by Octavia E. Butler
Cover Artist: Marc Yankus (photo)
Review by Gayle Surrette
Warner Books Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 0446696161
Date: 02 January, 2007 List Price $13.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Amnesia. There's probably not a reader that hasn't wished they could forget something or somethings in their lives. But, with a true case of amnesia, you don't get to pick and choose what you want to remember and what to forget. So, when Shori wakes in mind-numbing pain, she at first doesn't realize that she doesn't remember her life. All she knows is that she's naked, hungry, in incredible pain, and her head feels mushy to her touch. But an animal wanders into her cave and she manages to kill it, eat it, and sleep. It's a while before the dead animal begins to smell and Shori realizes she doesn't know where she is, how she got there or what to do now. But she knows she must belong somewhere and she sets out to find her place in the world.
Octavia Butler's Fledgling is a new take on the vampire legends. She's put together an interesting and theoretically workable symbiotic relationship between humans and vampires. She's also created an interesting character in Shori, who is biologically fifty years old but physically looks as if she's barely thirteen. Wright pulls over and offers help when he sees this young child naked, covered in blood and mud, walking by the side of the road. His life will never be the same. In talking with Wright and answering his questions, Shori begins to piece together some elements of her past and to rely on Wright's strength and abilities, and his willingness to help her survive. Without her memories, Shori must rely on instinct to guide her in her dealings with Wright and with the others she must feed from.
As Shori, with the help of Wright, begins to try to piece together her life, the reader is faced with the complex problems of addiction, bigotry, sex, miscegenation, genetic manipulation, and dominance games. If a vampire's saliva can subjugate you to their will by addicting you, are you truly free to follow your heart or to walk away. Told from Shori's point of view, we forget that while looking young she has many years of experience. That her morals and values may not dovetail with our own doesn't negate the fact that her values are consistent with her world view. As with all of Butler's books, you don't get off easy, you can't just read this book and put it aside -- it's a story, and a well told one too, but there's much to think about long after you close the covers on the last page.
Not everyone will like this book, some will hate it, but it's one that will not fade quietly into obscurity -- it will make an impact on the reader and for each reader that impact will vary with their own internal mores and values. This is an entertaining story with lots of food for thought.