Fledgling, by Octavia Butler ★★★★★

Introductory thoughts 9/4/19

How can I say I am trying to read more women of color horror writers and not read Octavia Butler? Kindred is arguably one of my favorite books I have ever read. Butler is a master writer of Science fiction, and there is plenty of abject horror in Kindred as well. Fledgling follows the life of a young girl who is/becomes/discovers (?) she is a vampire. Whether this is urban fantasy or horror is yet to be decided (by me). Nevertheless, I’ve wanted to read Fledgling, and this is great excuse to do that. The reason I had looked over it up to now was just my own dislike for vampire books. That seems almost absurd considering how much I love Anne Rice’s first couple novels in her vampire chronicles, but after the third in that series and all the press with Twilight, True Blood, Vampire Dairies, and so on I became very annoyed with the genre. I finally choose to read this, not for the subject, but the author.

Started 9/19/19

I was a bit slower starting this one than intended, but I am happy to say it was worth the wait. Both interesting and enthralling, I did not struggle to become interested in our young (yet old[ish]) protagonist. It isn’t exactly horrific, but it is unnerving. The story follows a young girl who was hurt and forgot her memory. She seems to be ~11 years old, but in reality, she is a vampire maybe in her 50s I think it is. Right off, Butler dives into the issue with this sort of scenario. You have a mature woman, stuck in the body of a child. She apparently still has sexual urges, or at least feels the need to have sex. Her motivations are still a bit of blur, aside from her basic vampiric drives and her desire not to harm.

Even though I know she isn’t a child, it is impossible to remove the fact the situations she are in are as a child. I don’t question her ability to make these judgments. The issue is with anyone who would be sexual with her. I feel like there is more I could say, but honestly, I don’t know how because it is such a weird subject. Coupled with it are serious questions of consent from her partners who she is able to enact some form of hypnotism that feel most akin to drugging a person. In this case, they aren’t just immobilized. They are made to want it. How does one get consent when the consent comes from an altered state. All in all, its fascinating. Its fun and not too long. ~14% through with 8 hours to go.

Finished 9/23/19

That was an astonishingly quick read. I only started it four days ago, and I barely listened at all over the weekend because I was enjoying a trip up north to a beautiful cottage. This book was great. I wish I could say it was one of my favorites of the year, but no matter how original this was, I am still not that into vampires. Again, Butler creates a story that pierces into issues around race and bigotry. I am curious what her thoughts were on polyamory as well because this book is very much a proponent of that. On top of that, it is still a great discussion on consent. What’s more, when does a relationship go from being mutual to one sided? This does an amazing job of giving us a protagonist who does not shy away from these questions. She works to recognize them as the only way of addressing them. Sure, this is fiction, but it is all too common that people in a position of power have sway they shouldn’t necessarily use. These questions make this over a decade old novel still very much relevant to society today.

I would rate this 4.5/5 stars. Whether I would round it up or down is the tough question. My instinct is to round it down based solely on the feelings it triggered, but the depth that we see in Butler’s characters and societies and the reflection upon our own elevates it, leading me to round it up. I wish I could say it was the best vampire novel I’ve ever read, but it isn’t. I haven’t read Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles in several years (probably more), but my reelection of those first few books (I only read 3 of the however many there are) was of world much darker in tone than Fledgling. These are the type of feelings that I would like to get from the horror genre. That is the only reason I wouldn’t give Fledgling a full 5/5 (personal preference).

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