More modern vampires

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).


5 thoughts on “More modern vampires

  1. I liked this least of all the NTTBG books but haven’t gotten around to writing up the review yet. I would read another book by this auther though as when I browsed the reviews on Amazon alot of people said this wasn’t her usual standard. I did manage to finish it as it was easy to read it was just the writing.

  2. I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy this as much as I did. As I mentioned in the NTTVBG discussion, the writing didn’t really make an impression on me either way. It was good enough to communicate the story and not bad enough to be distracting (aside from the typos in my edition!) There may have been some points where my interest flagged, but it’s been so long since I read it that I’ve forgotten. I do remember that what I really liked about it was the way she creatively addressed so many ideas of power and whatnot. And it is a clever take on vampirism.

    I also liked Kindred pretty well. It’s a time travel story, and very exciting, but I didn’t find the ideas to be quite as interesting. I haven’t read Parable of the Sower, but it’s on my list.

    • Teresa, You did recommend it to me last year when I was doing my Season of the Living Dead! Sorry I should have remembered and linked.

      I did enjoy it, and it was definitely a really clever take on vampirism as you say, but it was a bit lacking in something. I would have liked it to be more Sci Fi – to find out more about the genetic engineering in particular (if she’d have lived, maybe she would have written the prequel tackling this …). Shori’s amnesia was a useful device for telling us about the Ina, but once she scented out more of her kind, it all seemed a bit easy and I found this half of the book less satisfying. I’d definitely like to read more books by her though.

  3. Hmmm I think this and The Boys in the Trees tie as my least favs of the NTTVBG but in a weird way I am still quite glad that I read it, if only I knew why hahaha.

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