Thursday, November 5, 2015

Dawn: Review

“How could she Awaken people and tell them they were to be part of the genetic engineering scheme of a species so alien that the humans would not be able to look at it comfortably for a while? How would she Awaken these people, these survivors of war, and tell them that unless they could escape the Oankali, their children would not be human?” (117)

There are few survivors left after the United States and Russia use their tremendous nuclear arsenal to try and decimate the planet. Lilith Iyapo is one of the "lucky" humans rescued by an alien species called the Oankali. The Oankali have kept the humans alive--mostly in stasis--for centuries while they worked to heal the Earth and prepare it to be lived on and healed the survivors, curing cancer among other things. Lilith has been Awakened several times during her captivity on Oankali ship, each time for a little longer as she acclimates to her new environment. On her final Awakening, she meets the Oankali for the first time and discovers just how alien they are....and what the cost of survival will be.

This is a beautifully written, disturbing, thought-provoking, frightening, yet interesting view of a possible future for humanity in a post-apocalyptic world. It has all the ingredients that an excellent science fiction novel should. It addresses what makes us human and whether the very things that make us human are beneficial to us as a race. What if some of the qualities that make us human are the very ingredients that would lead us to self-destruction? Would we cling to those bits of ourselves or would we be willing to change and adapt in order to stay alive? And how much change is too much? How much change would make us inhuman?

There have been many science fiction authors who have touched on this subject. Robert Silverberg broached the idea in his novel Son of Man. This is the first SF novel I ever read where the lead character was a woman and an African American woman at that. I read it back in the late 80s just after it came out and it blew me away then. I just had to get it for myself and reread it. It's just as disturbingly wonderful now as it was the first time I read it. The way Butler challenges the reader she reminds me of Harlan Ellison. Neither author is afraid to confront us with our most disturbing qualities. I always appreciate writers who make me think. ★★★★


Anonymous said...

I have been hearing such good things about her - another one for rthe list, thanks Bev.

Cath said...

Read this several years ago and, like you, found it thought provoking and beautifully written. Never did get around to the sequels, must search them out sometime.

fredamans said...

I'm curious who 'these people' are. Sounds like a gripping read unlike no other. Great review!

Red said...

Aaaand you're making me want to re-read this. Nice review!