I was looking through the books I have read in 2017, to find topics for a new article, and I realised I haven’t made a review for Fledgling by Octavia Butler yet. This book was recommended by one of my professors last semester and I absolutely loved it. It was unlike anything I have ever read before, and I definitely recommend you check it out as well. I’ve mentioned it a few times here, but I haven’t made a proper book review, and this book more than deserves one. So here we go.
Genre: Adult Fiction, Sci-Fi, Afrofuturism
My rating: ★★★★✩
First of all, a few words about Afrofuturism, which was the topic of my class (taught by Adourahman Waberi, I reviewed his book In the United States of Africa here).
Basically, Afrofuturism is an artistic movment that started with music in the 60s and 70s, with artists such as Sun Ra. It is now also present in literature. It combines aspects such as science fiction and history, sometimes revisiting history with a more afro-centric perspective. I have read some afrofuturist books and they are always unique and fascinating. This was no exception.
The main character wakes up in a cave with no recall of her past life and what she is doing there. She is naked, and her entire body is in pain. She is hungry, and shows inhuman abilities. She looks like an 11 year old girl, but feels like so much more.
Little by little, she starts uncovering the truth of who she is: she is, in facts, a 53 year old Ina – or vampire if you prefer – and she was genetically modified, making her stronger than the rest of her family. She is able to resist the sun, and stay awake during the day. But people are after her for her abilities, and the whole Ina community is turning upside down.
Warning: May Contain Spoilers
I came into this book not really knowing what to expect, and oh boy, it was a hell of a ride.
At the beginning of the book, the main character has amnesia, so the reader just ignores as much as she does, which is super interesting. Soon, we realise she shows characteristics similar to that of vampires, however, she is different. She later finds out she is actually an Ina, and that vampires are a fiction inspired by Ina. She has, in addition, been genetically modified to be stronger. She also discovers that her family has been killed because of the experiments they did, experiments that gave her a darker skin, which is more resisting to the sun.
Throughout the book, we see her insufferable need to feed, as well as her need to do the right things for the things she cares, and in honour of her lost family.
Ina are a secret to the society, except to the people they have chosen to feed, and who can live with them. These people are called symbionts, and every Ina needs several ones of them. They can also live longer, but they have to keep a secret. Ina live in big families, or communities.
What I really liked about this book is its very original take on the somehow classic literary theme that is vampirism. It is a perfect blend of fantasy and science-fiction – since we find out that Ina can be genetically modified. And more importantly, it raises issues of racism, as some of the Ina enemies to our main character want her dead because of her skin colour, because they consider that all Ina should be white caucasian as the territory they are originally from is in Eastern Europe (just like the image we have of Dracula). They consider her not pure, and not worthy of living, which led to the extermination of her entire family, responsible for this genetic modification.
This book is calling out on racism in a very subtle way in my opinion, as it is presented among a fictional community of fictional vampires, and yet, that doesn’t make it any less powerful. The actions of these Ina are cruel and undeserved, and yet also a very harsh representation of some real life people’s beliefs.
I had never heard of this book before my professor recommended it, and I have never read anything like it. And was fascinating, the world building is really amazing. It is a very clever and well-written book. I definitely recommend it.
Have you read Fledgling or any other book by Octavia Butler? Feel free to give your opinion in the comments, and recommend me books you think I might like!