Monday, September 3, 2018

Fledgling by Octavia E. Butler

I am shocked that this was published by the same Octavia E. Butler who wrote PARABLE OF THE SOWER and KINDRED. It felt like it was written by a totally different person. If I hadn't looked at the publication date and seen the "2005," I would have thought that this was a less-successful first novel. That seriously bums me out because I love vampire novels, and the idea of reading a novel about a black vampire that explores the themes of racism within a supernatural context sounded fascinating, especially since I had loved what I'd read of this author before and how she explored similar themes within the science-fiction framework. Joining me in this buddy read was my fellow vampire-lover, Heather, who doesn't seem to be into this book either for many of the same reasons I'm about to dive into.

Shori is an adolescent vampire who awakes at the beginning of the novel to find herself mortally wounded and in a severe amount of pain. She's picked by a hitchhiker who intends to drive her to the hospital - until she bites him and that makes him sexually attracted to her and crave her like she's a drug and he's an addict. This would be fine if she didn't flipping look like a preteen. It's mentioned several times that she looks like a child, and while complaining about this in one of my status updates, I had someone basically tell me that I shouldn't be so offended. Well, I am. I think that's gross. And I don't care if she's fifty-three in human years, even in vampire years she's prepubescent, because it's mentioned several times that she's not fully developed and can't yet reproduce, even if her sexual organs are functioning (ugh and they are - prepare yourself for incredibly gross sex scenes).

I don't have children so I can't imagine how gross and uncomfortable this would be for people who do. I don't want to read about adolescent sex (or sex with people who look adolescent), especially not if it's framed as a functional and desirable relationship. I get that Octavia Butler was a daring writer who pushed boundaries of what was socially acceptable in order to challenge the status quo (something my critic seemed to be arguing, albeit slightly less eloquently), but it's my right to say when I feel like an author goes too far for my own personal tastes. I felt the same way about Bryn Greenwood's ALL THE UGLY AND WONDERFUL THINGS, which is basically a romance between an eight-year-old girl and a fully grown man. One person's "oh my god, that's so brave and literary!" is another person's "no, god no, why would you write that? what the hell?"

Apart from the grossness of the female character and her - ahem - relationships with other characters in the book, I did like the way vampires were presented here (they call themselves the Ina, and they have their own rules and social hierarchies that reminded me of the Xenogenesis saga, except that didn't have gross underage freakiness), and I thought the trial at the end was interesting. The problem with this book is that it's slow AF, and while the human and compassionate part of you wants Shori to get revenge for the awful things that happened to her, the reader and hedonist part of you is going to be bored off your ass waiting for anything resembling a climax (EW, no, not that kind of climax - get out of here you gross person) to happen. This is Butler's weakest effort by far.

1.5 out of 5 stars

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