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Fledgling: A Novel Hardcover – October 4, 2005

4.2 out of 5 stars 208 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. The much-lauded Butler creates vampires in her 12th novel (her first in seven years) that have about as much to do with Bram Stoker's Dracula as HBO's Deadwood does with High Noon. They need human blood to survive, but they don't kill unless they have to, and (given several hundred years) they'll eventually die peacefully of old age. They are Ina, and they've coexisted with humans for millennia, imparting robust health and narcotic bliss with every bite to their devoted human blood donors, aka "symbionts." Shori is a 53-year-old Ina (a juvenile) who wakes up in a cave, amnesiac and seriously wounded. As is later revealed, her family and their symbionts were murdered because they genetically engineered a generation of part-Ina, part-human children. Shori was their most successful experiment: she can stay conscious during daylight hours, and her black skin helps protect her from the sun. The lone survivor, Shori must rely on a few friendly (and tasty) people to help her warn other Ina families and rediscover herself. Butler, keeping tension high, reveals the mysteries of the Ina universe bit by tantalizing bit. Just as the Ina's collective honor and dignity starts to get a little dull, a gang of bigoted, black sheep Ina rolls into town for a species-wide confab-cum-smackdown. In the feisty Shori, Butler has created a new vampire paradigm—one that's more prone to sci-fi social commentary than gothic romance—and given a tired genre a much-needed shot in the arm. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Renowned sf author Butler's first novel since Parable of the Talents (1998) delves deeply into the world of vampires. Shori, a 53-year-old vampire who appears to be a prepubescent girl, awakes alone in a forest, badly burned and scarred, with no memory of what has happened to her. She wanders to a road, from where she is picked up by young Wright Hamlin, whom she bites once she realizes she is a vampire. Wright shelters her, and the two begin a relationship, but Shori is drawn to the site of the fire that burned her. When she and Wright are attacked at the site, she learns of an older vampire, Iosif, who may have the answers she seeks. But when she meets Iosif, she learns that he is her father and that he, too, is in the dark as to who burned the enclave in which Shori and her mothers and sisters were living. When Iosif's enclave meets a similar fate, Shori and Wright flee, determined to track down the people responsible for destroying Shori's family. Butler has a reputation as a master for good reason, and her narrative flows quickly and seamlessly along as Shori seeks those who would destroy her. Gripping and memorable, Butler's latest is a welcome return performance. Kristine Huntley
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Seven Stories Press; First Edition edition (September 8, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1583226907
  • ISBN-13: 978-1583226902
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (208 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #492,164 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I am a fan of both vampire fiction and Octavia Butler, so learning last spring that her new novel would be about vampires was truly exciting. I have waited with great anticipation. I will say up front that the novel does not disappoint on either front. Indeed, while the novel is self-contained and reaches satisfying closure, the world she creates is interesting enough to warrant sequels and prequels. And I, for one, would welcome them.

In Butler's other fiction, she has often concerned herself with themes of prejudice and power and, just as often, transformation. In taking on the vampire theme, she certainly allows these interests full development. Obviously, she also takes some unexpected twists in her vampires, drawing on familiar images of the (sub) genre, but taking them in fresh and interesting directions.

Take, for example, themes of transformation. Typically, the vampire narrative concerns a protagonist going through "the change," embracing a new (un)life and letting go of his or her former humanity/mortality. Butler has certainly explored the theme of bodily transformation in other novels (e.g. Clay's Ark or the Xenogenesis series, to name a few). The vampires in Butler's novel, however, are a separate species on earth, co-evolved with humanity and full of their own laws and culture. Collectively, they call themselves "Ina."

While they live in a mutually symbiotic relationship with (some) humans, they cannot transform humans into Ina. The Ina have their own careful and intricate systems of reproduction, which shape and guide their culture. Transformation in this novel has more to do with the Ina's interest in genetics, a study some of them have been pursuing long before it interested humans.
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Format: Hardcover
The sad thing about reading this book was knowing that there will never be another one written by Ms. Butler, who died tragically earlier this year.

Since the plot is well covered in the description and by other reviewers, I will simply give my own brief impressions of the book.

Ms. Butler has always excelled at telling great stories while making significant social commentaries about our world, and "Fledgling" in no exception. Issues of race and genetic engineering are at the forefront of this tale, and the unique way Butler deals with these issues here is handled skillfully, albeit not so subtly, as some readers might prefer. But then Octavia Butler was always an author who tackled such social commentaries within her writings head on, while stil creating a compelling read.

For me, the story is at its best the first half to two-thirds of the book, when Shori and her symbiots are on the run from the mysterious assailants who are on her trail. But the story seems to flatten out once she finds a safe haven and begins to learn who may be responsible for the murder of her families.

The story becomes more about revealing the ins and outs of the Ina culture, the vampire like race to which Shori belongs. Even the death of someone close to Shori, and the eventual "showdown" between Shori and the guilty party, lack (for want of a less punny word) bite. I just felt more like an observer to the events and not emotionally involved in them. I believe this is due to the lead character's memory loss, which has left her far less emotionally affected by the tragic events around her. And what strain she does feel are more told than shown in any empathetic fashion.
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Format: Hardcover
It is indeed bittersweet that "Fledgling: A Novel" brings to a close the brilliant career of science fiction writer Octavia Butler, whose engrossing fiction made her a noted writer not only of science fiction, but truly, among our most compelling fictional commentators of American race relations and elegant literary stylists (She was one of my favorite science fiction writers, and her untimely death last year is truly a great loss to literary science fiction, contemporary Afro-American literature, and indeed, all of contemporary English language literature.). Her final novel can be regarded as a triumphant coda to that career, truly encapsulating all of her sociological and anthropological concerns, and acting as a mesmerizing, profound fictional commentary on the state of race relations here in the United States. She has done the impossible, reviving the time-worn vampire novel genre, and instilling in it, a breath of fresh air, by writing a most memorable tale on the nature of individuality, free will and prejudice. In Shori Matthews, she has sprung forth a most compelling literary creation, telling her tale in a fascinating combination of fast-paced, truly "blood-and-guts" thriller and legal drama that ranks alongside the best from the likes of John Grisham, for example, in her compelling description of Ina society and culture. This splendid novel is destined to become a literary classic, favored not only by Octavia Butler's fans, but more importantly, those interested in reading the finest fantasy and science fiction literature.
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