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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Back to the Future?, 7 Jan 2004
By 
Kemy (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
There is much to reflect on here - the inherent viciousness of much human behaviour, coupled with a naive belief in our own 'unique specialness' and the way in which our short lifespans make it difficult for us to learn from our history or avoid the mistakes of the past;
On the part of the alien Oankali, a similar conceit is evidenced in their certainty that their assessment of genetic qualities is all that is needed to fully understand others, and a blindness to their own fatal contradictions including; perfectionism, being control freaks, and their inability to imagine themselves in the place of those others;
It challenges the commonly held ideas of 'progress' that modern/western society has about sophistication or civilisation being synonymous with 'advanced' material technology, yet the otherwise 'primitive' Oankali surf deep space, assimilate other species and strip entire planets using only a detailed genetic understanding and adaptability as well as their own version of 'Free Trade'.
Socially, the book & Xenogenesis series also reveals from the increasingly desperate reactions of the 'human resisters' just how fundamentally important children/offspring are in giving our lives purpose (a fact that is often glossed over in today's technological society, but still appreciated in several indigenous ones) There is much else here - about the nature of gender, domination, compassion, power and community - that is insightfully woven into the characters and storyline as commented on by other reviewers. But perhaps it is Butler's treatment of human and alien sexuality that is most unusual and haunting and lingers well after you finish the book/series.
Butler is an accomplished and original writer who grounds aspects of her most memorable characters and storylines on mythic African themes - the importance and interconnections between spirituality, human relationships/lineages and science - or using the scholar, Charles Finch's concept of, 'The reunification of myth & science' as a basis for the future.
My only gripe with her work is that the books are too short, and the endings often unresolved, but this is perhaps linked to her sparse prose style and wish to explore the storylines further elsewhere. Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoy her writing, and so will you...
Also recommended: Adulthood rites, Imago, the patternist series - in fact ALL her books.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beyond Gender and Species, 5 Aug 2002
This review is from: Dawn ( Xenogenesis Book 1 ) (Paperback)
When Lilith wakes up, the world is no more - humanity has destroyed itself in an all-destructive war. Now Lilith is confronted with aliens, come to save humanity, but at what price? This first book of the Xenogenesis trilogy (all three have now also appeared it one book, "Lilith's Brood") introduces Lilith, a very human heroine, and lets us follow her struggles to stay human and make human choices in a very alien environment. Octavia Butler explores the depth of adaption a person is capable of, as well as the strength of resistance - resistance even to what does us good and seems inevitable anyway, if it is necessary for a strong belief. By the end of the book you feel as torn as Lilith herself, wanting to go up to her and hug her and tell her everything will be alright, all the while knowing that it won't.
Together with Lilith the author lets us discover entirely new ideas, because with the aliens concepts such as "species" and "gender" don't actually mean what we expect.
Definitely first-rate feminist science-fiction.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A tale of humanity held to ransom, 4 Sep 2003
This review is from: Dawn (Mass Market Paperback)
A full synopsis of this story could come across like a pitch for a 1950s sci fi b movie, but Dawn is actually a sophisticated and most eerily told tale.
It begins as a young woman regains consciousness - not for the first time - in a featureless cell, having been denied the identity of her captors or any knowledge of what has happened to her until now.
It is of course set some time in the future, and the human race has all but wiped itsself out during a last apocalyptic war. However, an alien species has taken a keen interest in our wellbeing, and has rescued the few survivors. Our saviors are on the point of returning us to a newly habitable earth, on condition that we can learn the nessacery survival skills and behave harmoniously - oh, and there is just one other condition which you will have to read the book to discover...
Our heroine, Lilith Lyapo, has been chosen by these alien benefactors to train the first party of awakened humans in the survival skills nessacery to live on the newly habitable earth, but she must also help prepare them for their new and unpalatable destiny. Upon discovering the truth, Lilith resolves to teach her charges simply to 'learn and run' in the hope that humanity can somehow escape its fate.
This book explores the issue of what it is to be human - which physical and psychological elements make us what we are, and if these elements were enhanced or stripped away, would we still qualify as human? It offers us an alien race which is simultaneously seductive and terrifying. Lilith, a 'judas goat' to the human race struggles with her anger and dispair as she becomes more and more akin to her captors, and becomes alienated from her fellow human creatures.
This book has a subtlety of ideas and a wealth of finely told and sympathetic charactors both alien and human. I found myself quickly sucked in to the somewhat queasy and chlaustrophobic world of Lilith, and her inner world, changing as it is toward an inexorable acceptance of her captors if not her fate is vividly portrayed.
I have yet to read the other books in the trilogy, but look forward to doing so as soon as I get the chance.
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Dawn ( Xenogenesis Book 1 )
Dawn ( Xenogenesis Book 1 ) by Octavia E. Butler (Paperback - 1 May 1988)
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