Sunday, 21 April 2013

Adulthood Rites (Xenogenesis #2) (Lilith's Brood #2), Octavia E. Butler - The Review

“You and Nikanj,” he said to Akin. “Nikanj tells the Humans we are symbionts, and you believe we are predators. What have you consumed, Eka? .....

...........“They are consumed,” he said quietly. “And it was wrong and unnecessary.”
“They live, Eka. In you.”
“Let them live in themselves!”

The second book in the Xenogenesis series is the negative of the first one. It
sees Akin, the first born male construct (part human, part alien) first born male
to Lilith (and any human for that matter) get abducted by humans who intend
to raise him as one of their own, in the hope that he'll be the saviour of humanity.

The Concept
Aliens are aliens, of course they'll abduct human beings and do weird shit to
their bodies, but what if they're right? What if they set humans up for extinction,
let them loose on earth and say, the only way you're going to have kids is if you
have weird alien sex with three of us and another human, and by the way your
kids are going to be as alien as they are human. And, and what if they're right!?
What should humans do?

Have your readers watch a talking, seemingly human, super intelligent seventeen
month old half alien, half human baby investigate the theory while in human captivity,
and manage to surprise them (the readers, who are  as well the captors) with his
conclusions and recommendations.

The Writing
It is written in the same easy, flowing, make-you-read-too-fast writing style of the
first book. Except it is told from the alien's (even if Akin is as much human as he is
Oankali) point of view.

We briefly get to see things from the points of view of a human and an Oankali
male, suggesting that the book might be more a male's than an alien's take on
things, but we are human and we know what we know.

The Story
We meet Akin while he's still inside his human mother, Lilith's womb, and proceed
to take an exhilarating journey with him, from his birth and introduction to his family
and his own senses, through his kidnapping, sale and attempted integration into human
society by humans who save for locomotion, he - a seventeen month old baby - is
better adjusted for survival than, through his adolescent exploration of what it means
to be Oankali, and to the conclusions he arrives at with regards to the rights and wrongs
of how his world works, what he plans to do about it and how he goes about doing it.

The story is so well constructed, and executed with such efficiency and consistency
that it at times feels formulaic, like the author took characters she knew from life, or
fiction, or myths and fit their stories into a self designed (or template) structure of
how you tell a story, and then proceeded to write it down knowing even before she
started, everything that happens to every character.

The Resolution
The end is like the rest of the book. It is happy and it is sad, it is just as likely to
endorse your view of human society as it is to leave you conflicted. It  is a throw of
the dice whether you end up dismissing the 'human contradiction' as a fictitious,  too
narrow, too simple-minded view of the problems of human society or accepting that
human self-destruction is hard wired into our genes and thus, inevitable.

The Verdict
Even as a stand-alone, it is a great book. As part of the series it may be a few
percentage points beneath Dawn, but after Dawn you must not be able to not read
this and after this you should not be able to not read the next one in the series.


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