Fledgling (Octavia E. Butler)

2 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
An amnesiac, young, sexy, vampire awakens in a cave and searches for the reasons she was put there in this fairly uninteresting take on the overused contemporary sexy vampire genre.  I really wanted to like this book.  It starts off with a fairly engaging amnesia setup where you don’t really know what is going on, but soon degenerates into soporific vampiric political machinations and ceaseless reams of what I can only assume are author wish fulfillment sexy vampire pedophilia group sex fantasies.  I guess if you are into that sort of thing, then this book is right up your alley, but I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone else, as I found it equally tedious to get through and disturbing when I did.

Greater Detail:
Shori is a genetically modified human hybrid vampire able to withstand the touch of sunlight and function during the day.  When she awakens injured in a cave, stripped of all her memories, she must discover her past and how she fits into an uncertain future.

The thing I should probably address first is the whole pedophilia aspect of this book.  The protagonist has a prepubescent body and engages in frequent intercourse with the victims she feeds off of, who are exclusively adults.  This is explained away by the fact that she is a 53-year-old vampire and they age differently than humans, but this seemed like a thin excuse for the author to explore her fairly creepy fixation on adults having intercourse with a prepubescent girl.  I guess I could find some literary merit to this concept if the author was genuinely trying to explore some aspects of aberrant human nature or culture here, but she shuts all this down with what I consider the most obvious dodge of any responsibility to engage or discuss the reader about difficult issues and goes off the rails with author-centric wish fulfillment fantasies by assuring the reader that in this culture, this bizarre behavior is perfectly natural and not worth analyzing at all.

Outside of the concessions to whatever odd things excite the author, the vampires are fairly unexceptional.  They don’t have any of the fun traditional powers as far as I can tell, like converting those they bite into vampires, turning into mist, turning into bats, or anything neat like that.  In exchange, we get a somewhat hokey explanation of vampires secreting an addictive venom into their victims that binds them to the vampire and grants the victim the benefit of long life and some vague notions of vampires being aliens.  Even the way the vampires organize themselves is sort of odd and doesn’t add much to the story; they form one-gender communes with their same-sex siblings and the sexes only meet to mate.  I’m not sure if these aspects are more author wish fulfillment of her ideal of society or what, but when you appropriate a well established archetype like a vampire and only succeed in making it less interesting than the original, there is something very wrong.

The vampires in this book contribute nothing to society and are merely parasites on the achievements of man.  Similarly, this author contributes nothing positive to the vampire genre as a whole and merely latches onto a convenient and relatively popular body of work in order to express her odd sexual fixations.  My advice to you as a reader would be to steer clear of this irksome parasite of a book that seeks to leech away your time and read something else that you might actually enjoy.

Comparisons to Other Authors:
As I’ve said before, I really haven’t had much luck with the vampire genre as a whole, so I’m throwing down the gauntlet here and recommending Bram Stoker’s Dracula.  I find it ridiculous that I haven’t encountered anything superior to the century-old originator of this genre, but honestly I really haven’t.

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Posted in Sci-Fi/Fantasy

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