(Warner Books, 320 pages, paperback, this edition January 2007; ISBN:
is the last book Octavia Butler wrote before her untimely death in 2006,
so reviewing this is tinged with sadness as it marks the end of one
of SF's great writers.
On the face of it, Fledgling seems a departure from her previous
books, being a story about vampires and their human 'donors'. However
there is nothing supernatural about these vampires, and Fledgling
shares many of the same themes she has explored before, such as racism,
alienation, and secret societies operating behind the scenes.
The plot concerns a female vampire, Shori, who loses her memory after
an attack on her homestead by persons unknown, killing her family in
the process. There is nothing supernatural about these vampires, the
Ina, and Butler creates a credible scientific rationale for vampire
mythology and their survival in the modern world.
The main impetus for the book is how Shori discovers what happened
to her and her family and who was responsible. Along the way, many recent
themes from vampire stories, such as day-walking vampires and competing
vampire clans, are mixed with themes more familiar in Butler's work
to produce a unique take on the vampire novel which ends in a confrontation
in court between the main protagonists.
There are shades of Butler's Patternmaster and Xenogenesis
novels in how the 'Other' relates to normal humanity (whether they are
psychics, aliens, or vampires), and how any relationship imposes both
opportunities and obligations, on all sides.
One of Butler's strengths as a writer was to view an issue from all
points of view, sometimes with uncomfortable results for all concerned.
She wasn't afraid to shy away from a hard-headed analysis of the implications
of a symbiosis between the Ina and humanity, and how these wider influences
She wasn't a prolific writer which is a great pity, as I think SF needs
more books of this quality, and certainly Fledgling is up there
with her earlier novels.
As a stand-alone novel, it would be a good introduction to her other
work for those who have not read her already. Those who have will miss