Dawn by Octavia Butler

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Woooo, Diversiverse! Sadly, I only managed one book. And I’m posting my review of it on the very last day. But unfortunately work and game night and date night all got in the way, so here we are. I picked Dawn (The Xenogenesis Trilogy #1) by Octavia Butler. I read Kindred by her YEARS ago and have been feeling more and more ridiculous for not reading more of her.

Dawn is about Lilith Iyapo, and let’s face it, the description on Amazon sums it up better than I can:

Rescued from Earth’s destruction, one woman is called upon to revive mankind
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.

When Lilith wakes up, she’s isolated and terrified. Teetering on the edge of crazy, she finally meets one of her captors – Jdhaya, one of the alien species called Oankali. She’s scared and repulsed by him – these aliens have a lot of tentacles that they use to see, hear, communicate, and more. She learns how about them, and how they have mastered genetics and tinkering with things on a molecular level. It’s been 250 years since they gathered Lilith and other survivors from the wreckage that was Earth. Now, they’ve studied humans and Earth has healed enough to be lived on again. A group of Oankali will settle on Earth with a group of humans – literally re-populating the world, but not with the same species as before. The Oankali believe in trading – some of their genes for some of the human genes, and the future populations of the world will ideally be a blend of the strengths of each. They want Lilith to assist in Awakening more of the humans, and prepare them to meet the Oankali and survive in the wilderness on Earth. But Lilith finds their plan horrible, and wants to use her position of teaching these humans as a way to save the human race.

This book has crazy awesome kinds of sci-fi elements – weird aliens, genetic evolution, a giant spaceship. Some friendships form that make you care about the characters. Initially, Lilith kind of drove me crazy. Without the Oankali, there would be no human survivors at all – the Earth was about to descend into nuclear winter and everything would have perished. And I would LOVE to be given some awesome alien modifications. Longevity? Sure. Strength? Why not. Eidetic memory? YES PLEASE.

I am kind of eagerly awaiting the day when mankind figures out how to work with genetics in such a precise way, so hearing about aliens that do that kind of thing naturally was totally up by alley. It tickles my love-of-science bone. I  flew through this (which for me is still about 5 days, but shut up I’m busy.)

Also, I noticed that Katie has been including author blurbs – a fantastic idea, since Diversiverse is about reading non-white authors. So here’s a bit about Octavia Butler:

Octavia E. Butler was a bestselling and award-winning author of science fiction. She began writing when she was twelve years old, and she continued to take writing classes throughout her college years. She went on to win the Nebula and Hugo awards, and she was the first author of sci-fi to receive a MacArthur Fellowship. Her work often explores themes of racism, religion, sexuality, and class. In an interview, she was asked: “What then is central to what you want to say about race?” Butler’s response was, “Do I want to say something central about race? Aside from, ‘Hey we’re here!’?”  Butler died in 2006 at the age of 58 outside of her home in Washington.

Basically, Octavia Butler is kind of a genius and I can’t wait to read the others in the trilogy. I read the first few pages of the second book as a sneak peek and oh my gawd, yes. It’s gonna be good.

Sarah Says: 4 stars

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14 comments

  1. This was the first Butler I ever read (Thank you, Gender Sex and the Rhetoric of Science class…) and it was so much different than anything else I had seen. I love Lilith even when I think she’s being hardheaded. But I mean, they’re asking her to do something crazy so it’s not really uncalled for. Plus Butler always seems to have a Lilith-like character in her books.

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    1. Oh yeah, what they want her to do is kind of screwed up and I don’t know that they realized what a horrible position it was going to put her in, but with the genetic-enhancing stuff, I was like “Stop your grumbling, this is awesome!” Probably has to do with my deep-seeded desire for super powers. I’m reeeealllly looking forward to the next books. I’m hoping maybe Adulthood Rites goes on sale on the Kindle soon, because I’m ridiculous and squirm at paying $6…

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  2. Great! I’ve been wanting to read one of Butler’s books, and this sounds like a good place to start. I liked how you photographed your e-reader for the cover–ingenious. I only managed one book for Diversiverse as well (our linky numbers are close), but I have more planned to finish up. And now I can take time to read some other people’s fascinating reviews. thanks!

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  3. Octavia Butler is one of those glaring reading holes that I have. I really need to get on that, since both you and Alley have read & enjoyed her.

    I didn’t finish the book I was planning to read & review for Diversiverse. Boo! But it does mean that I still have half of the Roxanne Gay essay book ahead of me to enjoy.

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  4. I read Kindred and loved it, but for some reason, the plot summaries of Butler’s other books don’t really get my heart beating faster. I think i should just ignore those and read the books, anyway 🙂

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