“Your people contain incredible potential, but they die without using much of it.”
I’ve previously enjoyed Kindred, Parable of the Sower and Bloodchild by the same author and still remember admiring her astounding level of imagination, the fascinating investigations about what it means to me human, her exploration of the impacts of history on the individual and themes of an post-apocalyptic future.
Dawn is on the same level of engaging, gripping and thought-provoking fiction that leaves much to think about after reading the last page.
The main character, Lilith lyapo, wakes from a centuries-long sleep having been saved by an alien race, the Oankali. She gradually learns about the past after a nuclear war made the Earth inhospitable and her subsequent rescue alongside other survivors.
It is a difficult situation to get her head around and Butler describes the process realistically and compellingly. First Lilith has to get to grips with the idea that she is living on a spaceship with aliens, second she is given the task to awaken other humans who she has to introduce to a new world view and train for a return back to Earth.
The Oankali are a fascinating creation of the author in itself as well. They are an advanced species with ideas and developments that are reaching far above anything humans have been able to achieve. One example is the option to change gender and manipulate sexual reproduction as we know it and offers a modern discussion about gender identities.
Another fascinating aspect is their vegan diet which the alien species promotes because of their inclination to non-violence against other animals. There is an interesting scene where they are described as keeping a distance from the humans when these hunt for fish and other animals to eat during their training in a jungle (yes, created by the aliens specifically to offer the humans an environment to practice in). Little details like that as well as discussions about unusual sexual pleasure, advanced medical procedures to heal or avoid pain add to the intriguing question about what the aliens’ intentions are and what their interventions in saving some humans will mean to them in the long run.
I will definitely make time to read and finish the whole trilogy soon and very much look forward to find out where Butler takes me next in this fascinating literary science-fiction journey.
The Book in three words: gripping, original and imaginative
I’d love to know your thoughts on the book if you’ve read it!
One woman is called upon to rebuild the future of humankind after a nuclear war, in this revelatory post-apocalyptic tale from the award-winning author of Parable of the Sower.
When Lilith lyapo wakes from a centuries-long sleep, she finds herself aboard the vast spaceship of the Oankali. She discovers that the Oankali—a seemingly benevolent alien race—intervened in the fate of the humanity hundreds of years ago, saving everyone who survived a nuclear war from a dying, ruined Earth and then putting them into a deep sleep. After learning all they could about Earth and its beings, the Oankali healed the planet, cured cancer, increased human strength, and they now want Lilith to lead her people back to Earth—but salvation comes at a price.
Hopeful and thought-provoking, this post-apocalyptic narrative deftly explores gender and race through the eyes of characters struggling to adapt during a pivotal time of crisis and change.
About the author
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.