I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
Fledgling, Octavia Butler's new novel after a seven year break, is the story of an apparently young, amnesiac girl whose alarmingly inhuman needs and abilities lead her to a startling conclusion: She is in fact a genetically modified, 53-year-old vampire. Forced to discover what she can about her stolen former life, she must at the same time learn who wanted - and still wants - to destroy her and those she cares for and how she can save herself. Fledgling is a captivating novel that tests the limits of "otherness" and questions what it means to be truly human.
Read to fill the Diverse Authors square of the Halloween Book Bingo that I am participating in.
Octavia Butler is such an interesting author—I have come to expect good things from her work. This one is slightly less wonderful. Maybe call it a 3.5 star book. This is Butler’s take on the vampire myth and she moves it in her own unique direction. As usual in her writing, there is an exploration of power dynamics and (also as usual) some animals are more equal than others. The Ina, as these vampires call themselves, live in communes which also house their symbionts (non-Ina blood sources). These relationships are generally based on mutual choice, although once a vampire has fed from a person a certain amount, that person becomes addicted to the vampire’s venom and cannot leave. So the decision to go must be made with good speed or there is no escape. Some free-will, quickly replaced by dependence. Also, as each Ina needs 6-8 symbionts, there can be interesting household dynamics, rather like living in student dorms.
Also explored is the matter of skin colour. Shori, the main protagonist, has been genetically engineered (shadows of Butler’s Xenogenesis series) to have darker skin and an ability to stay alert and active during daytime hours. Do some within the tall, pale Ina object to these changes in appearance?
I stayed up far too late on Saturday night to finish this volume. Although it is a stand-alone novel, in my opinion it could quite easily have become a multi-volume series. It is unfortunate for all of her fans that Butler suffered from depression and writer’s block in her later years and as a result Fledgling remained a stand-alone. Ms. Butler died much too young.