By Octavia Butler
By Terri Schlichenmeyer
OW Contributing Writer
Nature versus nurture.
It’s been a debate for generations. Are you the way you are because of the way you were raised? Or were you predisposed to have the personality you have, because of your cellular structure and genetic make-up?
What if your genes were altered to create a you that had never been known to exist before? In “Fledgling”( c.2005, Seven Stories Press, $24.95, 352 pages) by Octavia E. Butler, it means death and danger to one young female and her family.
Alone, in pain, and confused, the girl was wandering down a desolate Seattle-area road when Wright Hamlin found her. She was dirty and covered with blood, she couldn’t have been more than ten or eleven years old, and she had no idea who she was. Who would leave an injured child alone on the roadside? When Wright tried to comfort the girl, she bit him. It was the most pleasurable and addictive thing he had ever felt.
The girl healed quickly and asked Wright to take her back to the ruins of the burned-out village that she felt must have been her home. There, they were approached by a tall man who told them an amazing story.
The village had been populated by a matriarchal group of vampires, their offspring, and their symbionts, or the people from whom they fed. Someone - or something - wanted the village destroyed.
The man, Iosif, had come looking for the girl, knowing that if anyone could survive an attack, it would be she. He told her that her name was Shori, she was 53 years old, and that she was an especially strong and very valuable member of her family. Shori was, he said, an experiment: a genetically modified being, part human and part vampire. With dark skin and excessive melanin, Shori could walk around in daylight with little harm; a very useful ability for Ina (the vampire genus).
Iosif took Shori and Wright back to his home compound, as a matter of safety. There, he said, they would live, sheltered, as soon as a home could be built for them.
When Shori and Wright returned from Wright’s cabin, where they had gone to fetch a few belongings, they found destruction. Iosif, his family and most of their symbionts had been murdered. Now it was up to Shori to discover who was out to destroy her and her family, and why.
At first, I didn’t like “Fledgling” very much. It moved too fast for me, and I thought it was just plain weird. About thirty pages into it, though, I was so hooked that I literally carried this book around so I could read snatches of it every chance I got. Author Octavia Butler weaves history, fantasy, mystery, racism, and social commentary in a complicated but easy-to-follow, totally plausible story that was mesmerizing and - I don’t say this too often - brilliant.
“Fledgling” was Octavia Butler’s first novel in seven years. It’s unknown whether there are any more that she had completed prior to her death. No matter who you are, you owe it to yourself to bite into this book.http://www.ourweekly.com/