Lilith Iyapo has just lost her husband and son when atomic fire consumes Earth—the last stage of the planet’s final war. Hundreds of years later Lilith awakes, deep in the hold of a massive alien spacecraft piloted by the Oankali—who arrived just in time to save humanity from extinction. They have kept Lilith and other survivors asleep for centuries, as they learned whatever they could about Earth. Now it is time for Lilith to lead them back to her home world, but life among the Oankali on the newly resettled planet will be nothing like it was before.
The Oankali survive by genetically merging with primitive civilizations—whether their new hosts like it or not. For the first time since the nuclear holocaust, Earth will be inhabited. Grass will grow, animals will run, and people will learn to survive the planet’s untamed wilderness. But their children will not be human. Not exactly.
Octavia Estelle Butler was an American science fiction writer, one of the best-known among the few African-American women in the field. She won both Hugo and Nebula awards. In 1995, she became the first science fiction writer to receive the MacArthur Foundation "Genius" Grant.
After her father died, Butler was raised by her widowed mother. Extremely shy as a child, Octavia found an outlet at the library reading fantasy, and in writing. She began writing science fiction as a teenager. She attended community college during the Black Power movement, and while participating in a local writer's workshop was encouraged to attend the Clarion Workshop, which focused on science fiction.
She soon sold her first stories and by the late 1970s had become sufficiently successful as an author that she was able to pursue writing full-time. Her books and short stories drew the favorable attention of the public and awards judges. She also taught writer's workshops, and eventually relocated to Washington state. Butler died of a stroke at the age of 58. Her papers are held in the research collection of the Huntington Library.
I've never really read anything like this before. It had some of the most alien aliens I've ever come across, and it spends a lot of time exporing their physiology, gender, sexuality, and society, all parts that I really enjoyed.
The whole thing is very unnerving, blunt, and extremely uncomfortable in places. This novel very much felt like the first third of a larger story, so I'll definitely be finishing this series.
As one of the earliest African-American female science fiction writers, Octavia Butler is a must for anyone who reads sci-fi. Fourteen of her works were nominated for the Locus Award during her career, including each book in the Xenogenesis series, but she only had one win, the novelette “Bloodchild.” Dawn is the first book in the Xenogenesis series, published in 1987, and is a science fiction classic. It achieves what the best in science fiction has to offer: by looking at humanity’s interaction with an alien species, it examines what it means to be human and to be emotionally intimate. It’s a powerful story, uncomfortable in character and theme, and yet I can’t recommend it enough.
Lilith is an African-American woman Awakening from a prolonged, artificial sleep. As she reviews her situation, the reader learns humanity was engaged in a full-scale nuclear war that left almost no survivors. Since then, she has been trapped in a white box of a room with virtually no outside stimuli except mysterious voices occasionally asking questions. When Lilith finally meets her captors, she discovers they are humanoid-appearing aliens called Oankali with a talent for gene manipulation, and, even more intimidating, sport a large assortment of tentacles instead of hair. They carefully explain they’ve managed to save the few remaining humans–for the price of some genetic material. Lilith is given little choice to grow comfortable with the Oankali unless she wants to spend the rest of her very long life on their ship. If she can work with them, there’s a chance she can return to Earth.
Divided into four sections, “Womb,” “Family,” “Nursery,” “The Training Floor,” the narrative largely divides the story into chunks of time and stages in Lilith’s interaction with the Oankali. Transitions between the sections seem slightly awkward, sometimes with setting changes, sometimes with significant time breaks. The third person limited point of view brings the reader closer to Lilith’s experience without unnecessary breaks in point of view. Readers who are used to the popular first person perspective, or multi-person perspective may find it hard to emotionally relate to Lilith as she copes with her confinement and the proposed genetic destruction of the human race.
The first time I read it, I was much younger, and lacked compassion for Lilith. She is a frustrating main character who is often focused on opposition without logical basis. This time, I felt I understood her better, although I remained disappointed in her naivete. Butler did an excellent job characterizing the Oankali; I got the sense of an alien motivation, patience and decision-making process while still feeling they were somewhat identifiable. It really is remarkable how few writers are really able to convey a sense of Other; so many times aliens feel like humans dressed up in strange skins. Sadly, Butler also represents the range of humanity including uncomfortable extremes, and it was tough to witness the very real human dynamics.
There is little doubt in my mind that the story of Lilith exploring issues of freedom and sexuality with aliens has a parallel to the experience of the African slave among white slaveholders, or even dominant modern white culture. What does it meant to be genetically pure? To grant humanity to the oppressor? The Oankali are ‘saving’ humanity despite (some) human objection and doing it on their terms. While the Oankali claim their culture is egalitarian and preferable to humanity’s propensity for hierarchy and war, it is clear to Lilith that the third-sex ooloi enjoy a special rank among the Oankali, and that the Oankali are patronizing her and other humans. It is easy to be ‘benevolent’ when they hold the power over human life and death. Essentially, Lilith is given a choice to assimilate or die shipbound, but when she elects to die, the Oankali claim that they know what she really wants, even as she states otherwise. And yet there is nothing simplistic here; it is not merely a case of returning humanity to Earth and letting them recreate their self-destruction. There humans and Oankali trying to do the best as they understand it with a challenging situation.
It is a powerful, uncomfortable story on many levels. The series was released as “Lilith’s Brood,” and in a Youtube promotional video, Samuel Delany said “you read it, you walk around the next few days thinking about it, which is, I think, what good writing makes you do” (“Octavia Butler Profile Piece“). I wholeheartedly agree, which is why I’ll take a breather before advancing to the next in the series, Adulthood Rites.
I was utterly compelled. When I got to the end, I was so hungry for the next book I was actually frustrated not to have it to hand. The last book I enjoyed nearly this much was The Lathe of Heaven so I guess I need to give in and accept that speculative fiction with feminist consciouness is my true love.
I love that Lilith is angry with her captors, that she doesn't lose her drive to be free, ever. In many ways I felt the book was about consent - what does consent really mean when your options are constricted, when you know you are powerless? Lilith uses violence - for the first time - to prevent a rape. The victim was kicking and screaming in the grip of her captors, who urged 'it's your duty, you don't have the right to resist'. Lilith says 'nobody here is property, nobody has the right of use of anyone else's body' but this assertion is almost ironic considering the group's predicament. Butler does not spend time giving Black Feminism 101. Come on reader, you can do that work on your own. The material is here: control of fertility, stolen children, Lilith's weary expectation of forced breeding. The nuances of love and male violence. Even the misgendering of the Oankali has feminist resonance - the ooloi are read as male because they appear in authoritative roles and because they arouse men's sexual jealousy. Butler takes her investigation of consent to a whole new level through the Oankali's ability to read human chemistry but not thought, to the idea of chemical consent.
I love that Butler takes emotion seriously at all levels and fills Lilith's dilemma with conflict, with arguments for both sides. The Oankali have saved the species, regenerated the destroyed Earth, they are culturally attractive. When they offend human scruples, they almost know not what they do; sexual shame is alien to them. We are not expected to accept the assertions of Jdaya and Nikanj 'I know you, I've studied you...' this is the White man's voice, and the epistemology it rests on is challenged in the way the story unfolds: you've studied my history, but you haven't lived it, so you don't know it as I do. You've studied my body, but you can't read the whole of who I am there. On the other hand - how dispiritingly disappointing the other awakened humans are! One of the hardest things to accept about the book is its pessimism about humanity. It was impossible not to agree that the humans need help; the argument in my heart is how to feel about the price.
I wouldn't have fought for my freedom at all I think, which is a bit worrying. Bring the Oankali I say! I am already a vegan anarcha-eco-feminist; I am ready for the non-sexist non-hierarchical life-venerating invaders. Butler won't countenance such uncritical acceptance. The Oankali are not anarchists in my view, because they coerce, not vegans, because they use other animals (including humans). They are compelled, as we are, though differently, by their genes. I am reminded of Daniel C Dennett's writing on genes and their agendas - when Jdaya says I am as committed to the trade (of genes) as you are to breathing, I don't quite believe - I think it may be closer to the commitment to breeding. This leads me to a big question her book left me with - what about me? I'm not heterosexual. This possibility of sexual diversity among the Oankali (who are of three sexes) is not mentioned, but the same is true of the human group. Butler tells us 'there were no voluntary vegetarians' but is silent on the possibility of same-sex desire. Maybe I'll find out in the next book. I can hardly wait!
When I read Octavia Butler’s Patternmaster, I grew impatient with the world building process, and that impatience diminished my pleasure. With Dawn world building is seamlessly intertwined with character development and plot progression. Octavia Butler was clearly in the zone when she wrote Dawn. Dawn has earned a place in my heart next to Octavia Butler’s Kindred and Fledgling novels.
Dawn is the first book in the Xenogenesis series, which includes Dawn, Adulthood Rites, and Imago. When the publisher released the omnibus edition, the three novels were rebranded as the Lilith's Brood series. Named after the main character in Dawn, Lilith Iyapo.
I don't want to reveal anything that happens in this book, so I'll only say that I now consider Dawn to be one of my three favorite Octavia Butler novels along with Kindred and Fledgling.
My daughter gave me the three Lilith's Brood novels for Christmas, so I was able to start Adulthood Rites as soon as I finished Dawn. I'm anxious to get back to it, so I'm going to declare this review finished and get back to reading.
Oh, one last thing before I go. Dawn is going to be made into a TV movie by Amazon Studios. I have no idea when the movie will be made or released, but I'm already cooking the popcorn.
Octavia Butler’s 1987 novel Dawn begins her Xenogenesis trilogy (the series was titled Lilith's Brood in the Omnibus that was published in 2000). She would continue the story with Adulthood Rites in 1988 and complete the set with Imago in 1989.
Essentially, the world has been devastated by a nuclear war and all that remains of humanity are a few straggler survivors who are picked up by an alien race who has been observing us. Butler spends little time here though; we get to know the protagonist Lilith, as she is kept alive and awakened by the aliens.
What Butler does with deft erudition and literary skill is build a sense of dramatic tension between Lilith and her alien savior / captors. Lilith is a difficult hero, reluctantly taking the lead in re-awakening her fellow humans to be a vanguard of a new civilization and possibly a new race.
Butler’s phenomenal talent creates for us a richly complex science fiction story but Dawn also acts as a vehicle whereby Butler can explore themes of sexuality, isolation, gender, race and species. Not to be lost are also mythic and Biblical references, not the least of which is the name given to her protagonist, the pre-legendary first wife of Adam. Butler uses this premise to suggest and illustrate what is wrong with humans and how we can be improved. Another Biblical connection could be Lilith as a Moses figure leading a second wave of humans to a promised land earth.
Dawn also reminds me of a primer in sociology. In college I took a sociology class and we had a group project. We were divided up into partnerships of four and the premise was that we were to pick people to start a civilization, after having traveled by spaceship to colonize a new planet. Each small group decided what people and in what order would be awakened and we also decided how the new world would be organized. It was entertaining and informative to see how different the groups were and in what cultural and political schemes of organization were used.
I'm wore out, wrung out, and tuckered out. I'll get a review up before long.
Meantime, look at the notes I've left.
And leave us not to forget that, in this troubled passage in US and world history, the present Golden Age of Sci Fi on Screen will gift us with the first-ever adaptation of a Butler novel, this one, by no less a new voice than Ava DuVernay. She is the talent behind the good-buzzed adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time!
The Publisher Says: Lilith Iyapo has just lost her husband and son when atomic fire consumes Earth—the last stage of the planet’s final war. Hundreds of years later Lilith awakes, deep in the hold of a massive alien spacecraft piloted by the Oankali—who arrived just in time to save humanity from extinction. They have kept Lilith and other survivors asleep for centuries, as they learned whatever they could about Earth. Now it is time for Lilith to lead them back to her home world, but life among the Oankali on the newly resettled planet will be nothing like it was before.
The Oankali survive by genetically merging with primitive civilizations—whether their new hosts like it or not. For the first time since the nuclear holocaust, Earth will be inhabited. Grass will grow, animals will run, and people will learn to survive the planet’s untamed wilderness. But their children will not be human. Not exactly.
This ebook features an illustrated biography of Octavia E. Butler including rare images from the author’s estate.
My Review: I think the 12 notes I left publicly viewable are enough of a review of the book as a piece of writing. They're tied to passages I found important and so will, I hope, make the aesthetic point of why I think you should read this book, and in fact the series as a whole.
What I comment on now is the why of reading SF, fiction by women, fiction by people of color (a phrase I'm no more comfortable with than the "colored people" of my vanished youth), SF by women of color...reading and absorbing and thinking about the ideas given to you, amazingly freely and trustingly, by people you aren't like and maybe even people you don't like.
I think you should read these astounding gifts of personal creativity because they offer a close look into the ideas that someone unlike you finds important. If you don't learn what people unlike you find important, you run the risk of being caught in a labyrinth of dark sameness, a place where you don't need light because you know the contents of your environment so well already that there's no read need to take a good look at them.
And that is how we got to the point where we are as a country, here in the US as well as in the UK, and a culture, both in the West and the East. No one listens. We wait for our turn to talk without engaging our brains to process what our ears are hearing. And that's only if we're polite.
Open up a little by reading Butler's tale of the Oankali changing earthlings' genetics to improve their health and well-being. In the wake of a species-ending nuclear war, the earthlings aren't grateful to the Oankali for rescue, they're angry that they had no choice, no say, no chance to refuse being saved if it meant being used and manipulated for and by the Oankali.
Butler put her finger squarely on the conflict: The earthlings were given no choice. They were unquestionably manipulated before they were given any chance to comment on these things. They had also just blown their entire planet into an extinction event. Did they deserve a say? Butler gives Lilith the words to complain about the earthlings' treatment and the Oankali to explain but not apologize the whys of it.
In my never-humble opinion, a species that blew its home into an extinction event over stupid crap doesn't need any consultation to be offered, still less consent to be sought. Be damned good and grateful these interstellar gene machines arrived in time to do squat for you, which they didn't have to do at all. Given their culture's immense experience with and commodification of gene manipulation, they could simply have paused, grabbed some material (aka survivors of the holocaust) and used them before disposing of them.
The Oankali's ethics are superior to the earthlings', and they didn't do that. They set about repairing the damaged earth and improving the damned earthlings who caused the problem in the first place, while making every effort to understand and support them along the way.
A lot like animal researchers are doing today among cetaceans and great apes.
Don't like having done to us what we so blithely do to others, do we? And yet it's perfectly justified...the changes are being made for the earthlings' future benefit, after all.
After the weekend of 10 August 2017–when neo-Nazi and "alt-right" hate machines burst their closet doors of simply screaming at normal, decent people at last and began the hot war portion of their Civil War against goodness, kindness, and decency–reading a book like Dawn is an excellent primer in how this horror got started: A decent and perfectly reasonable human gets all bent out of shape and even decides she'd prefer to die rather than have her tiny little patch of personal control violated despite the certainty that she is and will continue to be better off for it.
I was never sanguine about human nature. I'm not turning any corners in that regard now. But I can see a tiny thread visible in the labyrinth: Read. Read the stuff that isn't just like you like the world to be. At least try that much, because it's no exaggeration to say your way of life is on the line. Try to hear what the Other is saying underneath the screams. We have to find the thread and follow it to our common source or we're headed the way of Butler's earthlings.
And I do not think there are any Oankali on the way to help us.
One of the first novels dealing with the idea of how gender, love and procreation may evolve under the influence of interspecies, in this case, alien relationships.
Octavia E Butler is a unique writer, because she was both one of the first female black Sci-Fi writers and also dealt with the, at this time and strangely even today, controversial ideas of what might happen if aliens want to have some sexy time with humans.
We have already a bunch of varieties with the human genders and gender identities and mixing it up with more genders, the option to change gender and to manipulate the results of sexual reproduction both by technology and by free will opens up many plot devices.
How the average Joe and human society may react to those new realities and how human mentalities could be more directly expressed by breeding in and out certain traits, body parts, etc. What the motivation of aliens might be, like for instance getting interesting new traits by dealing with all kinds of collected material from all around the universe. The dangers that come up with misusing that technology.
It could be less dramatic when we would never find aliens or get visited by them and all of those new relational models would have to be developed on earth by using genetic engineering and good, old fashioned, mad mixing of different species. That´s the reason why I hope that we won´t have to play with this potential doomsday device alone in the endless, cold dark of space without the help of an experienced tutor of undescribable gender and genitalia.
This started out awesome! Lilith wakes up from a long sleep in some kind of prison, and must cooperate with her grotesque alien captors, the Oankali, and figure out what they want from her. Turns out they want to repopulate the newly-rebuilt Earth with human alien hybrids! It had the stuff I personally love: gripping conversation between fascinating characters who are learning about each other. Despite their being no real action in the first half of Dawn, it was carried quite nicely by these conversations. Yes, I guess I am a giant nerd that way. But once Lilith begins Awakening other humans to begin teaching them how to survive on Earth once more, everything takes a huge nose-dive. Can I just say it? Most of the humans are assholes. There are about 40 of them, and Butler can't possibly characterize them all successfully in such a short time (and she does not). So the story goes from an intimate character-driven one between the fleshed-out Lilith and aliens Jdahya and Nikanj as she gets used to life with the Oankali, to a more action driven one with 40 extra assholes dumped into the mix. The humans are all cowardly, tribal, suspicious, dense, selfish, and violent. Ok, maybe not all. Joseph, Lilith's blander-than-bland love interest, is not like that, and Butler goes to great lengths to let the reader know how special he and Lilith are. But what do they get for their trouble? He dies. Killed by the most violent alpha-male of the group. And Nikanj the alien ends up keeping Lilith on the ship in the end, rather than on Earth with the humans she has trained, because it says the other humans would have definitely plotted to kill her. This fatalistic attitude about humans permeates the book and is unrelenting! But there are other, even deeper problems, with Dawn. I picked up this book because I'd heard that Octavia Butler was a highly-regarded feminist writer. As a feminist-minded reader, I seek these stories out because feminist writers are more likely to have fully realized female characters, less sexualized violence, and something interesting to say about sex and gender roles (or at least they don't tend to fall back on old gender cliches). But some of the ideas in this book are so regressive I wondered if this was written in the 60s. (Nope, 80s!) First off, Butler's men, with the exception of Joseph, are all violent and/or petulantly anxious about their masculinity. The Oankali pretty much rape all the humans, let's be honest. It's not graphically presented, and it's of the mind-sex variety, but still, it's awful. These aliens have no concept or respect for wishes of consent from their human captives. They use drugs and chemicals to "bond" the raped humans to them in a horrific version of Stockholm Syndrome. HOWEVER, only the men are driven to violence by these rapes. Peter and Curt turn murderous at being "taken like a woman" (quote from the book!). The women seem to suffer no ill effects, and indeed a few of them cling to these violent men, and it strikes me as very disturbing for a "feminist" writer to present. As if being raped was woman's natural lot, and women are not inherently violent (ha!), but rape a man and watch out! Even the kick-ass scene where Lilith saves a human woman from being raped by a human man can't override the message. I wouldn't even mind if Butler had had some commentary about this; if maybe she had condemned the underlying homophobia and misogyny, taught by culture, that drives some men to murder anything that taints their dominant masculinity. (It reminded me of the appalling "trans-panic" defense and left a bad taste in my mouth.) But she just presented it as how Things Just Are. Like the humans are just biologically like that, and not shaped by the vestiges of thousands of years of patriarchy. I'm not sure what kind of feminist Butler is, but I know *I* am not the kind that thinks all men are inherently Cavemen, and all women are cowering, helpless children. And speaking of homophobia, this book is *painfully* heteronormative. And monogamous. The Oankali are a 3 gender race: male, female, and the sexless "ooloi". Ok, but there is never any deviation from this relationship model. There are no gay Oankali, Oankali divorces, affairs, or even happily single Oankali. There are certainly no gay humans! They all pair up very quickly into straight, extremely monogamous couples (and later, 3somes with an ooloi). For someone who tries to be edgy by creating a 3 gender race, there is something that smells very traditional and conservative about the Oankali. Their sex is mind-sex, a kind of sexless, dispassionate, sanitized sex. Procreation is at the forefront of all their relationships. (Gee, this is sounding so familiar!) It is stated that the male and female Oankali never touch each other sexually, oh no! Butler even goes to great lengths to explain how Oankali are practically slaves to their chemicals and drives, and that being gay or even single is just not thought of or mentioned. And personality and compatibility isn't even a factor; just get the right chemicals flowing and the male, female and ooloi form an unbreakable bond! But with boring-ass "sex"! Biology is destiny for Butler. Isn't this a line of thinking most modern feminists are *against*? I know I am! I don't know. I'll probably read the rest of the trilogy, because I got all three for free in the same volume. I really hope Butler has something to say about all this in her next books, because if not, I'll be really disappointed!
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
This is the second book I've read by Octavia Butler and I'm completely impressed by the complexity and intrigue of this story. I was afraid that being sci-fi I would find it difficult to get into the story and that there would be so much to digest that I would miss something. However that is not the case. The story is told with extremely adept writing and Butler definitely took into consideration that she was trying to entertain while saying something. So what is she saying? Tons of stuff! She made astute commentary on racism, sexism, life, the sexes, community, survival, etc. and the list goes on. I recommend it highly. I can't wait to go on to book 2, Adulthood Rites, on Saturday. I'm rooting for you Lilith! You can check out my video review here - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W6nm4...
What does it say about me that I wasn't disturbed by this book???
I began reading with trepidation. A looming fear that I might encounter something so unsettling it would leave me unnerved for days.
I'm a little disappointed that didn't happen. I'm still enamoured with this story though, even if my brain cells are so screwed up that I rarely squirmed or blinked an eye over what I read.
In the beginning, I understood Lilith's fear and loathing. I tried to put myself in her place and feel those things too but my curiosity about the aliens surpassed any feelings of terror. I just wanted to learn more about them, disgusting though they might be with their quivering tentacles and featureless faces. To me, humans are much more frightening in our capacity, and sometimes desire, to harm each other.
I'm not going to say more. I think it's best to go into this one knowing little about it. It is a brilliant and captivating story. Octavia E. Butler had such a dazzling imagination. There are so many layers of meaning entrenched in this, so much to ponder. I'm glad it's a trilogy so I can remain a while longer in this Earth she created, with these glorious, disgusting, intelligent, advanced, and amazing..... beings.
“Yes,” he said, “intelligence does enable you to deny facts you dislike. But your denial doesn’t matter.”
Lilith wakes up on an Oankali spaceship hundreds of years after an atomic war devastates Earth. These alien Oankali, Lilith learns, feel it is their mission to save what remains of humanity. How they plan to do it is what makes Dawn such an interesting read. I just finished Margaret Atwood's MaddAddam trilogy in which we find out the future of humanity isn't really humanity. There are big differences in the approach of each author, but both envision big changes in what constitutes humanity. Perhaps in Atwood's case, the genetically modified humanoids (Crakers) aren't part of humanity nor are their descendants (even if they mate with some of the last remaining humans on the planet). Not sure?
In Dawn, what follows after Lilith wakes up is something of a contest of wills between herself and the Oankali she sees as her captors. After studying mankind for hundreds of years, are they ready to help humans repopulate Earth? Compelling read with a fascinating perspective! Dawn could be a standalone, but I am ready to continue reading the Xenogenesis series. 4.5 stars
“Your people contain incredible potential, but they die without using much of it.”
Solo puedo decir WOW. Un libro diferente a cualquiera que haya leído. Un libro que te hace pensar, que te hace ver como es el ser humano, que te hace replantearte ciertas cosas...
Me parece una historia compleja, pero escrita de una forma sencilla de leer. Su lectura es muy ágil, a la cual ayudan los capítulos cortos.
Destacaría cinco cosas en este libro:
El personaje protagonista, Lilith. Es una mujer con una fortaleza mental impresionante. No solo hace frente a los Oankali ella sola, si no que además se va adaptando a la vida que tiene que llevar dentro de la nave; pero nunca perdiendo de vista su objetivo, no perder su humanidad y ayudar a los demás humanos a seguir siéndolo. Su relación con Nikanj es super compleja. Por un lado parece que le quiere, o que le tiene cierto cariño al menos; pero por otro lado nunca olvida lo que es, y lo que nunca será. Nunca será humano.
Los Oankali. La raza extraterrestre que salva lo que queda de humanidad. Son tan diferentes físicamente al ser humano, que estos sienten horror, pavor, cuando los ven. Es verdad que al final se acostumbran, pero les cuesta. Son descritos por Lilith como si fueran seres marinos, pero bípedos. Llenos de tentáculos por todo su cuerpo, con los que pueden sentir (ver, oler, tocar), y comunicarse entre ellos al entrelazar estos tentáculos. Son una raza no jerárquica.
Los conflictos humanos, y entre humanos. Los seres humanos en esta novela no pueden evitar ser eso, muy humanos. Peleas, discusiones, envidias, celos, odio, desconfianza, sobre todo mucha desconfianza. Todas estas emociones hacen que como siempre no puedan convivir en paz.
Su ciencia. Los Oankali son comerciantes, se ganan la vida así. Y ¿con qué comercian? Con ellos mismos. Su ADN, genes, células. Llevan siglos comerciando con otras especies, sobre todo para mejorarse a si mismos, para poder evolucionar y mejorar. Los Ooloi, el tercer género de esta raza, parecen ser los que se especializan en estudiar a otras razas, y también parece que son los que llevan a cabo los experimentos genéticos.
Y por último la nave. La nave de los Oankali es su casa. Hace siglos que ellos no tienen un planeta propio, así que hicieron de esta nave su hogar. La nave no se dice exactamente el tamaño que tiene, pero si se menciona que podría ser del tamaño de un pequeño planeta (al menos eso creo recordar). Esta nave es un ser vivo en si, ni planta ni animal, pero ambas cosas al mismo tiempo.
Además en este libro se toca el tema de la identidad de género. Los Oankali se emparejan en tríos. Lo que llamaríamos las hembras, los machos, y un tercer género al que llaman Ooloi. Sin este último no pueden tener hijos.
Me alegra tanto haber podido conocer este libro y a su autora... Espero que el nombre de Octavia E. Butler se haga más conocido, porque se lo merece; se lo ha ganado.
Si lo leéis espero que lo disfrutéis tanto como yo. Si le dais una oportunidad no creo que os arrepintáis.
I don’t think I was ever so aware of my body and my safety and my breathing space as I am now. One’s body is perceived as a temple; defile it and you’ll break that person for life.
This book is not about humanity being self-obliterated, or close encounter of 5th kind or more. It doesn’t even have action. So, if you expect battles and how we prevail in the face of bad aliens, don’t.
It's all about the interaction between the two species, or better said, races.
It deals with racism, xenophobia, slavery, apartheid, totalitarianism, lack of freedom, imprisonment, psychological manipulation, humiliation, mental torment, lack of intimacy, fear – of unknown and of one’s most inner desires. Violence is presented – literally – being a cancer. I don’t think I ever looked at it as such and now I don’t think a better comparison can be found. And the list can continue. Still, it is not accusing. It presents facts and PoV from both sides and everything seems to be so wrong and yet, you will have doubts. The ‘sex’ scenes are perceived by many readers as rape. From a point of view, it is. From another point of view, it just shows how deeply terrified we are of our desires to be fulfilled and how we repel pleasure if it’s gained out of norms. Moreover, it shows how we reject anybody which is different than we are. Fear is a powerful emotion which can drive someone insane.
It’s also about survival of the species, which we are all familiar with. We are trying so desperately to salvage some of the animals which are almost extinct and we do what we can to make them reproduce – in vitro fertilization, drugs for fertility and I guess some other medical technics which I am not aware of. But ever wonder if we were instead of them and all those things were done to us? How would we feel about that? And is it wrong? Does survival of a species justify the torment of few individuals? But is it even torment?
The story is character driven, no doubt about it. And because the main character is a woman, I resonated much more with her. I couldn’t but put myself in her shoes. And I dreaded the experience with every pore. It is definitely the most disturbing, unsettling, uncomfortable experience I had with a book so far. And that says something about how astonishing the writing of Octavia Butler is.
It is a 100% sci-fi story and at the same time, it isn’t. It’s a psychological one. One that will deeply mess with your mind and make you cringe at almost every page. It raises so many questions, it poses so many issues – ethical mostly – that I guess if I were to put on paper every thought that screams in my head right now, it will surpass this novel in length...
If you feel you're up for one of the most intimidating and petrifying reading experience of your life, go for it. I know I will be haunted by it forever.
I loved the almost elegant and unrelenting unfolding of a most unusual alien apocalypse. The Oankali are the saviors of humankind after a nuclear war, preserving a population of survivors in a form of suspension while working to facilitate recovery of planetary ecology. But at what a cost. Their agenda is to merge genetically with humans to make a new species.
That plot overview is certainly a spoiler, but that is what is rendered for a draw on the book’s cover. It’s really okay because we are well immersed in the slow process of discovery by the lead character, Lillith. She wakes up to months of isolation in a sterile environment. We experience her struggles with xenophobia over her progressive contacts with the creepy Oankali. Butler excels as usual in making aliens believably alien. There are three sexes, of which, the one who buddies up with her is of the more intelligent neutral gender. I’ll say no more on their nature and powers.
I can say that Lillith goes through a long process of horror, defiance, despair, and eventual seduction to the cause working with the aliens. They want Lillith to help wake up and facilitate the acceptance of more humans for the colonization effort. None are as adaptable as she is, and many see her as a traitor or, due to genetic enhancements the Oankali bestow on her, no longer human. It’s a brilliant and emotionally wrenching story. Perhaps being a black woman the author intends some analogies to slavery in her plot. If so, that makes an added bonus to a compelling tale already well blessed with innovation.
One could stop with this book, but there are two more volumes in the series if you get hooked. I can’t wait to see what happens when they get back to Earth. Will humans be transformed beyond recognition as humans? Or will they somehow get out from under these powerful beings and escape the Faustian bargain? And, if so, can they get on a path that does not point to eventual self-destruction again?
A large octupus-alien has a pretty realistic threesome with two-dimensional humanoids. Dreams are made of this--well, but not my dreams. Nor nightmares. "Dawn" remains prime example of the reasoning behind my headstrong, unwavering apathy for most sci-fi novels.
I have such conflicted feelings about this book. I found it both brilliant and disturbing in equal measure. The beginning introduces the reader to a strange and terrifying situation that sucks you in right away. The horror at some revelations is delivered so realistically that I found myself clenching my teeth and trying to hide in the pillows I was reading on. I was very impressed. The more I read on though, the more unsettling things became. Near the last quarter of the book Octavia crossed a line that made me very uncomfortable. I was disgusted and could no longer enjoy this bizarre story because of how very disturbing things became. I finished this book late last night and fell asleep thinking about it. I've been thinking about it all day... I even thought about it in church this morning! I'm not sure if I want to read the rest of the series or not. I don't "like" the ideas the author has scared my brain with, but I am fascinated. I feel like the humans in this book, unable to admit what I really want because of how upset I am by it!! Well done Ocatavia Butler.
I'm half-tempted to hold off on a review until I read the full trilogy. I've come to understand that the full story isn't explored until we've read the whole thing... BUT since this was published as the first book, here I go, anyway. :)
This is quite a bit different from Kindred, focusing instead on the social, emotional, and physical changes associated with being awoken in captivity among some very strange and awesome alien-aliens. This isn't Star Trek. It's more of a Cthuhlu encounter without the overarching dread, modifying the humans through drugs and genetic changes and being told that the rest of the human race has wiped itself out with nukes.
From every indication, these super-alien creatures are super empathic and only want to prepare and release us back on the planet, but more than half of the tale is about earning trust or perhaps falling into Stockholm Syndrome. Awakening other humans for the grand purpose goes about as well as any of us humans might expect.
Especially when the aliens let us know that our children are going to be hybrids.
I see a lot of modern SF's roots in this book. Anything more interested in relationships and human nature and working through some serious s**t.
It's not fast-paced. It relies on subtlety and empathy with and about the aliens and her slow change into a person that successfully straddles both worlds without being a part of either. Quite interesting, but it obviously leaves the tale unfinished. On to book two!
I have been squirreling away Octavia Butler books. I consider myself an avid fan of her works yet I have only read two of her novels so far (Wild Seed and Kindred), and the last one was sometime last year. My rationale is that there are only a finite number of Butler books available to read as the lady is no longer with us. If I binge on them now there will not be any more new Butler books to read and I will only have rereads to look forward to. As I love both Wild Seed and Kindred very much her books are safe bets for me, so I may well save them for a rainy day.
Dawn is volume 1 of Ms. Butler’s Lilith's Brood trilogy. I actually bought the omnibus edition (containing all three volumes) but as I have just finished Dawn I thought I’d review this first as a single book. It is the story of Lilith lyapo (the L in the surname is not capitalized for some reason) who wakes up from suspended animation in a spaceship to find herself a captive of an alien species called the Oankali who train her to be the leader of other captive humans in a project to repopulate previously devastated Earth. That seems very nice of them but of course they have their own agenda…
That is as much of a synopsis as you can expect from me, any more and I’d spoil the book. The best thing about this book for me is the world building. I do love to read about biotechnology where living organisms are used for everything instead of metallic and plastic. Living spaceships, living houses and furniture etc. So I was happy to immerse in this world (well, ship) that Butler created in such vivid details.
Beside the immense imagination that goes into her sf books Ms. Butler is also adept at creating believable characters that we can invest our emotion in. The underlying themes of captivity without imprisonment and subjugation by a relatively benign master seem to be common in her works (at least from what I have read so far). Another major theme in this book is “what does it mean to be human?” Lilith is genetically modified internally to enhance her strength, healing and other abilities, once the other humans find out they accuse her of no longer being human. Later another person is found to be modified and summarily murdered in spite of never having done anybody any harm. It makes me wonder about the term “inhumane”, does it have anything to do with humanity? Is the murderer more human but less humane?
The book ends on an intriguing note though not a cliff hanger. I am looking forward to read the rest of the saga. As always Octavia Butler's prose is elegant, smooth and very readable, another major attraction for me is that her compassion always shines through her work and while reading her books I sometime feel a little melancholic that she is not around any more to make the world a better place.
Dawn: Aliens grant humans a second chance — at a price Originally posted at Fantasy Literature Dawn (1987) is the first book in Octavia Butler’s XENOGENESIS trilogy, written after her PATTERNIST series. By this point she had been writing challenging science fiction novels for a decade, and her writing craft and ideas had reached a high level. Dawn is a very impressive book. Imagine that mankind has largely destroyed itself and the planet — it’s a fairly common doomsday scenario.
But instead of the survivors scrabbling for survival, what if they were saved and kept in storage for centuries by an alien race, the Oankali? And what if one were awakened first, as Lilith Iyabo was, by these strange and frightening alien beings, covered in sensory tentacles? And what if one were told that humanity had been saved and would be repopulating the planet Earth, together with the Oankali? And with only one condition — but one that would transform human beings forever.
Octavia Butler doesn’t write comfortable science fiction stories. She wants to challenge the reader with truly alien beings, and then present them in a surprisingly benign and benevolent light, while making humans look ignorant and brutish. Lilith is a fairly tough and independent-minded woman, and that is why they think she can tolerate the extreme psychological dislocation of being awoken aboard an organic alien spaceship.
The early portion of the book deals with her trying to understand the sheer strangeness of the Oankali. They have three genders: male, female, and Ooloi, the latter of which can manipulate genetic material directly. They can adjust their own DNA as well as that of humans. Throughout the book, we are presented with scenes of transformation. The line between human and alien is blurred. Human and alien sexuality is also put under the microscope.
Finally, the venality of the humans selected for repopulating the earth is explored. Butler seems to have a profound skepticism of humanity. The Oankali may be opaque in their true intentions for humanity, but they are certainly more advanced, patient, benign, and intelligent than people. They seek to make an exchange with humanity, but when Lilith begins to awaken other people, she discovers their reaction to the Oankali is much more xenophobic and violent than she or the Oankali could ever have anticipated. Lilith finds herself caught between two sides, and drawn more to the alien than her fellow humans. And yet her designated role is to lead this group of surviving humans to rebuilt civilization on Earth.
A full assessment will have to wait until I’ve read the two sequels, Adulthood Rites and Imago, but Dawn is unnerving and compelling reading. If science fiction is supposed to confront readers with the truly alien, then Butler has succeeded marvelously. The Oankali are intriguing and frightening at the same time, but her depiction of humanity is even more alien in many ways. It is their prejudices, insecurities, brutish instincts, and predilection to violence and conflict that stand out compared to the peaceful and contemplative Oankali. There is clearly a strong element of implicit social criticism here, and I expect to see this expanded in the coming volumes.
Okay. So how do I describe this really weird sci-fi book that masquerades as horror. Not hunt you down alone on a ship Alien horror, more like subtly psychologically really disturbing (to me anyway) sci-fi. The basic situation is a girl, Lilith, (for mythology fans, please note the symbolism) is the lone survivor of a nuclear holocaust and is left with the responsibilities of awakening the other humans from a deep sleep, telling them they are on an alien ship, leading them to earth, and, of course, convincing them that the deal she struck with the aliens to get them back is a nasty but good idea. It's hard to get more in depth with this story without spoiling anything. Let's just say sympathies were with the people that thought it was a good idea to kill the protagonist and her bunch. I normally have a cast iron stomach regardless of how brutal what I am reading is. For some reason I felt nauseous often when reading this, especially when I began to realize the extent of the relationship between Lilith and the aliens. Overall, I can clearly see why this book is so highly rated. I am not sure I want to complete the trilogy. I found myself skimming and not really liking or caring about any of the characters. It is well written and for the right reader it's a gem, I am sure. I would be tempted to go right to the end of book three, figure out what happens, and go read something else.
2021 Reread: I hate the audiobook narrator. Her voice is grating and annoying. Can Robin Miles redo these audiobooks as well????
Somehow my reread created a 2nd entry for this book. I erased it. 2/16/20
This is the first novel I ever read by Octavia Butler. I'm now a grandmother but when I read this my daughter was 6 months old. I still have the paperback with the white woman on the cover. LOL! Imagine my surprise when the main character was a statuesque black woman, extremely capable, practical and a natural leader. OB has been my favorite author ever since. This novel was published in 1987 and some of the politics and technology are dated. This deals with a future in which a nuclear holocaust has laid waste to the Earth. Western nations were especially hard hit. Lilith Iyapo is studying in South America when the crisis happens. She survives the initial explosion and is rescued. Her rescuers are not anything she could've ever imagined. The Oankali are the most unique aliens I have ever read about. They travel thorough space in a living ship looking for mates and are as much our captors as our rescuers.
Like zombie-lit does with undead hordes (but seriously, done waaayyy better), Butler uses ETs as the mirror held to humanity to show us our strengths and (mostly) our weaknesses.
This is a compelling narrative with a rich, well crafted female protagonist and science-fiction elements interesting to both veterans of the genre and initiates alike. I read this aloud to my wife - a reader not particularly interested in SciFi - and as soon as I finished the book she asked me to start the next one in the series. Pretty high praise.
If I could describe this book in one word, it would be: Underwhelming. This was the first Octavia E. Butler book I read, and after reading all the great reviews about her, I was expecting a lot more.
"Dawn" brings a lot of interesting ideas to the table. Hierarchy, humanity's tendencies toward good or evil, captivity under benevolent rulers... and.... inter-species alien rape. Erm... why not? But none of the meaning or commentary behind this book adds up to anything because I just didn't give a crap. All of the characters were one-dimensional and uninteresting. The story and the characters both just pad along with no real pull. I only kept reading because I bought the book and I wanted to figure out where the author was going with this. But by the end it feels like she was going nowhere.
I don't even know who the main character Lilith is as a character. She was just kind of... there. Like all the other characters. None of the characters, not even the aliens, had a unique voice. So by the time the inter-species alien rape came in, I was already too jaded from the experience to have a reaction. (And speaking of which, what was Ms. Butler going for with the alien rape? If I actually cared about anything in this book, or if it was executed with more finesse, I would have just found it disturbing).
When the humans start getting physically aggressive and kill the main character's love interest, I felt nothing. That whole romance subplot was really half-arsed. It was basically just "These two characters are having a threesome with an alien... and that's it".
This book had a lot of potential. Again, Octavia E. Butler had a lot of good ideas but none of them paid off. I've noticed this is a problem with a lot of sci-fi writers. An interesting setting and world-building are not enough to create a solid book. None of that matters if you have zero characterization and zero emotional depth. I really wanted to like this book, but in the end I was left feeling empty.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Brilliant characters and complex future world are developed in this first of a 3 part series, Dawn is superb. Why did I stop reading Octavia Butler after my delight in Kindred and The Parable of the Sower?
What an unsettling little book! I stayed up late last night to finish it and I awoke this morning with it still on my mind (and I think I dreamed about it too). Octavia Butler is skilled at making me re-examine my beliefs about humanity.
The Oankali are interesting and somewhat threatening aliens. Their evolutionary history seems to have come from the echinoderm or cnidarian branches of the tree of life and their appearance is initially terrifying to any human. Our protagonist, Lilith, has to be conditioned and altered biochemically in order to interact with them. Their motivations are very opaque and they are in no hurry to reveal them.
Once again, Butler is exploring the nature of power dynamics, with the Oankali having the upper hand in the relationship, setting all the rules. Humans are treated like lab animals, like livestock, and like pets, although by the end of the book there are complications that cannot completely be explained by those relationships. However, the new relationship still feels very exploitative.
Also examined is the matter of genetic change—how much alteration can be done to a genome before you say that a species has been altered to become a new species? Is survival worth such a transformation? How much would I be willing to endure merely to survive?
Dawn asks many more questions than it provides answers to and I will be most interested to read the second and third installments in the series.
Book 213 in my science fiction and fantasy reading project.
My god, everything by Octavia Butler is just so damn good! Dawn is the first in a sci-fi trilogy following a woman named Lilith who has been saved by aliens from the destruction of humanity and is being groomed to lead a group of humans in resettling a changed earth and having children that merge human genetics with alien ones.
It's a brilliant examination of race and gender, while also being an incredibly inventive piece of science-fiction that I couldn't put down. (and I desperately want to pick up book 2!) I think the much of this book could be read as drawing on the experiences of enslaved Africans forced into a terrifying new life where things are being done to them without their consent for the good of the enslavers. I don't think this is a one-for-one allegory by any means, but I do think there are intentional similarities that ask us to examine our own history.
Butler really complicates these aliens because they see themselves as a sort of paternalistic force for good, and yet they are making decisions on behalf of others, violating their bodily autonomy, and manipulating them towards the ends they desire for their own reasons. And yet...Lilith comes to care for some of them. And as readers, we do too. Meanwhile other humans can be violent in more overt ways. You are intended to have complicated feelings about what is happening in the book and Butler is never content to make anything simple. An incredible piece of literature.
Dawn begins with Lilith Iyapo awakening in solitary confinement. She later learns she's on a living space ship, held as a captive by the oankali, an alien race. There had been a war several years ago on Earth that destroyed the planet and almost wiped out the human race. A few survivors were rescued and brought to the ship. All were healed but left sedated for the time being; a select few will be awoken, like Lilith, once it’s time to return to Earth and resettle the planet.
There’s a catch though, several in fact, which are revealed as the story unfolds. The main one being, for humans to return to Earth, they must accept a genetic trade with the oankali. Meaning that, if humans want to repopulate the planet, they will only bear human-oankali children. This will play out more fully in the next book, Adulthood Rites.
Lilith, being the most resilient and trustworthy human, is handed the task of teaching and training the other humans to survive in the wilderness of new Earth. The rest of the story is about the many challenges the humans face as they practice surviving on new Earth and the dilemmas Lilith face alone as she helps this group in their struggles.