Dawn and Imago  

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Octavia Estelle Butler signing a copy of Fledgling after speaking and answering questions from the audience. The event was part of a promotional tour for the book.Image via WikipediaDawn and Imago
By Octavia E. Butler, 1987 and 1989, from the library

You should know

These two books are the first and last in the Lilith's Brood or Xenogenesis trilogy; I had read the second book, Adulthood Rites, several years ago. I've also read, and really enjoyed, Butler's Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents . Butler had talked about writing a third Parable book, but despite her expectation (quoted in her author biography) "someday to be an eighty-year-old writer," she passed away in 2006.

I actually met her once, when she came to speak at St. Joe's. In fact, I accidentally hit her with my book bag...


At the beginning of Dawn, Lilith Iyapo wakes up after centuries of suspended animation. Nearly all of humanity has long since died in a global war; the few survivors were rescued and preserved by an alien race called the Oankali.

The Oankali are explorers by nature, driven to find new worlds and learn and absorb everything about them. When there is intelligent life, they interbreed with the natives; when there is not, they leave behind genetic material in hopes that one day, their descendants will find intelligent life there.

Lilith wants nothing more than to escape the Oankali and return to Earth. Her guide, Nikanj, is an ooloi, a member of the Oankali's third sex and as such a master manipulator of genetic material. Nikanj undergoes its final metamorphosis to adulthood while in Lilith's company, so the two are drawn together; its care enables Lilith to be a guide to other humans she chose to begin repopulating Earth.

The middle book, Adulthood Rites, focuses on one of Lilith's sons, created by Nikanj from the genetic material of two human and two Oankali parents. It describes the society of the repopulated Earth, where humans either live in harmony with the Oankali and parent constructs, or hybrid children; or else live as sterile, long-lived resisters, fearing what they perceive as invaders.

The trilogy, having thus far featured male and female protagonists, concludes with a novel in which the protagonist is an ooloi, the first human-Oankali construct ooloi ever born. Jodahs, another of Lilith's children, was seemingly created through and accident on Nikanj's part, and deeply fears being sent away from Earth for isolation and training.

During its metamorphosis to adulthood, Jodahs stumbles upon a colony of miraculously fertile, but dangerously inbred, humans. It must carefully balance its Oankali fears concerning how dangerous humans can be, its human desires for independence without interference, and its own deep need for human mates.


Read it if...

...you really like post-apocalyptic sci-fi or compassionate-alien-invader stories, or if you've been itching for some science fiction with a protagonist who is a female of color. Also, if you've enjoyed Butler's Parable books, you should check these out; they're not the same at all, but they're good.

The rest of the Internet

A biologist remarks on the aliens of the series and how they reflect modern humanity.

Zubon at Zubon Book Reviews appreciates how alien the Oankali are and how they interact with the humans.

Butler's biography on Wikipedia.
Read an excerpt from Dawn.

Jonathan Scott at ChickenBones: A Journal presents a tribute to Butler.

Shara Saunsaucie at Calico Reaction reviews the trilogy.

A tribute to Butler and her works by Tyler Cowen at Slate.

Butler's New York Times obituary.

Dawn, Imago, and the full trilogy at LibraryThing.

Awesome link of the week
I don't recall how I first came across Apropos of Something, but I know it involved Lost-vivor.

Lost-vivor is a Survivor game where, after every episode, blogger Jess tallies all the awesome and awful things. Take "The Shape of Things to Come." Sawyer has a good week (
"Bestowed nickname on Hurley ("Chicken Little"): +1. Launched a successful attack on Siberia: +1"). Hurley, not so much ("Get the baby away from the window, Hurley: -1. Hurley! Seriously, get the baby away from the window: -1. Dammit, Hurley, stop waving the baby around in front of the window: -1"). And hey, Vincent's doing well ("Found Doc Ray’s corpse (of course, Bernard tried to take all the credit): +3").

Last year, Sayid dominated the board, but so far this season, Ben is ahead of the game with 145 points; Daniel is a close second at 144.

Enjoy the hilarity, and check out the rest of the blog as well.

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