I finally finished reading Lilith’s Brood, a science fiction trilogy by Octavia Butler. I say finally finish reading because I’ve been working on finishing the book since May when I read the first section, Dawn, for my class on science fiction. I’ve been trying to push through the other two stories, Adulthood Rites and Imago, since, but it’s been slow going. At first, the premise of the trilogy is unique enough to keep a read intellectually engaged, and Butler’s prose is refreshingly readable (at least when compared to some of the other science fiction I had been reading). However, after reading the same sorts of internal debates and the same kinds of descriptions over and over again, the second two books begin to lack the same sort of fire, and I had a hard time enjoying them as much as Dawn.
The three stories center around an alien race called the Oankali that have come and taken over Earth after the human race nearly destroyed themselves in a nuclear conflict. The Oankali are a species with three sexes — male, female, and ooloi, “a sex that mixes and manipulates the genetic material produced by the other two” (Wikipedia). In essence, the Oankali are genetic manpilators — after bringing the humans aboard their ship, the proceed to take on the genetic variation of the human race to produce an entirely new species. Once the Oankali have finished their genetic trading, the only creatures that will be left are constructs, a species that is a combination of Humans and Oankali. Humanity will cease to exist.
Dawn centers around Lilith Iyapo, a woman forced by the Oankali to awaken the first humans from their Oankali-induced slumber and introduce them to the Oankali and their changed way of life. Adulthood Rites follows Akin, one of Lilith’s construct children, as his is abducted by resisting humans and tries to understand his human heritage. Imago follows Lilith’s first ooloi child, Jodahs, as he works together with human and Oankali groups to help preserve the future of humanity.
The thing I really loved about Dawn was the way a story about aliens raised questions about a lot of compelling social issues like animal testing, nuclear war, and the relationships between men and women. The book also brings up a lot of intriguing questions about the relationship between men and women, as well as notions of violence and sexuality. You can tell it’s written by a feminist woman in the 1980s, but I think the questions are still important to think about. The main character of the first book, Lilith, is a wonderful person to follow, and I think the subsequent books were less enjoyable because she is almost absent from those stories.
I feel like this review is a little abridged, but I just don’t have much to say about the book other than I finished it, enjoyed Dawn, but just wasn’t as thrilled with the remainder of the series. Lilith’s Brood is an easy but thought-provoking read I would recommend, even during it’s slow points.