One day I found myself browsing a used book shelf at a local store. Lying sideways in the science fiction shelf a novel called 'Survivor' caught my eye. It was written by an author of whom I had read in the past, Octavia E. Butler. I was introduced to her though her Xenogenesis series and loved it very much. I quickly snatched it up and have been so happy I did.
Survivor turns out to be a hard to find novel. It's one that Ms. Butler dislikes (she calls it her Star Trek novel) so it's highly unlikely she will ever reprint the story again. Heck, I've checked out Ebay and noticed the same paperback novel I picked up for two dollars going for fifty! Wow.
The story is apparently part of her Patternmaster series. Don't ask me how an entire novel could be left out of a series, it must be frustrating for her fans. Anyhow, after researching the novel on the Internet (we need more sites on Butler!), I determined that it must be book three in the series. I must read series' in order, I am anal that way so I picked up the previous novels first and read them. Eventually the time came to read Survivor.
Survivor is the story of a human colony on another planet. They left Earth because of a plague-like threat in the hopes of saving humanity. Alanna is one such survivor.
The humans start off trying to develop their colony in much the normal human fashion. They farm, have relationships and the like. What they do not know is there are two warring races currently on their new home planet: The Garkohn and the Tehkohn. Who should the humans ally themselves with? Which is good and which is evil? Will the humans survive this war?
Alana is captured by the rival race Tehkohn, she is placed with a family and basically raised by them. It's her life story we read about. She learns this race's ways and even marries one of them. Eventually she becomes a trusted member and is allowed to return home to visit. There, she is hated and mistrusted. Her family won't even speak to her as they feel she is practically committing beastiality by being married to one of them.
Alanna's human survivors are in dire trouble and need her help. Will they listen or ignore her?
The novel reads as easily as all of Ms. Butler previous works. None of the characters from the previous two Patternmaster novels are present. The novel stands by itself and doesn't contain the necessity of reading the previous two books. The only thing the previous two novels provide is the backdrop of why these non-psychic, non-clayark diseased humans left the Earth in the first place. Those two facts are not really important to the story though.
Octavia always brings in racial issues and social commentary into her stories. It's one of the things I really enjoy about her work. It's not hard science fiction as I like to call it. Pages upon pages of technical jargon about a laser aren't written about in her books. She writes about relationships and human interaction with alien beings. One can't help but wonder about what she bases her writing on being a black woman though. It places thoughts in you mind about black slavery and what it must have been like for them. Not being black myself, I have no first hand, passed down knowledge about such things. All I can do is speculate. I think of these things when Alanna is not trusted by her Tehkohn community, of when she is disowned by her father for marrying a different race, and even of her clashes with racial beliefs. Was it, is it like that for African Americans and other races in North America?
Octavia Butler's story Survivor opens up the thought process much like most of her work. The Patternist series is quickly becoming one of my favorite all time sets and if you are a Butler fan, I highly recommend this novel if you can find it but I don't think it's worth fifty dollars for an old ratty paperback.
As a whole, the Patternist series is turning out to be an extremely entertaining post-apocalyptic future where humanity's racial tensions still exist. This time however, it is mainly mutated humans and aliens that discriminate or are discriminated against. While the first two novels in the series were tied directly to each other, Survivor stands alone by itself, only using little pieces of the past two as a backdrop for this new story.
Hopefully Butler fans can find copies at their local libraries or another means of reading this book....Continua