The last volume of the mind blowing, thought provoking Lilith’s Brood series
(I prefer the original name Xenogenesis myself, it has a nice sci-fi ring to it).
Jodahs the protagonist of this book is another offspring of Lilith Iyapo. The least human of the series' central characters, especially after its first metamorphosis. As Jodahs is neither male or female, and certainly not a hermaphrodite, the pronoun it
is the only appropriate one for referring to characters of the “ooloi” gender; he third sex of the alien Oankali race.
The story of Imago
is basically a Bildungsroman, centered around the adventures of Jodahs. As if being an ooloi is not alien enough he (I'm slipping back into using he
instead of it
again, old habits) is even more alien than the average ooloi, being the first of this third gender to have human gene as well as Oankali. This necessitates that he goes into exile until he can control his genetic manipulation abilities; as the other aliens are concerned that he will inadvertently contaminate them, their biotech habitat, food sources etc. Fortunately he has his family going along with him to back him up. After straying in the woods with his family for a whole he soon wanders off on his own and soon encounters a couple of humans who he seduces to become his mates.
That is probably the longest synopsis I have ever written, I normally avoid writing these like the plague but sometime I find a synopsis to be an unavoidable component of the review. Perhaps because there are so many bizarre concepts which need to be mentioned in order to proceed with the review. As with the other books in this series weird biotechnology is the main sci-fi aspect. While amazing the sci-fi fans with her wild inventions Ms. Butler is subtly making us ponder what it means to be human and whether it is worth preserving our humanity at all cost. The problem with being human, according to the Oankali’s observation, is that “the human biological contradiction” dictates that we will eventually self destruct because we can not refrain from hierarchical behavior. Basically being human is not what it is cracked up to be.
The theme of xenophobia is also more prominent in this volume, how an open mind is required to achieve racial harmony. While conveying her ideas and themes Butler never forget that she is telling a story, more importantly a science fiction
story. The novel is rich in subtext which can be inferred from reading between the lines, but reading the lines themselves is always entertaining, thrilling and involving. As with all her works the characters are very well developed and believable, and the writing is powerful. The book is also weirdly erotic in places without ever becoming sexually explicit or titillating.
As my friend Michael
kindly pointed out to me there is also an element of alien invasion in this trilogy. However, from the Oankali’s point of view the invasion is for our own good. They believe they are saving us from self destruction (“the human biological contradiction”), even if it means taking away our freedom to choose. The story so far, from their initial rescue of the few remaining humans in [b:Dawn|60929|Dawn (Xenogenesis, #1)|Octavia E. Butler|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1388290339s/60929.jpg|1008111], would indicate that they may be right. However, mating with the Oankali would lead to hybrid offsprings and eventual end of the original human race.
After reviewing the two previous volumes of this series I am almost out of hyperbole. One bold statement I can make is that Lilith’s Brood series
(or Xenoegenesis) is my all time favorite sf series, and I have read all the greats, Dune, Foundation, Hyperion etc. Thank you Ms. Butler.