Book Reviews

Book Review: Fledgling | Octavia Butler

Genre: Sci-Fi
Year: 2007
Country: USA

Once upon a time, I read solely Christian Fiction and Romance bordering Erotica. I think every single female went through that particularly teenage rite of passage. But then, instead of branching out, I resisted and took solace in Christian Fiction instead – which of course is not a bad thing. While every other person was reading Harry Porter and Star Trek, I read the entire works of Karen Kingsbury. For some unknown reasons, I developed an unhealthy bias and paranoia for the paranormal which includes Science fiction and Fantasy. I didn’t want anything tampering with my already subdued imagination as well clashing with my faith.

But then, I had an unquenchable hunger for books and I wanted to read the world. Still do. I wanted to read all of the classics I didn’t grow up reading and then some. To be honest, I can’t even remember the books that defined my childhood. All I knew I was reading.

Then, I broke free so to speak and after a few years and the accompanied maturity, I believed I could take up anything. So, I read Twilight. It wasn’t as frightening as I envisioned. Even though, I had not fully accepted the genre and I kept tossing them beneath my pile of books, I maintained an open mind.

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Fledgling is based on a specie of vampires, the Ina. Other than the generic vampiric traits – feeding on human blood, living long and extensively, death by fire, they possessed a unique relationship with humans. It’s called a symbiosis where a human becomes emotional, physically and psychologically attached to the vampire. Bewitchment at its best. The story generally centers around Shori – a 53-year-old genetically engineered half human, half Ira – a result of an experiment which gave her an apparent Melanin and enabled her to walk in the sun without getting burnt and stay awake during the day – who became a treat to a particular family and was subsequently attacked. She survived. Unfortunately, all of her entire generation as well as one of her symbionts weren’t very lucky. In short, she was black and this didn’t sit well with a number of people. Who knew vampires could be so racist to the point of mass murder?

It’s profoundly brilliant with a captivating plot and compelling characters. The author manages to tackle the issues of race, family feuds, laws, history, religion, jealously, identity as well as dominance, sex and addiction in a single book. It wasn’t something I could put down after the first few pages which I was extremely tempted to given my recent collection of abandoned books.

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As a result of the nature of the book, I couldn’t help making comparisons to our human nature.

1. Everyone has a unique individual scent or rather we are the combination of scents. I’ve never really doubted this before but I’m more confident in the fact. Of course, if you live alone for instance rather than with a group of people or your family, your scent has a tendency to more distinct. For the love of God, I’m referring to your natural body scent and not that of your expensive perfume. Then again, your scent might be susceptible to variations as a result of a lot of the products we use. I need to read up on it. I think I also know why I’m generally allergic to perfumes and strong putrid overwhelming scents.

2. Body language is everything. I think in this part of the world, it’s not something we pay close attention to. But ideally, your body language to any situation determines the authenticity or falsity of your attitude.

3. Most of the things we know are inherently from the combinations of books we read and movies we watch which goes to show that movies have a huge influence on our culture and history in general. Problem is a lot of the facts are largely filtered to suit the narrative. By the time it gets to us the consumer, it’s more fictional than factual. There were a point where Wright – Shori’s symbiont brought up some fun facts about vampires based on the movies he had seen. Turns out, a number of the facts were far-fetched. Shori was quick to squash them.

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This particular book is rather iconic as a result of the fact that it was the author’s final book before she passed. Also, she was the first person to have a black female vampire. Yes, it’s huge.

Maybe, just maybe I’ll finally be able to embrace this genre. We’ll see.

Rating:****

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