Happy Friday, and welcome to The Cephalopod Coffee House. The purpose of CCH is to write about the best book you read during the month and visit others who are doing the same. The list of participants are at the bottom of my post, or you can click on the pic above.
This month I read Lilith’s Brood, by Octavia Butler. Lilith’s Brood is actually a trilogy of novellas that have been gathered into an omnibus. Each section presents a separate viewpoint, and together they tell the story of Lilith and her human/alien hybrid children.
In the aftermath of a global nuclear war, most of humanity has died. An alien race, called the Oankali, come to the rescue, scooping up every survivor they can find. After much study, the humans are given a chance to return to a newly restored Earth. But the offer comes at a price: the Oankali are a race that survives by “trading” genetic materials with other species. If the humans want to return to Earth, they must agree to a trade with the aliens, and bear children who are not fully human. Lilith’s Brood follows Lilith Iyapo, the woman chosen to lead the first groups of humans back to Earth, and her children.
The first section, Dawn, follows Lilith from her Awakening through her struggles to accept what the Oankali have to offer, and then her struggles to convince others to follow her lead. The second section, Adulthood Rites, follows her son, the first human born male hybrid, Akin, and his struggle to consolidate his humanity with his alieness. The final section, Imago, follows another of Lilith’s children, Jodahs, who instead of being born male as expected, develops into the Oankali third gender
The society Butler creates is very familiar, yet disturbingly foreign. We’re used to imagining what life would be like if the majority of the world population disappeared. But what if the only way to repopulate was to procreate with an alien species, and not just any old Star Trek humanoid species either. It makes you question what you would do in the situation. Would you give up your free will to survive? Or would you choose to live free, and thus ensure the death of the human species? That is the choice Lilith and every other human in the novel must make. And once they have made their choice they have to live with the consequences of their decision.
Octavia Butler was known for her explorations of race, class, gender and sexuality through her writings, and she doesn’t disappoint here. I do want to stress that she doesn’t beat you over the head with sermonizing or very obvious allusions to social ills. I really enjoyed it Lilith’s Brood, and I look forward to reading more of her books.
What are you all reading?