My book reviews are written as a discussion of a book, and not as an advertisement. Please be aware that there may be information that some would consider spoilers and continue on at your own risk!
Between Christmas and New Years, I read the Xenogensis series (Dawn, Adulthood Rites and Imago) by Octavia E. Butler. This was my first time reading Butler. Here’s what I thought:
Dawn– Due to chemical warfare, the citizens of Earth have nearly destroyed themselves. Without the intervention of the Oankali (aliens) all humans would have died. The humans now have the option to breed with the aliens or become extinct (they will not be able to reproduce). Lilith is the first human the Oankali awaken (they have healed the humans and kept them in animated suspension, occasionally awakening them for interviews) with the intention of breeding together. She is then responsible for waking several other humans to go back to Earth to live and mate with the Oankali.
Adulthood Rites-This is the story of Akin- Lilith’s ‘construct’ (mixed breed of human and alien) son. His dual nature enables him to understand both races and eventually work out an agreement to allow the humans to live and reproduce on Mars- without the Oankali, in essence, preserving the human race.
Imago– This is the story of Jodahs, another of Lilith’s construct, but this one is an ‘ooloi’, which is the no sex alien (the aliens have male, female, and no-sex- and all three are needed to reproduce). He is the first ooloi construct. This is the first story of a mutually desired relationship between humans and Oankali.
Plot Score: 4 / 5
Location, Location, Location?
The story takes place either on the alien spaceship- Chkahichdahk or Earth, as reconstructed by the Oankali. The spaceship is a living organism that grows and can be molded by the Oankali (they can build rooms, etc.) The ship is so big, they have a simulated jungle, that makes the awakened humans feel they are on Earth. Back on Earth, there are some new vegetation and animals.
Location Score: 4 / 5
Characters and Relationships?
The three main characters are Lilith, Akin and Jodah (each have their own book). Nikanj, an Oankali ooloi is also a main component of all three stories.
The nature of the humans vs. the nature of the aliens is a huge part of this story. The book focuses on two characteristics of humans- their hierarchical nature and their intelligence. Basically, humans care more about conquering then they do about survival (evident in the destruction of the planet). The Oankali don’t want to conquer- they want to combine. They want to take the best parts of humans and the best parts of the Oankali and build something better. This basic difference makes it impossible for Oankali and Humans to understand each other. I felt this was extreme- perhaps for the sake of making a point. In an age where the x-men and captain america, and the hulk (and other genetically modified super heroes) are popular, it seems hard to believe that no humans would be excited to gain long life, health, strength, etc. It is not until the third book, where a group of humans is found who have fertility, but also have a genetic disease really seem to be okay with mating with the Oankali- and would pick that option over moving to the human only colony on Mars.
The humans that did mate with the Oankali (before the deformed village) did it grudgingly- even Lilith. She never lost the resentment for the aliens, although they became her family and I believe she cared for them.
Characters Score: 4 / 5
I love when the author has a viewpoint and it shines through the story. (Atlas Shrugged is one of my favorite stories- there is no doubt that the reader knows how the author feels about individualism). Butler makes the statement several times that humans have a hierarchical nature that is entrenched in our characteristics- even more than our intelligence. This concept rang very true with me, I believe everything is about wining and competing and being better than others (either by true worth, or by artificial means- like race or wealth). We are always measuring ourselves against others (how many times have I heard that America is the best country in the world?). I’m not even sure how the world would function if we didn’t have those hierarchical tendencies. Would we appreciate our differences, would we value life, would we search to create by combining- like the Oankali do? During the story- Akin convinces the Oankali to allow the humans to rebuild a purely human colony on Mars. The Oankali believe that without their intervention the humans will do the same thing they’ve always done and end up destroying themselves. The point was made that ‘Human purpose isn’t what you say it is or what I say it is. It’s what your biology says it is- what your genes say it is’. Does that leave us with no hope of ever overcoming our hierarchical nature?
Bigger Meaning Score: 5 / 5
I enjoyed the writing style of this book. I did skim certain parts of these books, it was a total of 745 pages on my Kindle, and towards the end I could feel the story coming to an end.
Style Score: 4 / 5
– Am I the only one who would be excited about awesome sex, super strength and healing?
– This would make a great movie with today’s special effects- I can just see someone brining the Oankali with all their tentacles to life
– The Oankali are always ‘tasting’ things to find out what they are made of (at a molecular level), at one point Akin taste plastic and calls it poison- I recently (2010) stopped using plastics when possible because of this- then I realized this was written in the 1980’s…was Butler ahead of the times or what?
-Why can’t we all just get along??? Man, the human resisters couldn’t even get along with each other- knowing they were the last of their kind- they couldn’t wait to makes guns so they could steal, rape and kill.
Total Score and Recommendation
20 / 25 – I would recommend this book to a friend!
Tagged: #KayKay #Octavia #Butler #SciFi