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Patternmaster by Octavia E. Butler []



Folks have been recommending that I read Octavia E. Butler for some time. I’ve received recommendations from friends that know I like Ursula Le Guin and have told me that I would therefore like Butler’s writing as well, and I’ve also received recommendations from friends who have said, “Oh, you like science fiction. I don’t read much science fiction, but I just read this book by Octavia E. Butler…”.

I picked up my first novel by Octavia E. Butler, Patternmaster, last Thursday, and I finished reading it over the weekend. Needless to say, I enjoyed it! In this short novel, Butler introduces us to a post-apocalyptic world in which humans are divided into a complex system of social castes and warring factions based upon the powerful mental powers of some, and the disease induced mutations of others. The story, of a student who leaves school to find himself in conflict with his own power hungry brother, is relatively simple, but the detailed world in which it takes place makes it feel like part of something much bigger.

Reader’s of Ursula Le Guin’s fiction will recognize themes of class, gender, and sexuality in Butler’s writing, as well as a similar approach to speculative fiction that is based on rigorous world building and avoids the stereotypes of the genre. The struggles depicted in Patternmaster are, however, more violent, and the cast more power hungry, than in Le Guin’s writings. If you like Ursula Le Guin and don’t mind the a story with some loose ends and some violent passages, you should give Patternmaster a try.

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