Wednesday, November 2, 2016


FledglingFledgling by Octavia E. Butler

Quick review:
A great addition to vampire lore, with a believable type of vampire, still very sexy. Great story, fascinating characters, but bogged down slightly toward the end, which dropped it from what would have been a 5 star rating. Nevertheless, highly recommended!

Full review:
This book tells the story of Shori, a 53- year old vampire (still considered a child by other vampires), who looks like a pre-adolescent black girl. It begins with Shori awakening in a cave, horribly injured, with no memory of who she is or how she came to be injured. She begins to heal, and ventures out to find out who she is and what happened to her. A young man finds her wandering along the road, and Shori is drawn to him. She feeds briefly on his blood, and we see how very sexual this act is, both for Shori and the man. She moves in with him, and they begin to unravel the mystery of her past. The reader discovers the facts along with Shori, which makes for interesting reading. She eventually finds some of her relatives, and discovers why she is black, and what happened to her. This entire portion of the book is fast-paced, and the gradual reveal of what is going on draws the reader inexorably on. It was only in the latter third of the book, where we get into a sort of trial, that the story bogged down for me. It wasn’t terribly slow, but it was a lot of exposition, and not much action, compared to the beginning section. For this reason, it lost one star in my rating. Up until that point, it was undeniably a 5-star book.

The twist that Butler brings to vampire lore is quite interesting, and quite believable (assuming one can believe in vampires.) In this world, vampires are an ancient race, who evolved along with humans (or possibly an alien race - the vampires aren’t sure), and who have a symbiotic relationship with humans. They do not kill humans when they feed (though they could), but they gather a group of humans together and live much like a commune. The vampire feeds on a different human each night, so as not to take too much blood. The humans benefit from the vampire feedings by receiving near perfect health and a much extended life span (200 years) because of the vampire venom. Additionally, there is a psychological bond between vampire and symbiont, based on the sexual feelings aroused by feeding. Vampire and symbiont become a “family” with extremely strong bonds. The sexual nature of the relationship was done very well by Butler, along with how the “family” forms. I really like this kind of vampire, and am so sorry that Butler died before she could write any more books in what was clearly going to be a series.

This being a book by Butler, race and gender play a crucial role. By making Shori black, when all other vampires are white, brings our own racial conflict into the narrative, giving us another perspective, as all good literature should do. Giving her the appearance of a young girl brings gender and age/power roles into the mix. It’s quite a mental image to have of a pre-teen girl having sex and behaving like a grown woman. It’s a little uncomfortable, even, which I’m sure was part of what Butler wanted to achieve. The reader is forced to look at her own views on age, race, and gender.

Overall, this is a great addition to the vampire genre, and a book that any fan of the genre should read. Spectacularly well done!

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