Octavia E. Butler
Fledgling Cover

WOGF - Fledgling


I suspected from my previous experiences with books by Octavia Butler (Parable of the Sower, Dawn) that reading Fledgling was going to be an intense experience and I was right.

Fledgling opens to declarations of pain and hunger made by our protagonist Shori, a young black girl who looks to be around 10 or 11. She has been severely injured and has no memory of who she is or how she got into her current state. Shori describes her struggles as she tries to feed and heal and it become apparent that she is not human. After she encounters the first of many allies she discovers that she is a vampire and though she is not sure how old she is she is aware of the fact that she is much older than she appears. From here on it is a race to discover who was behind the vicious attack that nearly killed her and prevent them from succeeding as the try again and again to do so.

What is most enjoyable about this book is the world building. Octavia Butler took the old vampire story and gave it a twist. She created a different type of creature with its own mythology and moral compass which is refreshing and original. The vampires here have a long history, their own social structure, and a special relationship with humans and each other. Learning about the vampire world Butler created is the best part of the novel. The plot is interesting but a lot of it unfolds through dialog (inner and outer) which becomes a bit tedious after a while. There are bursts of action but for the most part the novel focuses on inner turmoil and vampire/human relationships.

It's the relationships that can be a stumbling block for some and certainly complicated my ability to fully love this book. Because the vampires in this novel have their own moral compass with a special relationship with humans there can be a feeling that the vampires and the humans are in a master/slave relationship with some question as to whether it is always consensual or even comfortable for the humans. This creates tension between the characters and may make the reader uncomfortable. Similarly, the relationships that Shori engages in with the adult humans she gathers around her are often erotic or sexual in nature. Since she is only 10 or 11 physically this can be a bit strange to read and made me somewhat uncomfortable.

Butler most likely wanted to make the reader feel uncomfortable, she has never shied away from exploring difficult issues and asking questions that make one think about things that feel strange. In this case, the questions of identity, slavery, and sexuality are expertly explored and while that makes this book quite amazing it also makes it difficult to read. Despite that, I'd still rate the book highly and feel it deserves the praise it has received.