Monday, April 27, 2009

Fledgling by Octavia E. Butler (4/5 stars)

I have never read anything by Octavia Butler, and as she is a prominent writer in the Sci-Fi genre, I though it would be interesting to read one of her books. This is also the last book she wrote before she died. Overall it was an interesting take on vampire communities; and discussed issue of racism, sexual freedom, and immortality. I listened to this on audio and the audio production was of excellent quality; my only complaint would be that the narrator's voice is very dispassionate which lends a coldness to Shori's character.

Shori wakes up in immense pain, not knowing where she is or who she is. As time passes she heals; later she is picked up on the side of the road by Wright. Shori herself seems to be an 11 year old girl; but Wright is strangely drawn to her in very inappropriate ways. Shori realizes she needs his blood and after she takes blood from him the two of them cannot be separated. As time progresses Shori finds that she needs more than just Wright to satisfy her; she needs the blood of many. Eventually Shori finds that she is actual a 53 year old Ina; a very long lived (possibly alien) race that have a symbiotic relationship with humans. They need human blood andcompanionship to survive. For some reason someone wants Shori dead; it may be because of her dark skin and the fact that Shori is a genetic experiment to make Ina able to withstand the sun.

I didn't find any of the characters in this book to be particularly engaging, and the plot plodded along at times making it difficult to pay attention. This book is very outstanding though in the complexity of the Ina community and the mythos behind that community. This book and the race of the Ina are intricately detailed and very well thought out. This book also touches on issues concerning societal beliefs. Shori, as the only dark-skinned Ina, deals with a sort of racism. Shori appears to be 10 years old (but is really 53) and her sexual relationship with Wright may be disturbing to some readers. Shori and her Symbiants (humans that feed her) also have a very complex relationship; and Shori loves them emotionally and physically without any thought as to their gender or age.

All in all I enjoyed this book. It is an interesting take, actually a unique take, on vampire-type society. It make you think a lot about societal issues and introduces you to a whole new complex world and race. It is definitely more of a thinking book and the slow deliberate pace may put off some readers; I think that the creativity andthoughtfulness of the plot more than offset this pace though.

I am not sure if I will read more of Butler's works or not. Her writing was good but it was a bit too political for me at parts; she also seems to write book to inspire thought and as such they aren't great entertainment as much as food for thought. I would have to be in a particularly thoughtful mood to enjoy her works.

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