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Fledgling: A Novel Hardcover – September 8, 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
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Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
- Publisher : Seven Stories Press; First Edition (September 8, 2005)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 320 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1583226907
- ISBN-13 : 978-1583226902
- Lexile measure : 730L
- Item Weight : 1.3 pounds
- Dimensions : 6.2 x 1.1 x 9.4 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #986,659 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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This book also came out around the same time as twilight.
And I'm pretty disappointed, as I really enjoyed the first book of hers I read (Dawn) and was hoping to read more of her work. But nope, not anymore.
The court was in session. The accused, beloved and well known for the great work they had done in the community. Indeed, the accused was an excellent advocate and many had benefitted from them and their lessons. Today however, despite their stellar reputation they stood in judgement. The question on everyone’s mind was does one horrible deed undo a life time of good. One by one the council of judgement cast their votes and though some ruled in favor, the verdict was guilty. This book is brilliantly self-aware of this complex issue and while it clearly was using it to demonstrate a different example, the book itself is a prime example the concept. While the writing is stellar and many of the story telling very relevant to society and culture, it also commits a horrific crime.
One of the things people will say about Octavia Butler is that her work doesn’t preach. She doesn’t pass moral judgement and instead leaves the cards out on the table for you the reader to do so. This is not entirely true because the book does a fabulous job of doing just that when it comes to discrimination and race. None of the characters are described with their race, which makes a potent point about how we view race and how someone whom is ignorant to the notion of racism might thing. It isn’t that they don’t see color, it is that the main doesn’t recognize the big deal. Those that do are the ones to point it out first. Later on we’re shown discrimination and how making yourself the judge of purity or whom gets to belong is arbitrary, hurtful and hypocritical. We can clearly see how the actions of these individuals do not square with the way they choose to live their own lives and the harm they ultimately do to themselves and others. This is an example of how story telling portrays a moral. Shows you the moral and the way everything plays out from start to finish. This is moral judgement, so to say Butler does not have morals is utterly false and therefore problematic when she actually doesn’t have morals in her story.
There are many books that have a porn like appeal. Books that try to make romance and rush to the sex portions without any build up. They’re usually bad. This book fits that genre, seeing as the build up is practically non-existent and the situation makes no sense. There is clearly no reason for it to happen and the book doesn’t make any justification or put any caveats to it. It simply happens and without a doubt for the sake of the reader. Whomever you are who enjoyed this book, hell, who reviewed it positively. Seriously, what the heck man? There isn’t any development or story, it is utterly and completely cheap and meaningless sex between a literal child (as far as we know at the time) and an adult. Honestly no one could be faulted for burning this book now and not bothering with the rest of it because a start like that is pretty damned irredeemable. It puts the Steven King IT sewer orgy to shame in how utterly pointless it is and disgusting in terms of what sorts of fantasies it envisions.
The problem with this book comes up very early and very fast. Vampire stories in general are often related to sex and this one is no exception, but this one does take it to different places. It has been said to me that the point is about sexuality as it is uncomfortable, frightening or alien. The older vampire books such as Carmilla or Dracula make this much more evident, were as newer vampire books tends to gloss over the alien aspect and just make it into a power and romance fantasy, like your twilights. Fledging bridges the gap between these two, but doesn’t go nearly far enough into alien as it should. Primarily because the sex starts before character development and it starts between a child and a grown man. This is a problem.
Before this review mentions how Butler succinctly tells a tale with a moral about discrimination, but when it comes to the sex, Butler is shocking mum. The book does on many occasions bring up the fact that our main, who has sex and kind of a lot of it, looks like a child. People are a little uncomfortable, but ultimately this doesn’t stop them. Perhaps there is a tale here about exploitation of children or minorities? If so it doesn’t go anywhere, because aside from the brief discomfort characters will have, it’s glossed over entirely. People are quickly given a pass and an excuse why it is okay for the main to have so much sex and why it is okay for the grown adults to have it with her. Oh, because she’s really much older than she looks and really because reasons? Actually it’s never even remotely addressed to any satisfaction. Perhaps you might suggest that this is the point, to make me uncomfortable, but the problem gets worse, not better. As the book progresses people don’t get less comfortable, or even stay equal uncomfortable with the sex and the fact that our main looks like a child and has at best a few months of wisdom due to amnesia, they get more comfortable. Worse still the romantic relationships shared between child main and grown adults actually grows deeper and more involved. The story tells us some people feel uncomfortable but shows us this relationship really working and that is a judgement. That is a problem.
So is this a terrible book? It’s complicated. The aspects on race, discrimination, judgement and hypocrisy are stellar. There are some great points on love and polyamory too along with a myriad of other great things in this book. Butler herself is one of the greatest authors alive right now. However this book has a trial where it points out, correctly so, that great people can also commit great crimes. The book correctly points out that a history of doing good things does not give you a free pass to do one terrible. This very book delivers the argument on why it deserves to be panned for the treatment of pedophilia. Real people are really hurt in the real world by this kind of abuse and the way this book handles it is horrific. Its remarkable for a book to be so excellent in some areas to be so terrible in this one, but maybe that’s the point. Maybe Butler intends us to judge her work poorly for this one aspect, though the narrative doesn’t seem to bare that out. Maybe the sequels address this appropriately, but I cannot see myself reading them.
Top reviews from other countries
It starts off in a fast-paced direction - A young girl who appears to be 10 years old is picked up off the side of the road by a strange man. The strange man is very concerned to find a young child, bruised, damaged, shaken and who appears to have lost her memory. He genuinely wants to help. Only the 10 year old child turns out to be something else. We learn about the life of the 10 year old at the pace that she does. Someone is trying to kill her and has succeeded in murdering anyone she gets close to.
I found the second half of the book, tedious. I'm a huge Octavia Butler fan but found myself skipping pages. In wanting to tell the story and history of some of the Vampires we encounter, we get endless lengthy monologue conversations. It was almost like paying to see a play and watching the actors on stage talking relentlessly about what has happened in the past. Effective it is not, because in the end you are just watching a bunch of people standing and talking about something - there is no acting going on, no unfolding story, no eventful playoff. Just actors discussing things you cant see, hear or feel and that's what the second half of this book felt like. I didn't care to read about 20 different historical stories that happened in the past. I want to follow what was happening with the main characters in the story. So, this novel fell a little flat for me...but you still rock, Octavia!!
I found it difficult to keep up with who was with which family etc.
Only disappointment was that it came to an end too soon!