she kicked butt.
Who Fears Death, Nnedi Okorafor
I wanted to read this as it was, and I don’t remember the original impetus, and then I saw a copy of it on my best friend’s desk on a weekend trip to NYC and considered sliding it into my bag. He said his interest was because it was going to be made into an HBO series and he wanted to read it first. And he is kind of tired of reading about white people, something in my ultimate whiteness might never happen to me.
Then Amazon put it out for 1.99 and I don’t know why they did this right before I realized that this also qualified for the reading challenge, halfway through Parable and I was like the universe wants me to do two in this luscious category of girl power. It wanted me to roll about in it.
The funny thing about the HBO production is because people were getting confused because George RR Martin is going to be producing it and people thought that he wrote it, which is hilarious that anyone who read this book would think that a white man wrote it. Dr. Okorafor shut down the rumors on Twitter, as she should, but it’s just another symptom of our society to think that Martin wrote this.
This is bad ass girlpower, even more than Parable. This tackles gender inequality in a huge way, not just in that the protagonist has all kinds of power that some men don’t have and the men who do have it don’t want to share it with women, but that she verbally confronts these differences. She uses her powers to overcome institutionalized sexual oppression of women. She is a sorcerer, a healer, she is fierce, she came from trauma and less than nothing to rise above. She can change into animals! I loved reading about her discovering herself and her powers, her changing relationships, her heart. This book was awesome and beautiful. It was mystical realism instead of magical, and didn’t have the weird sexual relationships.
That said, this book is also intense. I listened to a significant part of it and the narrator’s style was appropriate but hard to hook my brain into initially. The topics are intense, the trauma and the inequality are intense. The sexuality is intense. This book is a ride.
If you want nonwhite girl power, do these. I love it.