I know I whine from time to time about how often I get bitten by mosquitoes because it is very unpleasant to be itchy. It’s not just mosquitoes, though. I’m really, really delicious to all blood-sucking insects (they ALL make me itch, the jerks.) This has led to my hard and fast belief that vampires cannot possibly exist because I would have perished long, long ago. Until, that is, someone comes along and turns vampire lore upside down. That’s right, kids. We’re talking about the incomparable Octavia Butler today. I decided to pick up Fledgling after some twitter discussions reminded me how freaking amazing Kindred (review) was. I wasn’t in the mood to pick up a series at the time (though I’ve heard some fabulous things about her series which are obviously on the endless TBR pile), so I went for Fledgling, a standalone novel. It was an excellent decision, if I do say so myself.
Fledgling kicks off with a little girl who seems to have lost her memory. Though she remembers nothing about her life prior to waking up in a cave, she displays some startlingly inhuman abilities. This, eventually, leads to her discovery that she is, in fact, a 53-year-old genetically modified vampire. I’ll let that last sentence sink in for a second. I’ve found that the story lines that sound the most ludicrous out of context tend to fuel the best books when in the right hands, and Butler is a master craftswoman. Because seriously. 53-year-old genetically modified vampire? That’s quite an ambitious starting point!
I absolutely LOVED Butler’s take on vampire lore. Most vampire stories feature vampires laughing off at least a couple of vampiric stereotypes, but Butler’s take was easily the most creative I’ve ever read. Where other authors will dismiss one or two tropes, Butler just SMASHED the dominant narrative. I want to give you all the details but that would be super spoilery and that’s not a nice thing to do. I will tell you that although the main character was significantly older than she appeared, I did get pretty weirded out by her, um, extremely mature behavior. Largely because for a decent section of the book neither she nor her companions were aware that she was, in fact, 53 years old. But you know how it is when you’re reading awesome science fiction/fantasy. You fully commit to the characters and the narrative and it’s not too hard to let your pesky real world hangups slide away.
If you have ever enjoyed a vampire novel, you need to pick up Fledgling post haste. Trust me on this one, okay?
Talk to me, Bookworms! What’s your favorite vampire superstition? I find the garlic thing fascinating myself. But, fun fact? Taking garlic pills does jack to keep mosquitoes from biting. Just an FYI right there.
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