Sunday, October 26, 2008

Fledgling


I had heard or read about Octavia E. Butler, (I don’t remember which, information comes from everywhere), and about her award-winning status as one of the few prominent African-American science-fiction writers. Unfortunately, “Fledgling” was her last novel before she passed away on 2/24/2006, and I think she was using this novel to set the groundwork for more intricate, plot-driven stories that would take place in that same world later on. But Butler did not get a chance to expand. This novel started off intriguingly, but ultimately goes downhill and doesn’t really resurrect itself. There is entirely too much “feel-good” and not enough conflict.

A little girl wakes up in the deep blackness of a cave. She has no memory of how she got there or who she is. After wandering into a nearby town and meeting Wright, a construction worker, she begins to remember basic things and pieces together that she is actually a 53-year-old vampire. They encounter a set of burned-down houses, which Shori theorizes she used to live in with her family, the charred corpses of whom she also finds amongst the baked debris. Shori and Wright then set out to find the beings responsible for the fire and her amnesia, and start to discover that the murderous plot runs much deeper than they thought.

After Shori wakes up, the plot weaved its tale by piecing together disparate elements, such as the relationship between Wright and Shori and her particular effect on him, her past, her existence as a vampire and the difference between her and the synonymously named creatures of old novels and films. Following this gave the book a fun, interesting Harry Potter-like effect. But, after Shori encounters Iosif, her father, the book goes into unnecessarily long explanations of history and less and less conflict. There becomes a point where almost everyone Shori meets likes her, and that feeling of encountering new mysterious characters and situations that make the story a toss-up go out the window.

This doesn’t mean that I’ve given up on Butler’s books altogether (see Amy Tan). As I’ve said, I’m guessing that this novel served to open up the world of the Ina to the public, so that later novels could be more action-packed. I enjoyed Butler’s writing style and still wish to read some of her earlier works.

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Bollocks, what's your bloody take on things then?