Sunday, March 02, 2008

Fledgling

I finished listening to the audiobook of Octavia E. Butler's Fledgling today, and now I'm just upset. Butler was one of the most important genre writers of the last few decades, and her sudden death was nothing short of a travesty. And now that I've read her final novel I just feel a bit disappointed.

Butler's was an astonishing talent, and this was a horrible note for her to wrap up her career on. While not a bad book, it is a bit uninspired, featuring an amnesiac, teen aged vampire. Butler's focus seemed to be on the sociology of the species in the book, and the protagonists amnesia was a method for introducing the reader to this alien culture. However, what winds up happening is a gigantic info dump that's thinly disguised as a novel. Butler has put a lot of effort into creating this world, and there is a lot of love for her creation on display, but something isn't right when I'm in the car listening to nothing but exposition for over an hour.

The biggest shame is that this book was intended to form the first chapter of a trilogy. Given that the flaws in the book are a little more excusable since I would eagerly read the next two parts now that the info dumping is over. But since those books are never going to happen I can't help but be annoyed by the structural problems in this novel, especially since Butler can do better. Her Parable novels are two of the tightest written s.f. novels I have ever read (as well as being the bleakest dystopian stories of all time). It's just wrong that someone so good had to end with this.

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