Dawn by Octavia E. Butler/ posted in: Reading
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
After a nuclear war and the nuclear winter that followed, the remaining humans on planet Earth were rescued by an alien race called the Oankali. The humans were put in suspended animation while the Oankali studied them to learn their biology and then started to repair the Earth so humans could live on it again. Now it is 250 years later and a woman named Lilith is awakened. The Oankali hope that she will be able to “parent” the first small band of colonists that they want to return to Earth.
When I was participating in Diversiverse I heard about Octavia Butler. She comes up in discussions that start with “Any people of color writing science fiction besides Octavia Butler?” I felt remiss in never having read her books. Dawn was written in 1977 and is the first in a trilogy.
I don’t read a lot of hard science fiction but this book pulled me in immediately. The writing is very accessible. I read this all in the course of about 24 hours.
My one word description of this book is … infuriating. I often say that I hate humans but this book really made me hate humans. The only idea in Lilith’s head is to get back to Earth and then escape the Oankali. What exactly have they done that is so bad? Let’s see, they pulled her off Earth before she starved to death. They healed her cancer while she slept. They enhanced her intelligence and gave her increased strength and healing ability. They fixed her planet for her. Would a thank you be out of line?
She’s all bent out of shape because the Oankali want a trade. They are a species that reproduces asexually so in order to increase their genetic diversity they want to mix some human DNA in with their own. I’d be like, “Sure, whatever you want. Here’s a cheek swab. By the way, thanks for fixing my entire freakin’ planet.”
Lilith and the humans that she is eventually charged with waking and teaching about what has happened to them act like it is the End of the World – oh, wait, they already had that. What is so precious and special about a species that wipes out their entire world? They would already be extinct without the Oankali so having human DNA live on in a hybrid form should be seen as an unexpected bonus.
But, no. The humans go all Lord of the Flies because they are idiots. They are put in a training room on the vast Oankali ship that replicates the section of the Amazon that they will be colonized. As soon as they are there they start thinking that they have been released on Earth even though they’ve been told repeatedly they are still on the ship. They start yelling, “No, we’re not! We’re running away!” I kept hoping the Oankali would see that they were dealing with a bunch of morons and shoot them all and check their storage units for some smarter ones.
Lord, this book was pushing all my buttons. The Oankali ship is alive. It can make all kinds of plant material so they eat a diet consisting of any fruit or vegetable ever known. So what is one of the first fights that happens when the group of humans is woken up? “We’re humans. We need meat. Give us meat!!!!!!” They are told that the Oankali won’t kill for them when they can eat as well as they want from the plants. Good. But, as soon as they are released in the training room they start hunting and fishing and ignore all the plant life around them.
I was seriously hoping that when the humans were released into the Amazon that they would immediately all be eaten by anacondas because anacondas need meat but apparently that isn’t what happens.
I’m giving this book 4 stars because any book that has this many issues that stick in my brain and make me angry every time I think of them has done a good job. I’m not sure if I want to read the rest of the series because it appears to involve more humans being horrible but I am intrigued.