Fledgling by Octavia E. Butler
Grand Central Publishing, 2007
Review written June 16, 2019
Reinventing the vampire novel may not have been Octavia Butler’s intention, yet she created a very believable (as far a vampires go) blend of bloodsucker fiction with her last standalone novel, Fledgling (2005, Seven Stories Press). In this work, the vampires — collectively called Ina — have their own language, scripts and culture. And I’m sorry to disappoint you, these vamps cannot turn humans into Creatures of the Night. There is, however, an interesting symbiotic relationship between Earth’s 2 main species, Ina and human; one which increases the believability of the basic storyline, and still makes me wish I knew an Ina.
The storytelling is clear, and her writing style is sparse, securing only a minimum of words which allow the reader to visualize our protagonists’ environs and motivations, while giving us a first person narrative that is engaging and empathic. Shori is a black vampire, and without giving much away, that’s not her only engaging characteristic. Shori has a defendable story which begins with weakness and ends up with strength, while molding the invented characteristics of her bloodsucking lifestyle and its maintenance into a well thought narrative. This carries us well through the first 80% of the story before it begins focusing on a single event for the last several chapters. In a few occasions, the sparse writing with multiple characters becomes both confused and confusing. At the end of one chapter the writing lacks specifics on which humans are leaving a compound, but I pictured two characters leaving for a few days which were also the 2 companion characters of Shori at the beginning of the next chapter. The 2 very same humans at that point both were and were not involved in the beginning of that next chapter. I tried to assuage my confusion by going back to read the departure scene, and the unspecificity due to the sparsely worded writing style kept me confused.
The only major disappointment here is from the last several chapters, where there is a large Council of Judgment called to address the murders which happened to Shori’s family. Here, the suspicions molded through the first part of the book are given solidification during the 3 days of the Council meeting. With no surprises whatsoever in the last several chapters, the ending leaves us with a dry taste, wishing for, wanting for, any hint of an inventive twist, instead of the story we’ve been building up playing out exactly as we suspect.
Although enjoyable and inventive, this cannot get my highest recommendation; though with a 3.75 out of 5, I hope interested readers will try this genre bending tome.