Kindred is one of those books one might hesitate to review because—for me, anyway, I’m thinking, “Shit, I’m not worthy.” This is Octavia Frickin’ Butler we’re talking about here. Octavia Butler was a goddess in the world of sci-fi. Not only was she a frickin’ genius and wrote heavy, issues-laden, but ultimately engrossing books, she was a lady sci-fi writer. It’s hard to imagine in this day and age, but science fiction is still unfortunately a male-dominated field and for an African-American lady to come in, re-write the rules, and dominate? That is crazy-awesome. She also wrote about black chicks and made them the protagonist of her books even back in the day when people would refuse to read something just because the lead character is black. Shit, I’m pretty sure that’s still going on. She is admired and praised by veteran sci-fi writers, even by the alleged pompous sexist dickbag, Harlan Ellison. Can someone who writes snarky book reviews riddled with dick jokes that are not always funny really dare to *gulp* critique a book written by the great Octavia Butler? Pssssh…enough about me. Let’s get under the blankets, turn the flashlight on, and delve into… (melodramatic pause) Kindred.
“Lake of Dreams”, a novella by Linda Howard in the anthology Everlasting Love, has always been one of my Howard favorites. It’s haunting, romantic, suspenseful, and very erotic. Lake of Dreams is about a young woman on vacation in her family lake house and encounters a man she has never met before, but something about him is naggingly familiar. She dreams about him night after night and the dreams are increasingly erotic, but each one somehow ends with her pleading for her life and him killing her. She is afraid of him, but also obsessively drawn to him and finds herself seeking him out when she should be running in the other direction. It’s not only my favorite “love never dies” story, it’s one of my favorites, period. I just love the idea of a love so strong, so passionate that not even death can tear the couple asunder. Basically, the two lovers come together twelve times and each one has ended in tragedy. On the thirteenth try, they get together and remember everything that had happened in the past because this is their last chance to be together and therefore the last time to get it right. This is the premise of Emma Petersen’s “Make Me Remember,” a novella about a doctor in a small reservation town who falls in love with a Native American sheriff because of the sexy dreams she’s been having about him, apparently stemming from a previous life they may have shared together. Whereas Ms. Howard’s “Lake of Dreams” was emotionally resonant, however, Ms. Petersen’s novella is not as effective because not only is the story too short for the narrative to work, it is also seemingly bogged down by the numerous sex scenes, which oddly enough, prevent the hero and heroine from getting to know each other in a way that rings true to the reader.
Hannah Bryant has always been different. Since she was a child, she’s had vivid dreams of death and loss. Years later, Hannah is a successful doctor who’s gotten past the terrors that used to plague her. In a flash, everything she has worked so hard for is in danger when the dreams return with a vengeance.
But the dreams haunting Hannah’s sleep now are nothing like the ones from her childhood. No longer does she dream of death and destruction—now her dreams are of a man who elicits a reaction from Hannah’s body that’s strangely familiar and startlingly brand new at the same time.