Bloodchild by Octavia E. Butler
Published by Headline, 2014 (originally published in 1984)
My rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
I knew nothing about this heading in, other than I wanted to try Butler’s work and had heard this was one of her most revered stories. Boy, was I unprepared for what I got! We find ourselves on a distant planet where humans have come to coexist with a strange alien race called the Tlic. In exchange for a peaceful existence, however, these humans are required to act as living hosts for the Tlics’ eggs.
The narrative itself is bizarre yet compelling (if deliberately revolting at times). Thematically, there are lots of fascinating layers to unpick, especially for such a comparably brief work. These include the fine line between love and servitude, the physical trauma inherent to birth, the reversal of gender roles, and in a more literal sense, the human fear of parasites and bodily invasion.
Despite the short length limiting the opportunity for world-building, Butler does a good job of avoiding clumsy exposition, simply dropping us into this world and allowing us to gleam enough contextual information to find our feet.
I finished the story in a bit of a daze, unsure of what to think or how to feel. What’s certain is that I won’t be forgetting it any time soon, and I’m intrigued to explore more of Butler’s work.
You can find Bloodchild online for free, or pick it up as part of a full collection by clicking here.
Moss by Klaus Modick, translated from the German by David Herman
Published by Bellevue Literary Press, 2020 (originally published in 1984)
My rating: ⭐ ⭐
An ageing botanist returns to his family’s countryside home to reflect on his life and career. Though the novel promises to explore our bond with the natural world, for me it lacked direction, never managing to transcend psychobabble to find any emotional core, thematic resonance, or narrative intrigue. Presented as though our narrator’s diary, the book reads largely like scientific nonfiction, and sadly this didn’t help with the already dry tone. There is also a frankly bizarre scene involving child molestation towards the end that felt completely unearned and unnecessary.
On a more positive note, I did like the notion that language will never do justice to the beauty of nature, and that pursuing exhaustive understanding of something can lessen our appreciation for its simple wonder. There are a few nicely written passages peppered throughout, but unfortunately, I just couldn’t connect to this in any meaningful way.
Thank you to the publisher for a free advanced copy in exchange for an honest review. You can pre-order Moss by clicking here.