Do you get tired of me saying, “This is an author that I have been wanting to read for a while”? Because I am a bit tired of writing it. But it is true. Butler was a unique writer. She was an African American female science fiction/fantasy author. She wrote African American characters into Science Fiction and Fantasy. She was also the first (only?) science fiction author to receive a MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant.
Fledgling was Octavia Butler’s last book. She died of a stroke at the age of 58 in 2006, a year after this book was published.
Fledgling is a vampire book. Not like Twilight or True Blood, but still very much vampire.
In this world of vampires, you do not become a vampire. You are born a vampire. Vampires, (they call themselves Ina), are a different species from humans.
The Ina need humans for blood and form a symbiotic relationship. The humans willingly form a community around a particular Ina and in exchange the Ina venom helps humans heal and live longer. A human ‘symbiant’, can live to 200 or so years old. While the Ina often live to 500-600 years old.
As with much vampire literature, there is a clear sexual component to the vampire story. Because each Ina needs 7 or 8 humans, humans and Ina cannot produce children, and the fact that Ina marry in groups, but live in single sex communities, there are some real issues around sexuality, group ‘marriage’, homosexual and heterosexual attraction, fidelity and more. The sex issues are not the main part of the book but they are certainly present. They are presented as mostly part of differences in species, not idealized, alternative human sexuality.
The story line involves Shori, a young vampire that has lost all of her memory in an attack. Shori is a unique vampire and is the result of a selective breeding program to try and allow Ina to be awake during the day and able to have limited exposure to the sun. This leads to an exploration of cultural change. The ethics of the genetic changes are not really explored outside the community implications.
Mostly this book is about social mores, community change and the culture of the Ina. It is well worth reading. I only wish that Ms Butler was around to expand the world that she created here.
I listened to the book on audiobook and the narrator was very good. Libraries are still very important sources of content for me. It is interesting that I only rarely visit them since I can now get both kindle and audiobooks from my library through an online checkout process.