The first book in Lilith’s Brood trilogy, “Dawn” by Octavia E. Butler tells the story of Lilith Lyapo, an African American woman rescued by extraterrestrial species called the ‘Oankali’, who saved the remaining humans on Earth after a nuclear war.
After centuries of suspended animation, Lilith wakes up on a spaceship and meets the beings that rescued her. She is terrified by their appearance and disturbed by the possible experiments they performed on her while unconscious. The Oankali choose her to become the leader of the yet-to-be-awakened humans. Lilith is meant to prepare them for the day they return to the restored Earth while she questions the new meaning of humanity.
The 1987 science fiction novel is a slow-paced and thought-provoking book that shows Lilith’s reluctance to become a leader. It successfully puts you in her mind, experiences, and development.
In the beginning, Lilith constantly questions the Oankali’s intentions on why they saved her and the surviving humans. They are not evil or good. They perform gene trades with humans as they did with other alien species and help them move away from their destructive tendencies to save the human race and prevent another world-ending war.
There are parts in “Dawn” where the reader will also question the Oankali’s methods. This book considers what it means to be human. It describes Lilith’s inner battles after finding out her DNA was changed.
The Oankali have the ability to enhance other species. They made her stronger, extended her lifespan, gave her the ability to heal quicker and other intriguing enhancements. These enhancements disturb the main character because of how far away she is from being human and what this means for the future of the human race.
One of my favorite highlighted quotes from “Dawn” is, “‘ Yes,’ he said, ‘intelligence does enable you to deny facts you dislike. But your denial doesn’t matter.'”
Butler’s writing on the Oankali made me uncomfortable. The description of Lilith’s fear and uneasy feeling when around or touching them. It gave me a good understanding of the beings’ unsettling description.
I rate “Dawn” five out of five stars; it is a fascinating way of interpreting an alien’s methods and goals. The way Butler wrote the book helps the reader place themselves in Lilith’s position. While reading, I would think about what I would do in that situation and if I could succeed.
I recommend this book as an introduction to the science fiction genre and to anyone who wants to know other people’s interpretations of aliens. Some trigger warnings for the content in the book would be sexual assault, attempted sexual assault and violence.