Sunday, November 13, 2011

Octavia Butler and Daughter of Smoke and Bone

It occurred to me that I might blog more often if I didn't spend three hours writing a blog entry. That last one could have been three posts, couldn't it?  Hmm. In the meantime, the writing is still happening, slowly. It feels rather like getting ketchup out of the bottle. I'm hoping for the sudden blurp when way too much ketchup ends up on your hamburger, but I'm still waiting. Like in the Heinz commercials. (It doesn't help that I checked on my geography today and discovered that a key plot point is impossible. (And this is geography I'm intimately familiar with, so I don't know why I came up with that plot idea in the first place.) The story is set in the future, though, so maybe I'm going to have to give Vancouver that earthquake that we're all waiting for and alter the geography so my plot still works. I love fiction.)

I know I mentioned Laini Taylor's newest a few weeks ago, and I've been meaning to blog about it, but I want to do it justice and I haven't felt like I could devote the time required. Which is stupid, because it means I'm not blogging about it at all.

But first I have to mention an adult science fiction writer I just discovered: Octavia Butler. I borrowed her novel Fledgling from a friend of mine. What a great title. (And I love the cover.) What an interesting, interesting book. This is a novel about vampires that you should not read if you generally like vampire novels. Intellectual is not quite the right word, but it's close. What if vampires didn't kill people; what if they entered into symbiotic relationships with them, relationships of love and trust in which the humans get whatever they want, but the vampires have all the control. Would that be okay? I found it fascinating how Butler kept my sympathy with the narrator: the young vampire does things that would be reprehensible if a human were to do them, but she does them within her own moral and ethical code, so they feel right. And the fact that they feel right feels seriously creepy. Fledgling has a plot with its own suspense, but to me the page-turning aspect wasn't what was going to happen next, it was what will I agree with next. Deliciously interesting. Like sushi.

Okay, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, by Laini Taylor. It hardly needs my endorsement, since it's made all kinds of Best Books lists and everyone is raving about it, but I'll continue my Laini Taylor fandom and say you have to go read this book. It has everything I like about Taylor's writing:  lush prose, dense with colorful detail, incredibly imaginative world-building, traditional mythologies mined for their deepest gems and then turned into something entirely new (angels and devils, yes, but these are not the angels and devils anyone else is writing about). My favorite thing about this novel? It's set in Prague, the most beautiful, evocative, artistic city I've ever visited. I also loved Karou's best friend the puppeteer. And the shop with doors that open in places around the world. Best use of teeth in a fantasy. I could go on, but I don't need to. I was thinking I'd compare it to a Czech dish, something desserty you'd eat with coffee in the afternoon: maybe apple strudel or blueberry dumplings. I only hope that the success of this series (yeah, cliffhanger ending: there'd better be another book coming!) allows her to get back to the Dreamdark books.


  1. I loved Daughter of Smoke and Bone too!! I've never read a book with the same setting. Loved Akiva and Karou. I've never tasted a Czech dish but I bet they taste good too. :) I can't wait for the sequel!

  2. Have you read her Fairies of Dreamdark books? They're for a younger audience, but I thought they were great.

  3. Laini Taylor has a very original way of writing. She uses humor in just the right places, in the right way and knows how to provoke strong feelings (i did cry in this book). I especially enjoyed her lovely expressions and descriptions. Some were just so unique.

    1. Yes, she's one of the authors I want to have a notebook with me when I read, because I want to remember all her beautiful sentences.

  4. From under the cone of shame: I have never read any of Octavia Butler's books. She's been on my list of To Read for years. You motivated me. I just reserved Fledgling from the library (even though I'm not a big fan of vampires, I know her take will be different). Although what I really should to is read some of her classic science fiction.