The coming of age novel was a golden age mainstay. Butler's work here is reminiscent of the novellae of golden age writers. As we might have been in an Asimov, Heinlein or Silverberg, we are placed in midstream in a future history constructed as an extension of other Butler novels. Butler novels typically feature the dilemma of being human in a dystopian setting--this novel is no exception. This "future earth", inhabited by one group of humanoids with enhanced mental powers, and another group of intelligent nomads infected by an alien virus, is easy to wrap one's imagination around even if one is not familiar with the Butlerverse. Butler also spares us the detailed rehash of "prior future history to the present future history" that could weigh down (and no doubt increase word counts in Astounding Magazine of serializations of) the golden age novels. Instead,we have all of Butler's strengths at play--a direct, intelligent writing style, an ability to convey character in spare, plausible phrases, and plotting which is neither heavy science nor pure fantasy, but has a unique fictive plausibility allowing an easy "buy-in" by the reader. The book also has the factors that can make a Butler slightly off-putting--casual violence, a chilling soul-lessness permeating the characters, and an abiding sense of otherness. If you've always wanted to try Butler, but want to do one in an afternoon to see if you like her, this is the one to try. I read this during a 3 hour interval, and found myself never bored nor particularly desirous of a longer stay in this particular world than need be. Butler is the real thing--and this is not a bad introduction to her.