Fledgling by Octavia Butler

 

This is definitely one of those “Why did I wait so long to read this??” books. I picked up Fledgling from a used bookstore a couple years ago, but it’s just been sitting on my shelf. I added it to my TBR for this month because I wanted to read something I’ve had on my shelves for a while, and plus it was about vampires so perfect for Halloween-time, right? Well, it was not even remotely scary so maybe not a great Halloween pick, but it was still a great read.

Fledgling is about a black girl named Shori. She’s a 53-year old vampire who looks like she’s about 10 or 11, but she doesn’t know any of this about herself. At the book’s opening, she wakes up barely alive – blind and burned, with a crushed skull. She eventually heals, but with no memory of who she is or what has happened to her. She comes to realize that she is a vampire, an experimental, genetically modified one who is unique in her ability to be in the daylight, and that she is the only survivor of a brutal attack on her family. Shori has to set out to learn about herself, about what it means to be a vampire, and who is launching the attacks against her people.

I kind of very much love Octavia Butler’s version of vampire lore. I don’t want to spoil much, but I think most of it makes a lot more sense than the traditional folklore. She does some unique things with their existence, abilities, and traditions that I haven’t seen done elsewhere. I think that you’ll like this a lot if you enjoy the mythology of vampires more than the action and gore of vampire stories. But for me, that’s only one part of what made this so interesting.

Race plays a secretly big role in this book, and Butler uses it to make some commentary on the way the concept of race exists in our world, through her use of genetic modification in Shori’s creation to how insidious racial bias is. I had a great, long conversation with my husband about the race dynamics in Fledgling, especially after a pretty critical review I happened across online when I was about ⅔ through the book. And of course, Octavia uses this simple plot – who is trying to hurt Shori and how can they be stopped – as a backdrop to play with concepts of sexuality, consent, power, family, justice, and intimacy. I wish that I had read this with a book club because there’s just so much to be picked apart here. I love it when novels give me a lot to chew over.

Have you read it? Thoughts?

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2 comments

    1. Yes! And the review I read criticized it for Shori being basically white in all but skin and for her being an outsider because of her blackness and constantly victimized… and that was not at all what I got from the book. Shori’s blackness only made her stronger, which I thought was a fabulous. I basically disagree with everything that review said, but it made me stop and think about the book more deeply, which I appreciated.

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