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Fledgling by Octavia E Butler.

Fledgling was the last choice for the season of the ‘Not the TV Book Group’, and the lively discussion was hosted by Kim at Reading Matters.

Published shortly before the author died, Fledgling is another different and slightly SF take on the vampire novel. Shori looks like a twelve year old black girl, but is actually a genetically engineered 53 year old vampire – as long as she covers up, she can go about in daylight. She awakes injured in the woods with amnesia and once she kills and heals, goes in search of her family with the help of her ‘first’, a man who stops to help her and ends up being her symbiont. They discover that her family has been wiped out, and go in search of other of her kind. Luckily they end up finding a friendly ‘Ina’ group, for that’s her race’s real name, and they initiate her into their ways. It becomes clear that her family were murdered by other Ina, and the novel takes on a courtroom mode as Shori tries to prove their guilt.

This is a novel of big themes – race, sex and fitting in dominate. It’s written to shock – Shori is a sexual being but her body’s young appearance makes it really awkward for us to read.  One thing that came through for me in the discussions was the subtle master / slave relationship between the Ina and their ‘families’ of symbionts – who once bonded to their Ina cannot live without them.

Although I enjoyed reading the book, ultimately it underwhelmed as the author did far too much explaining about the Ina, telling us in too much detail rather than showing. This reduced the immediacy of the otherwise sophisticated plot and also made for some plodding dialogue.  Once Shori found her friends, the quasi-courtroom setting made the last section drag too.  This being Butler’s last book, I have no idea whether it is typical, but do happen to have ‘Parable of the sower’ which has more of a SF sound on my TBR pile to read some time. (6.5/10, I bought this book).

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