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Fledgling, by Octavia E. Butler Book Review | SFReader.com
Fledgling, by Octavia E. Butler Genre: Fantasy Publisher: Grand Central Publishing Published: 2005 Review Posted: 9/21/2006 Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: 10 out of 10
Fledgling, by Octavia E. Butler
Book Review by Kate Savage
Have you read this book?
An amnesiac girl awakens in darkness, unsure whether she is blind or in a dark enclosure. She is in pain and starving, but food arrives in a seemingly serendipitous twist ensuring survival beyond her immediate crisis. In the days to follow, her blindness slowly resolves but not her memory. All that is apparent is that she survived a fire and is alone in the wilderness. Stumbling upon a road, she connects with a young man. Together they attempt to solve the mystery of where she came from and who she is. There are other anomalies to solve, for while she physically looks pre-pubescent it is clear she is no child and has a natural taste for blood.
Eventually, "she" is identified as Shori, the sole survivor of a horrible attack against her extended family in which all the others were shot or burned alive. Shori is Ina - an ancient race that is the basis for the vampire myths. Unlike mythic vampires, there is nothing supernatural about the Ina. They form symbiotic ties with humans. Humans supply blood in return for a narcotic that extends their life span. Both Ina and humans develop deep emotional bonds and stable Ina-human communities form the basis of a prosperous culture. Unfortunately, there is no resolution when she finds her own people because the attacks continue. Apparently, Shori is unique and controversial among her people. She was genetically engineered to be able to be awake during the day and to tolerate limited sunlight. This was done by blending human and Ina genes. To add injury to insult, those genes are from an African American and she looks black while all the other Ina are white. In seeking justice, Shori encounters racism, appeasement and inertia.
For the readers of Octavia E. Butler, it has been seven longs years since her last book. When I first read the synopsis for Fledgling, I was disappointed at the idea of a vampire story by Butler. I couldn't see her creating a character like Dracula, Lestat or Buffy. I should not have worried. Butler re-invents vampirism with considerable ingenuity and deftness. She does not tell a gothic tale but there is vibrant romance and eroticism. While there are truly horrific elements in the storyline, they are not based on tropes from the horror genre but familiar ones based on human nature.
Butler continues to write to her strengths. Her protagonist is a strong and resourceful woman. The loss of her family and her memory is tragic but instead of dwelling on it, she lets it fuel her passion for closure. As she builds characters, social relations and Ina culture, Butler imagines a world close to ours but one richer and more liberating. An interesting tension in this book is the notion that one should not be so easily seduced by something that appears simple and pleasant. However, like the potential symbionts, the reader's desire to resist evaporates because the story is compelling. Above all else, Butler is a master story teller and there are universal truths in Fledgling that can be brought full circle to our everyday lives.
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