Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that should absolutely be put at the top of your TBR pile. Recommended books will vary across genre and age category and include shiny new books, older books you may have missed, and some classics I suggest finally getting around to. Make space for another pile of books on your floor because here we go!
Today’s pick is a graphic novelization of a book that turned my whole idea of science fiction upside down.
Octavia E. Butler’s Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation by Damian Duffy and John Jennings
Kindred is one of my favorite pieces of speculative fiction. It’s one of those books that is so intense that I find myself frequently clenching my jaw or holding my breath while reading. The book is pretty violent both physically and psychologically and this graphic novelization adds multiple new levels to the terror.
The first page is the prologue. It is artwork of our protagonist, Dana, in a hospital bed. The words, “I lost an arm on my last trip home” are the only words on the page. The artwork is a gut-punch and if you haven’t read Kindred at all, you won’t know why until much later.
The present time in the book is June 1976. Dana, a Black woman author, and her husband Kevin, who is white, just moved into a house in Altadena, California down in Los Angeles County. Dana and Kevin are working on unpacking boxes and Dana starts feeling funny, like she’s going to pass out. She suddenly finds herself not in her new house but on the bank of a river and there’s a little boy that looks like he’s drowning. His mother is screaming his name (Rufus) and Dana jumps in the water, grabs the kid, and brings him to shore. His mom starts hitting Dana and yelling that Dana killed the kid and Dana starts administering CPR and saves Rufus’s life. Suddenly there’s a voice yelling “What’s going on?” and a click. Dana turns around to see there’s a rifle in her face and then instantly she appears back in her home with Altadena a few feet from where she had disappeared right in front of Kevin. She’s wet, covered in mud, and terrified. Kevin says Dana had disappeared for a few seconds, but to Dana, it felt like she was in that other place for a few minutes.
Some time later, maybe a few days, it happens again. Dana disappears from her dinner table with Kevin and suddenly finds herself in a bedroom, where Rufus, who is a bit older, has put himself in danger and Dana saves him again. Rufus and his mother were both white, and the clothes they were wearing look like they’re from a hundred-fifty years earlier. Dana learns that it’s the year 1815 and they are on a plantation, owned by Rufus’s father. Dana’s present and Rufus’s past are inextricably linked as she keeps getting sucked back to this awful, terrifying time to save his life.
Content warnings for graphic violence, racism, suicide, and sexual assault.
Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at Audiobooks.com with a free trial!
That’s it for now, book-lovers!
Find more books by subscribing to Book Riot Newsletters.