Today’s book review is Fledgling by Octavia E. Butler.
This is the first book I’ve read by Butler. I’d never gotten around to trying one of her books, partly because she got enough buzz from the literary establishment that I was somewhat scared away, but I’d heard a recording of her reading “Bloodchild”, and when I’d heard that this was a vampire story, I was interested enough to put it on my list of books to read.
Whatever preconceptions I may have had, when I actually started reading, I found spare, very readable prose that told an interesting and original story and also encouraged the reader to think about how dysfunctional some of what we call “normal” human relationships really are. Butler devises a vampire that is reasonably believable, unlike the canonical vampire, and then manages to work a bit of explanation of the canonical vampire into the story in light of how her vampires work. She gives her vampires a set of biological imperatives that are (obviously) different from humans’, and then gives them a society that, though superficially strange, makes sense. There isn’t an overwhelming social message here, but this is the kind of writing that opens people’s minds to questions about whether the way people have “always” done things are actually right, and thus the kind of book that would make a better society, if only more people read them.
I will have to look for her earlier work, since I can’t look forward to future work. Octavia Butler died unexpectedly earlier this year.
The writing won’t knock your socks off, but it’s a quick read, a good story, and a something to think about (and not at all pretentious, so don’t be scared off by the fact that English professors talk about her books). 9 out of 10.