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Review: Fledgling by Octavia E. Butler

>>Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Title: Fledgling
Author: Octavia E. Butler
Format: Paperback
Pages: 310
Genre: Science Fiction
Publication Date: January 2nd, 2007
Publisher: Warner Books
Rating: B+
Challenge: Calico_Reaction's Book Club - February Challenge

From back cover: Shori is a mystery. Found alone in the woods, she appears to be a little black girl with traumatic amnesia and near-fatal wounds. But Shori is a fifty-three-year-old vampire with a ravenous hunger for blood, the lost child of an ancient species of near-immortals who live in dark symbiosis with humanity. Genetically modified to be able to walk in daylight, Shori now becomes the target of a vast plot to destroy her and her kind. And in the final apocalyptic battle, her survival will depend on whether all humans are bigots -- or all bigots are human . . .

Fledgling is going to be a hard book to write a review about. It's very complex and different that many books I've read before. It's a very different take on vampires and holds deeper thoughts on gender, race and community.

The novel's premise is very simple: it follows Shori, the young vampire on her quest to regain her memory and avenge the murder of her family. This is essentially how Butler sets the story up: we, like Shori, are learning the ways of the Ina (the vampire species) and also uncovering the mystery of who is killing other Ina.

The favorite part of this book is the world building. Butler creates a unique take on vampies: they are Ina, another species, who needs to co-exist with human symbionts (who likewise rely on them) in order to live. They live in communities together seperated by gender (although the human symbionts can be of any gender). Butler has thought through this whole history and evolution of vampires that it really becomes a joy to read. They have a history, culture, and some scientific background. I felt like Butler was also writing about other things through the idea of Ina, such as gender, sexuality, race and community.

Most of the time I felt uncomfortable reading about the Ina. For example, they need humans to live, but they also have a lot of control over them. Humans do get huge benefits for being symbionts such as living longer, but I could never resolve the idea that there wasn't much free will. I also felt weird about Shori looking like a young girl but being 53 years old and how this effected her relationships. I think Butler was purposeful in writing in this way, that she wanted us teeter on the edge of comfort and never be quite okay with the Ina (which is interesting, since in many other vampire books we are meant to be attracted, almost without question, to the vampires).

Since this is my first Butler book, I was really pleased with the writing. It's simple yet full of substance that makes it very light yet satisfying. However, I feel as if Butler's writing is anything but light; there is always something deeper to think about.

My main issue with this book is that not much happens in way of the plot. It's mostly a journey of discovery, which is great, but I would have liked to have more things going on plot-wise. I think this would be great as a first in a series for this reason.

Overall I would defnitely recommend Fledgling to a reader who is looking for a very interesting and different take on vampire lore, who loves Butler's books, or is looking for smart science fiction that makes you think. I will definitely be reading more of Butler's work soon. B+


  1. I've heard really good things about Butler, especially about this book. I allllmost picked it up the other day. Perhaps I'll go back finally purchase it! Great review! :)

  2. Very well said. This one of of those books that have been sitting in my TBR pile for a while. I think I've put it off for precisely the same reasons you point out - the plotting - but I do love her style and I know I'll get to it eventually.

  3. @Lily: Thanks! :D I hope you enjoy it!

    @sally: Luckily, the book isn't too long or hard to read, so I think the fact that there's not much plot as I would have liked, it didn't stop me from reading it. I'd read it when you're feeling for an experience rather than a whole lot of action.

  4. I'm reading this right now! Nice to read your thoughts on the book. :)



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