Child of two species, but part of neither, a new being must find his way. Human and Oankali have been mating since the aliens first came to Earth to rescue the few survivors of an annihilating nuclear war. The Oankali began a massive breeding project, guided by the ooloi, a sexless subspecies capable of manipulating DNA, in the hope of eventually creating a perfect starfaring race. Jodahs is supposed to be just another hybrid of human and Oankali, but as he begins his transformation to adulthood he finds himself becoming ooloi - the first ever born to a human mother. As his body changes, Jodahs develops the ability to shapeshift, manipulate matter, and cure or create disease at will. If this frightened young man is able to master his new identity, Jodahs could prove the savior of what’s left of mankind. Or, if he is not careful, he could become a plague that will destroy this new race once and for all.
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What an amazing trilogy. I am so glad this was my first contact with the work of Octavia E. Butler, because I completely loved every book and the series as a whole. In this book we encounter Jodahs, another son of Lilith and her Oankali family; a construct. For the first time, a construct that is turning into an ooloi, the first one to come from human parents. Once again, Butler explores how we deal with the unknown and the changes this brings to everyone including yourself.
I think I have never encountered and author that makes me question what identity really is like Octavia E. Butler with this series. Not only to what a human is, but all those little labels that we gather through our lives: male, female, foreign, normal, etc. This third book is off course not exception, and it comes in the form of a coming-of-age for the main character, Jodhas, who as it turns out, won't be male or female, since the ooloi are neither. First we see its own struggle it has accepting what he is becoming and at the same trying to explain to others so they will not only understand this new step in the Oankali-Human relationship but also so they will accept it and hopefully embrace it.
Once again, as in the rest of the series, the subject of xenophobia is discussed at large, except that in this book, is not just humans who are afraid, the Oankali don't know what to do with Jodhas, and fear what its presence might mean. I loved that she (Butler) shows so beautifully how the unknown is always scary, independent of our background, but that at the same time, we don't need to be afraid. Acceptance is always present in this trilogy, sometimes reluctantly, but always there.
Jodhas has this ability to modify its appearance to make whoever is around more comfortable, to adapt to others and I found this extremely interesting, as it cannot help but do it, most of the time it wouldn't realize this was happening until someone else pointed this out. This is something so common in relationships, we change a bit, not to much that we lose ourselves, but enough to reflect our new situation. The problem of changing so much that our identity is lost is also addressed, but I don't want to discuss it too much, as I fear it might give some spoilers.
I particularly enjoyed the feeling of family portrayed in the book. While sometimes it would seem like a more complicated structure, at the end it is always a net of support, with all of the members being woven together by love, expectations and belonging.
The other thing that the trilogy addresses in an impressive way is sexuality, and what it might mean to a person (or to an Oankali). What it might mean to feel and identify as male, female, both or neither and how others that might be more accustomed to a more black-and-white perspective would respond to this perspective being challenged. I can only say that Octavia E. Butler was a genius being able to put herself in the skin of so many issues and most importantly being able to transmit these feelings in her writing.
I would recommend this series to anyone seeking a brilliant sci-fi series with a lot of social subtext.
This trilogy frames two major issues. The first is the self destructive nature of human life, and the second is our evolving relationship with our own bodies, especially issues surrounding gender. Butler gives us an earth already destroyed by humans in a final great war that leaves only a few survivors tottering on the brink of extinction. How are they to survive when the seeds of self-destruction are encoded in their own DNA? Their salvation comes from above in the form of aliens who collect and preserve humanity's remnants much as we preserve endangered species. Like us, they reintroduce humans into their former habitat, but in s doing so they intermix their own DNA with ours and create a new species with three different genders which all must come together nine order to reproduce. The story is really one of the seduction of human beings onto an evolutionary path that has a very different kind of future than we usually imagine for ourselves. Butler was a great writer, and the first book bowled me over. The second book challenged me to re-imagine he human condition, and the third swept me away into a very different vision of what we might become. Listeners who are looking for science fiction at its best, imaginative, challenging, and complex will love this trilogy and look for more of Octavia Butler's superb stories of about who we are and what we might become.
Aldrich Barrett was outstanding with the delivery of the story