This is the second time I’ve read this book, and given that thee stories are linked to endnotes and afterwords by Octavia Butler, it’s a valuable book for a lot of reasons, reading the stories themselves, not always.
Butler tells us in the opening introduction that for the most part, she’s not a short story writer. She suggests that a lot of short stories either end up becoming novels, or are clearly novel openings that need to be abandoned, and this collection sometimes feels like the latter group, while a handful of the stories feel whole.
The collection is mostly stories, with two additional essays involved, and more than a great selection of her writing, it’s almost documentary in its appeal. A couple of the stories themselves, while interesting, feel exploratory, if I am being generous, and gimicky if I am not. The best stories here do feel like novel stubs because she best imagines new worlds, that given a different set of circumstances feel like they could be the start of trilogies. The title story, which involves a human male accepting to be a childbearer for an alien race, has that feel, as does a later story about two people who are both carriers of a debilitating disease. There’s a “sympathetic” incest story here, as well as a “Talk with God” story which are interesting, but not really stories, so much as exploring a conceit. I would say this finishes off a reading of all of Butler well, but as a book on its own, it feels somewhat underwhelming.