(Literary Masterpieces, Volume 5)

In her final novel, Octavia E. Butler took the romantic and supernatural notion of vampires and created an engaging, entertaining tale which serves as a commentary on race and societal workings. Fledgling offers a vampire that is not paranormal, does not harm its human victims, and, despite high intelligence and knowledge, is susceptible to flaws that commonly plague societies, such as bigotry, racism, and ignorance.

Fledgling begins with a young, confused, and hungry Shori Matthews awakening in a pitch-black cave, badly injured and blinded. As she regains consciousness, she finds she has no idea who or where she is, and that she is starving. Alone and desperately hungry, she captures what she thinks is an animal (later discovering it was a man), kills it with her bare hands, and eats it raw, beginning her healing process and her first step toward regaining her identity and discovering what she is.

When Shori is able to walk, she unwittingly returns to a burned-out village. Unaware of where she is or why she walked there, she begins to sift through the rubble, looking for survivors and salvaging what she can. Shori feels a connection to the burned rubble but has no idea why and cannot remember anything of her past, including her name.

In her state of confusion, Shori is picked up by Wright Hamlin, who believes she is an abused child, as she appears to be about eleven years old. In his car, Shori is overwhelmed by his scent and bites his hand to suck his blood before she realizes what she is doing. Wright is taken aback at first but quickly succumbs to Shori and begs her not to stop. This is the first glimpse Butler offers the reader into Shori’s true identity; through her recovery, Shori will discover she is not human.

Wright takes her home and realizes that although Shori looks like a child, she is much older than she appears. The two begin a sexual relationship. Shori instinctively knows how much of Wright’s blood she can take to stave off her hunger without causing him harm. She realizes, however, that he alone will not be able to sustain her, and she searches the neighboring houses for her next meal. She finds it in a lonely older woman, Theodora Harden.

During the day, Shori surfs the Internet, researching vampires and the burned village, hoping to glean insight into the life she has lost. She is unable to learn anything about who or what she is. Butler cleverly inserts modern technology and products throughout Fledgling to keep the novel and characters realistic and nonsupernatural. Shori feels compelled to revisit the fire scene, and Wright agrees to take her to the rubble. Once there, the two are assaulted by a young man, Raleigh Curtis, who is guarding the site. Shori bites him and begins to question him, intuitively knowing that biting humans places them at her mercy. She discovers that Curtis has been bitten by another of her kind. She instructs the man to tell his master that she will return to the ruins on a specified date, in hope of meeting him and learning what she is and what has become of her family.

Shori and Wright return to the designated meeting place and are met by a very tall, thin, pale man who is overcome by happiness when he sees Shori. He explains that he is her father, Iosif Petrescu. He begs her to return with him to his village, where she will live until she reaches maturity. Shori is fifty-three years old, still a child among their community in which people typically live for hundreds of years.

Shori and Wright accompany Iosif to his home, which is a compound filled with houses and people. Although Shori has no recollection of the community, everyone there is happy to see her and relieved that she is alive. Iosif immediately begins to answer Shori’s questions of who and what she is. He explains that she is Ina, an ancient race, and explains, “We have our own traditionsour own folklore, our own religions.” Similar to vampires of folklore, Ina must feed on human blood to survive, but they do not harm the human. They are taller and thinner than humans, with advanced senses. Ina live for hundreds of years and awaken only at night.

Iosif goes on to explain that each Ina selects specific people to feed on, and a human who agrees to live with an Ina will become that Ina’s symbiont. Once the symbiosis is formed, the symbiont can only be fed upon by...

(The entire section is 1799 words.)


(Literary Masterpieces, Volume 5)

Booklist 102, no. 4 (October 15, 2005): 37.

Entertainment Weekly, October 21, 2005, p. 80.

Essence 35, no. 6 (October, 2005): 96.

Kirkus Reviews 73, no. 16 (August 15, 2005): 867-868.

Library Journal 130, no. 13 (August 1, 2005): 66.

Publishers Weekly 252, no. 33 (August 22, 2005): 36.