Thursday, October 8, 2015

fledgling by Octavia E. Butler

This was so damned disappointing. I'm actually bothered by this. I'm such a big fan of Butler's novel Kindred and this one (her last before her unfortunate passing) almost felt like it was written by someone else. The book actually sports a really great concept that's ripe for tons of conflict and exploration of ideas and themes. The story is about an amnesiac 11-year-old-looking girl and her rediscovery that she is in fact an experimental member of the Ina, a vampiric species that live in a mutually symbiotic relationship with several humans. She is one of a few Ina that have dark skin, who's melanin might be the key to withstanding the sun rays. There are so many cool ideas that can stem from these concepts and that's what kept me reading longer than I normally would have with this book. 

But these cool concepts are totally betrayed by not only the blandest plot you could ever come up with from such a great idea, but also some of the dullest and most lackluster writing I've ever come across. While Butler's work on Kindred had such an urgent insistence to it and a great sense of personality and pace, the work in this one was devoid of not only that but also lacked any flavor or style, leaving nothing but dry, awkward, and totally redundant dialogue along with wikipedia-like info dumps about Butler's ideas every two pages. She should have taken a note from George R. R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series for a good example of how to organically provide tons of exposition. And I think it might have been a mistake to write this in first-person. Not only is it already tricky to successfully pull off an amnesiac protagonist in first-person, but our heroine's inner dialogue was laughable and sometimes cringe-inducing at times, with lots of annoying "what have I done?'s" and "could it be?'s" throughout, like a bad YA-book written for pre-teen girls.

I'll give the book a few points because it does bring up some great ideas about sex, race and racism, and free-will, but a better constructed delivery of these ideas could have turned this into an utter masterpiece. And I keep bringing up her work on Kindred because it proves that Butler could have done better. I read somewhere that she was having a hard time writing while taking medication later in her years and wasn't very confident about fledgling. So she probably knew she was capable of more as well.


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