A little girl suffering from amnesia wakes to find that she’s actually a middle-aged vampire, in this suspenseful novel from Butler, her first in seven years.
Shori wakes up horribly injured and starving, knowing only that she needs to feed, preferably on blood, and that she doesn’t necessarily want to kill anyone. Once she’s drunk someone’s blood—as quickly happens with Wright, a man who picks her up on the side of the road—that person becomes tied to her in a relationship that’s closer to love than it is to slavery, though it’s an uncomfortable mix of the two. Soon, Shori meets other vampires, a millennia-old race who call themselves the “Ina.” She starts to drink the blood of humans (whom the Ina call “symbionts” and regard as their children, or lovers). She discovers that she’s a unique Ina, the product of a genetic experiment using human DNA that makes her able to withstand sunlight (her African-American pigmentation helping her do so). This unique status appears to be why someone killed her Ina family and their symbionts, and why she is herself being hunted. Butler (Bloodchild and Other Stories, 1995, etc.) effortlessly navigates what are pretty queasy waters, what with Shori’s frank and carnal relationship with her symbionts, complicated by her looking like a ten-year-old girl when in fact she’s 53. Racist fears of miscegenation are also given an interesting spin in a story so convincingly told, via Butler’s hardboiled yet emotional prose, that one is likely to forget it’s about vampires.
A finely crafted character study, a parable about race and an exciting family saga. Exquisitely moving fiction.