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By Octavia E. Butler - Fledgling

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Recently added byDanTarlin

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Fledgeling is the story of Shori, who wakes in a cave with no memory of what has come before. She (and we) quickly come to realize that she is a vampire, lone survivor of a massacre, who lives thanks to the healing powers that vampires have, but loses her memory in the process. She soon meets Wright, a human who becomes her first "symbiant", a human companion who becomes bonded to her with the regular giving of his blood. The book then covers their journey to learn about vampires and about Shori's own peculiar history- she is the result of genetic experimenting among vampires, a dark-skinned one who can function in daylight unlike others of her kind. Some in the vampire community are appalled by this, and may have initiated the massacre (and subsequent ones as well) to try to stop it.

Shori herself is a child, who looks like a 10 year old girl, though she is in her 50s (vampires age slowly). Yes even as a child she must have symbiants to survive. I was put off by the sexualized nature of the vampire-human connection- Butler makes the symbiosis explicitly sexy, essentially orgasmic, which is fine in one sense (many vampire stories have this element) but is icky when the reader pictures the sexiness involves someone who looks like a 10 year old girl.

There are many scenes in which other characters explain at great length various aspects of vampire life or culture to Shori- the world building is well-thought out, and the explanations are useful and important but also tedious. As a setup for future stories and books that's OK I guess- we won't have to keep reading that tedium if we already know- but it definitely slowed down this volume. Butler dies unexpectedly soon after publishing this book, and it seems clear that this was setting up future volumes that were never written.

As with much of Butler's output, this centers Blackness- Shori's persecution is really due to the color of her skin, and her enemies are essentially vampire white supremacists. This gives some nice space to exploration of prejudice and persecution.

The book builds to the climax of a trial for those who are responsible for the massacres that have destroyed Shori's family. I found the trial tedious too, without much suspense.

In sum, I see the world as cool and well-thought out, but this story doesn't really work that well. ( )
  DanTarlin | Nov 25, 2021 |
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