This book probably deserved a better rating. However, I was so revolted after finishing it, reading page after page describing the gang rape of a [somewhat willing] 16 year old who eventually gets beheaded, that I can’t honestly recommend it. Which is too bad; Octavia Butler is one of my favorite sci fi writers. Her characters are well written and itneresting and she often interjects race issues in ways that are entirely appropriate and thought provoking which lends itself to better-than-average sci fi reading.
The premise of this novel is also fascinating. Astronauts come back from space exploration harboring an aggressive virus. The virus’s mandate is to replicate itself at all costs. This leads to a lot of quasi-survival behavior from the infected humans including a lot of tough-to-read-about sex and aggression. The sex and aggression are appropriate to the story, and the tales of the humans who are undergoing this viral invasion and trying to retain their human instincts at the same time are very poignant, but it crossed a line for me and wound up making me feel icky when I finished it. I generally read female sci fi writers to avoid the whole sex-with-minors aspect that pervades a lot of traditional science fiction, this book let me down.