Fledgling by Octavia E. Butler
After The Curse of Chalion, our next Calico Reaction's 2011 Book Club book ended up to be Octavia E. Butler's Fledgling. Butler is yet another author that falls into the I-should-have-read-by-now category. So even though a large part of me was busy thinking, "Aw man, a vampire book? I don't want to read a vampire book - I'm so sick of vampires!" another part of me thought, "Well, it's Octavia Butler - maybe this will be interesting."
Interesting is what it was. Satisfying, not quite. It almost ended up in the same place as The Curse of Chalion in terms of how I felt about it. However, there was a bit more excitement, a lot more tension during the second half of the book (and closer to the end), and I really liked Shori, the main character. Here's a quick synopsis:
After a horrific attempt on her life, Shori awakens in a cave with no memory of what has happened to her. What she soon discovers is that the small community she lived in was destroyed and that she is 53-year old vampire. But as she tries to rebuild her life in a way that feels right, plenty of questions remain. Who is responsible for the attack? Will her memory return? Will she be able to protect those around her who are willing to help? And most important of all - will the killers try again?
Because of the synopsis, I thought this book would be a bit more exciting than it actually was. Instead it had its ups and downs, and I've decided this book requires me to split them up so I don't get all muddled as I type.
Shori. I liked her. A lot. And I liked Wright, her "first" (or I occasionally thought of him as her chevalier - too much Blood anime I guess). In a nutshell, when people are bitten, they're keen on sticking around said vampire. What I thought was really impressive - and I think this is just because it's so unexpected and different - is that Shori and Wright hook up several times. Now, some people will have a problem with this because even though Shori is 53 years old, she essentially has the body of a child. Normally that would be creepy, but the way Shori acts and talks, it's fine. The simple fact that Butler pulled it off is awesome.
I also enjoyed the way Butler crafted her vampires. She stuck with some of the old legends, such as sunlight doing harm, having to sleep during the day, and the pale skin and lean look. But she also gave them a different angle, putting them in interesting little communities and with a whole cultural way of working. It wouldn't surprise me if Butler has done research in anthropology. Because her vampires weren't exactly the traditional type as we think of them, it made for a nice difference. And no, none of them were sparkly.
She also gets points for killing a single person. Why? Because I never, ever saw that one coming. When it did, I was really bummed and really hoped that Shori would get her revenge because geez, the poor girl needed it.
When I reached the halfway point in the book, I was starting to get bored. It's actually a rather fast read (done in two days), but when you go so long without anything that feels like serious progress, you can get impatient. You want to know who's doing the killing. You want to know why. But first you have to go looking for more vampires that might be able to help. While it is necessary, it's a pain because you're so far in, you're ready for a few clues or something as to what the heck is going on.
When you do discover who is doing it, there is no big reveal. It's more like, "Hm. Those guys are doing it. Guess we'd better do something about that." There's no get up and go. There are phone calls to be made. A council to be had. And while I admit the council proceedings were interesting, I object to a few things.
First, one vampire Shori talks to claims that their Council of Judgment is better and more effective than human trials. Then he explains them. And they sounded exactly the same. He claimed that human trials are a "game" and the truth can easily go unpunished or overlooked. And yet, when the Council reaches its judgment, I immediately thought, "Bullsh*t." There you have vampires who were hundreds of years old, knew for a fact who was lying, and yet still ignored those facts. That ticked me off. It made them look exactly like the humans that some of them disliked so much - arrogant, shameful, and extremely stupid. I think some of the other vampires should have called them on it.
I was also highly displeased with the verdict and the way the book ended. If you don't want to know, skip to the last paragraph. I'm not going to give away details, but the gist might be enough to ruin it for you. Essentially it went: "Well, you've murdered a whole bunch of vampires and their humans, thus killing maybe 100 people, but we're going to leave you alive with only your word that you won't try to kill Shori and everyone around her. For a fourth time." Boo! Hiss!
The way this book ended just made me think, "So...that's it? Um, is there another book?" (there isn't) I literally made a face once I closed it.
It was interesting, and had several high points. I enjoyed the characters and the emotion that Butler brought onto the pages. But the ending annoyed me and left me rather unsatisfied. I'm sure other people will feel differently though - it's one of those sorts of books where everyone will have a different take. This book is a tricky one when it comes to giving it a star count. I think in the end, due almost wholly to its anticlimactic ending, it's a solid 3.5 star book.
Would I read another Octavia E. Butler book? Sure I might. But if the second one I read ended anything like this one, I think I would have to be done.
Originally posted on Epinions.com
Notes from the playlist: "If I Was Your Vampire" by Marilyn Manson
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