This novel was definitely not what I was expecting... not that I had any expectations. I still found myself pleasantly surprised with what this novel turned out to be.
The summary itself is intriguing enough (see this post for a summary and quote). The idea of a modern black woman traveling back to a slave plantation is one that I had never even thought of... it's such an interesting concept, and I'm really interested in looking into more novels like this one.
One thing about this book is that from the very beginning, it keeps you wanting to know more. I can guarantee that anyone who reads the prologue will want to read the rest, if only to figure out "how did this happen?!" And if you aren't pulled in by the prologue, I know that the first couple of pages will definitely get your attention. This book doesn't waste time in getting to the point: it goes right into the story, and the action doesn't stop until the very end. Once you pick this up, you will not want to stop reading... there are very few points in the novel where you can set it aside without wanting to pick it right back up again. In fact, two nights in a row I stayed up much later than I should have, just because I had to know what happened right then... it couldn't wait.
The other part of this novel that I absolutely loved is the characters. The thing about a novel like this is that the characters have to play their part. And damn, did Octavia Butler deliver. The MC, Dana, was true to who she was: a modern black woman who didn't belong on a plantation. She didn't suddenly develop superhuman strength and overthrow her white "masters". It was apparent that she didn't fit in from the very moment she arrived: she was educated, dressed differently, and had endured none of the abuse and suffering that black people in slavery had to endure. While her experiences on the plantation changed that for her, she never did fit in.
Her (white) husband also was a very believable character. Due to events in the novel, he was forced to spend an amount of time living in the early 1800s... and it affected him. If he would have come out of it unaffected, I would have laughed at the ridiculousness of this novel. However, he showed change, and I doubt that he or Dana ever truly recovered from their experiences.
I also loved that this novel didn't have what you might call a "happy" ending. Dana didn't go back in time to change the world... she went back in time to change a person. And this was all done in a very believable way.
Overall, this book was COMPLETELY AMAZING. It has been on my mind since I finished it, and I will definitely look out for more Octavia Butler books.