Posthumous Sci-Fi: Octavia E. Butler's 'Fledgling'

Much-lauded science-fiction writer Octavia E. Butler died last year in a fall at the age of 58. Her final novel, called Fledgling has recently been reprinted in paperback.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

The much lauded science fiction writer, Octavia E. Butler died last year at the age of 58. Her final novel, called "Fledgling", has recently been reprinted in paperback.

Alan Cheuse has a review.

ALAN CHEUSE: Even for a dyed-in-the-wool science-fiction fan like myself, the opening chapter of "Fledgling" asks a bit much of the reader. Shori, the narrator, awakens in darkness, hungry and in pain without any memory of who or what she is. But within a few pages, we begin to figure things out it along with her. And within a few chapters, we're utterly seduced by the forward motion of the narrative. Bitten, is how the narrator herself might put it.

Shori first surfs the Web, trying to find information about her identity. She learns that no one seemed to be writing about my kind. Perhaps, my kind does not want to be written about. But following her physical hunger and desperate curiosity, Shori discovers that she's a 53-year-old adolescent, part-human member of a long-lived race called the Ina, a vampire species who may have come to Earth from another place hundreds of thousands of years ago - non-humans who've developed a symbiotic relationship with the human beings on whom they feed and cultivate.

Bitten- that bite gives the vampire nourishment and entry into the minds of the human symbionts, as they're called. And in return, the symbionts gain both sexual pleasure and a feeling of belonging. Dare I say that Butler's emotionally and intellectually engaging story about a war between vampire clans carries the reader along with that same sense of being in good hands? I only wish she herself had been longer lived.

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BLOCK: The book is "Fledgling" by the late Octavia E. Butler. Our reviewer, Alan Cheuse, teaches writing at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

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