BOOK & BLOG
September 2, 2006
Book of the Week: FLEDGLING by Octavia Butler
Octavia Butlers FLEDGLING is an amazing book, a fascinating variation on the vampire tale. Shori, a girl who appears to be about ten years old, wakes in a cave, starved and terribly injured. She kills to eat, eats to live, and gradually recovers from the awful head wounds and the burns that covered her body. She has no idea who she is, where she came from, or what she should do next. A young man names Wright finds Shori wandering along a road, and offers to help her. Instinctively, Shori bites him, and then hes hers.
Shori begins to learn more about herself and her nature. FLEDGLING has a high ick factor, because Shori is far older than she appears, and she and Wright have a sexual relationship, too. But it isnt explicit, and its part of the story.
Shori finally meet some of her own people, and discovers she is an Ina, a member of a race of vampires. Theyre not like the vampires from mythology, though; religious symbols have no meaning for the Ina, and they dont burst in to flames in the sun. However, most of the Ina are extremely pale, and they have to stay out of the sun and sleep during the day. Shori is black. She discovers she is an experimental model, so to speak; she can stay awake during the day and go outside, as long as shes covered with clothing. Shori also hears, from her father, that the womens compound where Shori lived was attacked during the day and burned, and all the symbionts (the humans who are enthralled by the Ina) belonging to the women were killed, too. Soon after Shori agrees to go to her fathers compound, its attacked too, and nearly all the inhabitants murdered.
What happens to Shori, and the reflections Butler offers us on race, dominance, and the nature of happiness, make for fascinating reading. FLEDGLING is a wonderfully written book with a distinctive voice and point of view.
Travel, travel, everywhere . . . I have three more trips to make this year. One is to Bouchercon, the world mystery convention, which is in a different place each year. This year, Bouchercon will be in Madison, Wisconsin. In late October, I will have my delayed speech to the Mississippi Library Association. Last year, Hurricane Katrina intervened. In November, Im going to the World Fantasy Convention in Austin, Texas. Then my 2006 travels will be over. Ive already started lining up 2007, and soon my dance card will be full for the year.
There are a lot of things I can say on the subject of traveling, but I think this time Ill aim for the positive. I know Americans dont get scrutinized as closely as passengers in other countries, and Ive accepted the necessity of being subject to search. Nonetheless, its irritating, time- consuming, and a little degrading, to have to take off ones jacket and ones shoes in a public place; to have ones handbag x-rayed, or put the contents of your pockets in an open bowl. I wouldnt mind at all if I believed this was a fool-proof way to catch a potential bomber but thats another topic, too.
What impresses me is how good and patient people are. Despite the reputation Americans have for steamrolling authority and for insisting on rugged individualism, we are undergoing this procedure with good will. I have never heard anyone complain that taking off some of ones garments is an infringement on the rights of a citizen. I have never heard anyone balk at emptying pockets, or showing identification, or being wanded.
Isnt this kind of wonderful?
It seems the more remarkable when I realize that Ive been on the verge of shrieking several times, Look at me! Is it remotely possible that Im a terrorist? Im a middle-aged, overweight, Episcopalian! Do I look like I have a bomb in my shoe? But what stops me every time is the realization that (a) Ill get arrested for sure, and (b) someday therell be a bomber who fits my profile, and I hope she gets caught before she gets on my plane.
® 2010 Charlaine Harris