Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation HC
Publisher: Abrams ComicArts
Release Date: January 10, 2017
Price: $24.95
Creator(s): Adapted by Damian Duffy and John Jennings, from the novel by Octavia Butler
Format: 240 pgs., Full-Color, Hardcover
ISBN: 978-1-4197-0947-0
Age Rating: Adults
ICv2 Rating: 5 Stars out of 5

I do not lightly give anything a 5-star rating, but this is the best graphic adaptation of a full novel that I have ever encountered.

Kindred, by Octavia Butler, was a jarring and powerful novel when it came out almost 40 years ago, and the story remains powerful today.  The basic premise is that a 20th century African American woman suddenly finds herself transported to the early 19th century, in an area where slavery is very much alive and thriving.  It is not simply the "ohmygod, I’m someplace horrible" aspect that is riveting, but instead it’s the various aspects of a society in which slavery is taken for granted as seen from a more modern viewpoint.

This adaptation, by two academics who are also creators, does an excellent job of preserving the original story and transporting it into a form in which the illustrations are central to the narrative.  As in turning a novel into a movie, this requires great skill in reducing the prose to fit the medium, and in this they have done an outstanding job.  Even the idiosyncratic chapter structure is kept, as the segments of the story occur over time in both centuries.

This graphic novel adaptation presents Butler’s work to a new audience, and the book belongs in every library and in the hands of any adult reader interested in serious graphic fiction.  There is nudity and violence in the story, but mature teens could handle it as well.

--Nick Smith: Library Technician, Community Services, for the Pasadena Public Library in California.