Seven Stories Press
Fledgling is another one of those books that took me a while to get around to reading. I was not entirely sure what to think when I first heard that Octavia Butler was going to write a vampire novel. (Let’s just say there was some metaphorical pearl-clutching and leave it at that.) I do not really like vampire novels all that much, even though I always seem to end up reading them. (Most urban fantasy novels have vamps in them. There is no escape.)
So, it took me a while to get around to reading Fledgling.
Our protagonist is a young girl named Shori who finds herself alone in the woods, badly injured and with no memories. After encountering and receiving help from a young man named Wright Hamlin she makes a number of extremely disturbing discoveries about herself. She learns that she is Ina, one of a species of humanoid vampiric aliens. She also discovers that she is the result of a genetic experiment that would allow her species to be active during the day. This ability of hers has caused an intense controversy among her kind and she must learn to defend herself from the Ina who are responsible for the deaths of her entire family.
Butler did some extremely interesting but rather familiar things with vampire lore in this book. As an example, she went the route of vampires creating “harems” of humans that they could feed on without having to kill anyone. The Ina have a mutually beneficial relationship between themselves and their symbionts in that the venom of an Ina’s bite is able to extend the life of the person bitten. (It also enables the Ina to have complete control over their symbiont.) Butler does some exploration of the power dynamic between Shori and “her” symbionts as well as relationships between other Ina and their symbionts. We get some hints that while the relationship is more or less beneficial, there is also an underlying paternalism and sense of superiority that Ina feel toward their symbionts that erupts into actual prejudice where Shori is concerned.