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Dawn (Xenogenesis #1)

4.09 of 5 stars 4.09  ·  rating details  ·  9,162 ratings  ·  812 reviews
Lilith lyapo awoke from a centuries-long sleep to find herself aboard the vast spaceship of the Oankali. Creatures covered in writhing tentacles, the Oankali had saved every surviving human from a dying, ruined Earth. They healed the planet, cured cancer, increased strength, and were now ready to help Lilith lead her people back to Earth--but for a price.
Paperback, 248 pages
Published April 1st 1997 by Warner Books (first published 1987)
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Cynthia
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Carol.
Jun 05, 2014 Carol. rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of sci-fi and aliens
As one of the earliest African-American female science fiction writers, Octavia Butler is a must for anyone who reads sci-fi. Fourteen of her works were nominated for the Locus Award during her career, including each book in the Xenogenesis series, but she only had one win, the novelette “Bloodchild.” Dawn is the first book in the Xenogenesis series, published in 1987, and is a science fiction classic. It achieves what the best in science fiction has to offer: by looking at humanity’s interactio ...more
Michael
I loved the almost elegant and unrelenting unfolding of a most unusual alien apocalypse. The Oankali are the saviors of humankind after a nuclear war, preserving a population of survivors in a form of suspension while working to facilitate recovery of planetary ecology. But at what a cost. Their agenda is to merge genetically with humans to make a new species.

That plot overview is certainly a spoiler, but that is what is rendered for a draw on the book’s cover. It’s really okay because we are w
...more
Christina White
I have such conflicted feelings about this book. I found it both brilliant and disturbing in equal measure. The beginning introduces the reader to a strange and terrifying situation that sucks you in right away. The horror at some revelations is delivered so realistically that I found myself clenching my teeth and trying to hide in the pillows I was reading on. I was very impressed. The more I read on though, the more unsettling things became. Near the last quarter of the book Octavia crossed a ...more
Zanna
I was utterly compelled. When I got to the end, I was so hungry for the next book I was actually frustrated not to have it to hand. The last book I enjoyed nearly this much was The Lathe of Heaven so I guess I need to give in and accept that speculative fiction with feminist consciouness is my true love.

I love that Lilith is angry with her captors, that she doesn't lose her drive to be free, ever. In many ways I felt the book was about consent - what does consent really mean when your options ar
...more
Apatt
I have been squirreling away Octavia Butler books. I consider myself an avid fan of her works yet I have only read two of her novels so far (Wild Seed and Kindred), and the last one was sometime last year. My rationale is that there are only a finite number of Butler books available to read as the lady is no longer with us. If I binge on them now there will not be any more new Butler books to read and I will only have rereads to look forward to. As I love both Wild Seed and Kindred very much her ...more
Kate  Van Rompaey
“There was no real comfort in being alone with her thoughts, her memories, but somehow the illusion of freedom lessened her despair.”

This book was a real eye opener for me. Honestly I never would have picked it out on my own but I'm glad I did! I never would have read this because it seemed weird and something that I might find boring, but thanks to my English professor it wasn't really an option. But honestly? This was a really awesome read. Not just for the interesting sci-fi aspects that ar
...more
Elizabeth
Butler is an author I’ve been meaning to read forever and this was an intriguing place to start. The dilemma of Lillith, deciding the fate of humanity and resigning herself to be the betrayer, was tense and well thought out. The characters themselves were nuanced and made me seriously look at how I thought about prejudice, human-ness, and my attitude to the new and unknown. I look forward to seeing how she moves the world forward in the next book. A reflective and meditative, yet dramatic, read.
Mimi
Apr 23, 2015 Mimi rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone looking for well-written thoughtful sci-fi
Recommended to Mimi by: Carol.
Dawn begins with Lilith Iyapo awakening in solitary confinement. She later learns she's on a living space ship, held as a captive by the oankali, an alien race. There had been a war several years ago on Earth that destroyed the planet and almost wiped out the human race. A few survivors were rescued and brought to the ship. All were healed but left sedated for the time being; a select few will be awoken, like Lilith, once it’s time to return to Earth and resettle the planet.

There’s a catch thoug
...more
Gary
Okay. So how do I describe this really weird sci-fi book that masquerades as horror. Not hunt you down alone on a ship Alien horror, more like subtly psychologically really disturbing (to me anyway) sci-fi.
The basic situation is a girl, Lilith, (for mythology fans, please note the symbolism) is the lone survivor of a nuclear holocaust and is left with the responsibilities of awakening the other humans from a deep sleep, telling them they are on an alien ship, leading them to earth, and, of cours
...more
Pants
I was afraid to start the Xenogenesis trilogy because I knew there’d be issues with consent. Some reviewers described it as graphic, horrific, disturbing—and they were right on all accounts, but Dawn wasn’t as graphic as I’d initially feared. That’s not to say it was an easy book to read. The Oankali violate personal boundaries, both physical and mental, and genuinely believe their actions service humanity. The Oankali strip Lilith of her right to her mind, her body, and a life of her choosing. ...more
Brian
Like zombie-lit does with undead hordes (but seriously, done waaayyy better), Butler uses ETs as the mirror held to humanity to show us our strengths and (mostly) our weaknesses.

This is a compelling narrative with a rich, well crafted female protagonist and science-fiction elements interesting to both veterans of the genre and initiates alike. I read this aloud to my wife - a reader not particularly interested in SciFi - and as soon as I finished the book she asked me to start the next one in t
...more
Lilia Ford
I sought this out deliberately as the best way I could think of to protest this year's Hugo Award debacle, though I wasn't sure I'd like it since it definitely falls closer to the "speculative" end of the sci-fi spectrum than what I usually read--or enjoy. Well, so much for that worry. I couldn't put it down. I mean that literally: I was supposed to go out to dinner and I ended up cancelling so I could finish it. I totally get why it's so acclaimed: the set up is bracingly original, and the look ...more
Lyn
Aliens save the human race from themselves.

Octavia Butler’s 1987 novel Dawn begins her Xenogenesis trilogy (the series was titled Lilith's Brood in the Omnibus that was published in 2000). She would continue the story with Adulthood Rites in 1988 and complete the set with Imago in 1989.

Essentially, the world has been devastated by a nuclear war and all that remains of humanity are a few straggler survivors who are picked up by an alien race who has been observing us. Butler spends little time he
...more
Honeycarmel
I like the way this book is starting..... OK , so I'm finished now. I really, really loved this book. It was like the Matrix without a constant war and all that fighting. I saw someone else's review about the book cover. Interestingly, I read the book with the big red letters and the two white women on the cover. I did not know that the main character was black. I assumed she was the white lady on the cover. So, a quarter the way through the book I realize that she is black. Also, realize that a ...more
Rob
Executive Summary: A well written and very different story that just made me uncomfortable the whole time. It wasn't exactly my type of book, but it may be yours.

Full Review
These sorts of reviews are the hardest to write. For books I love, the reviews usually come pretty easily. For books I don't, I try to express why I didn't like the book without ranting about it and then move on and don't worry too much about the quality of the review.

This book falls somewhere in between. It really made me
...more
Penny
Fascinating from so many points of view! Beautifully written and deeply insightful. I can't think of any other book I've read that tells a similar story and I found this a very unique tale which was brilliantly told.

This was my first Octavia E. Butler and it more than lived up to all the wonderful things I'd heard about her work. The insights into human nature are too plentiful to list, made without seeming to try. The aliens are striking and just so alien. One of the best examples of the insig
...more
Kurt
At the time of the writing of Xenogenesis, leading up to their publication in 1987, the Cold War was in full swing and nobody, certainly not the CIA, had any inkling that Ronald Reagan’s aggressive foreign policy toward the U.S.S.R. was helping that nation to spend itself out of existence*. This is mostly relevant because in the 1980s, with thousands of nuclear ICBM’s between them pointed at one another, the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R. genuinely created the context for a nuclear war – now, in 2012, ...more
Punk
SF. Almost three hundred years after the population of Earth has been decimated by nuclear war, Lilith Iyapo wakes up on a space ship among aliens. She learns that her rescuers/captors want to return humans to Earth, but there's a price. The Oankali survive by merging their genetic material with other species, and the humans they return to Earth won't be human for long.

Boy, is this book crawling with consent issues. Aliens: Not all that interested in your personal boundaries! One of them repeate
...more
Stephen
3.5 stars. First installment of the "Xenogenesis" series. Excellent premise dealing with the survivors of a nuclear holocaust being "rescued" by alien "gene-traders" known as the Oankali. The description of the aliens and their ship is superb and the story is well-writen.

Nominee: Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel
Jennifer Petro
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
terpkristin
I confess, when the Sword & Laser online book club put up a poll to read a book by Octavia E. Butler, I was nervous. While Butler's works have a good reputation, I've found that many sci fi books that are hyped really don't work for me. In the poll, I voted to read Fledgling, which came in dead last. The winner of the poll was Dawn, which I guess worked out well because I'd bought it sometime before 2014 and therefore it was in my queue to pick from this year.

To my surprise, I was immediate
...more
KMO
This was my introduction to Octavia Butler, and I think it's a great place to start on her fiction. All of the archetypal Butler elements are here: humans as a brutal and flawed species made into something better by entering into a symbiotic relationship with a non-human intelligence, brutality, people making do in the remnants of a civilization that self-destructed, strong female protagonist, but it's all "lite" compared to some of her other series. The brutality is nothing like that of the ext ...more
AudibleQun
I'm really not sure if I liked this book. It kept me engaged, but not necessarily in a good way. I only kind of liked one person in the book and it wasn't the MC. The MC got on my nerves so badly. As someone who studied other cultures I thought she would have more foresight when dealing with a foreign culture. I spent half of the book wondering "Did they not have the SyFy channel immediately before the war?" Once you know that your species has been "rescued" by aliens, there are some things that ...more
Scott Rhee
"Dawn" is the first novel in Octavia Butler's Xenogenesis Trilogy. The entire trilogy has also been combined and published as one large novel entitled "Lilith's Brood".

Originally published in 1987, "Dawn" is a science fiction novel borne out of the apocalyptic tensions of the '80s Cold War era, a time when the Doomsday clock always seemed to be hovering at a few minutes before midnight. I grew up in this era, recalling the anxieties and fears that grown-ups tried desperately to hide from childre
...more
jo
i'm going to review this classic without reading anyone else's review (i'll read them later), because the experience of reading it was so powerful for me, i want to try to convey it here intact. this is my fourth octavia butler, after Parable of the Sower, Fledgling and Wild Seed. butler is pretty consistent in her themes, but not until this time was i able to see precisely what she's doing.

this "precisely" indicates the level of power this book had for me, not the truth of what octavia butler
...more
Marvin
Octavio Butler was an unique voice in science fiction. I have only read Wild Seed and a few short stories before, but Dawn, the first of the Xenogenesis series, is in keeping with her recurring themes. Lilith finds herself revived after a 250 years sleep on a alien spaceship. She discovers that she and other humans are the last survivors of a devastating war that ended life on Earth. They will be trained and returned to a rejuvenated Earth by the aliens. However, there is always a catch. The dis ...more
Jason
I thoroughly enjoyed this first of the three books in this series. This is the first Octavia Butler novel that I have read, even though I have always wanted to. I thought that this was a deep, dark, and somber look at a post world warIII earth that has had it's survivors rescued by an alien race. Xenophobia does not even begin to describe the tensions in this novel between the humans and the aliens. The protagonist Lilith is a great character, she is strong, sensitive, smart, and most importantl ...more
Peter Tieryas
So thrilled to get to talk about Dawn at Kotaku! "When Lilith awakens and finds out humans have wiped themselves out in an internecine war, the last thing she expects is salvation in the form of Medusa-faced aliens called the Oankali. They identify what they view as the inherent human flaw; the irreconcilable dichotomy between intelligence and hierarchical thinking. Lilith feels helpless, subjected to both physical and cultural revelations that are shocking to her as the Oankali have the ability ...more
Zulfiya
This first novel in the trilogy explores the human xenophobia and our unwillingness and rigidness to evolve, move on, and embrace inevitable changes. The novel itself is a metaphor and a bleak description of the humanity after the nuclear war. There are numerous references and allusions to the speculative nuclear conflict between the USA and the former USSR, and it is not accidental because the book was written during the final detrimental moments of the Cold War, when the antagonistic feelings ...more
Brad Foley
I've only happened upon Butler recently, and I don't know how I missed her for so long. Dawn is an excellent introduction to her writing (and the best single book in the trilogy). Like much of my favourite science fiction, it begins with a puzzle, and I was as confused as the main character, Lilith, through much of the first half of the book. The story, when it begins to unfold, is compelling and well crafted. Butler's writing is wonderful, and the world of Dawn is fantastic, but believable with ...more
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Octavia Estelle Butler was an American science fiction writer, one of the best-known among the few African-American women in the field. She won both Hugo and Nebula awards. In 1995, she became the first science fiction writer to receive the MacArthur Foundation "Genius" Grant.
More about Octavia E. Butler...

Other Books in the Series

Xenogenesis (3 books)
  • Adulthood Rites (Xenogenesis, #2)
  • Imago (Xenogenesis, #3)
Kindred Parable of the Sower (Earthseed, #1) Fledgling Parable of the Talents (Earthseed, #2) Wild Seed (Patternmaster, #1)

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“You have a mismatched pair of genetic characteristics. Either alone would have been useful, would have aided the survival of your species. But the two together are lethal. It was only a matter of time before they destroyed you."

[...]

Jdahya made a rustling noise that could have been a sigh, but that did not seem to comer from his mouth or throat. "You are intelligent," he said. "That's the newer of the two characteristics, and the one you might have put to work to save yourselves. You are potentially one of the most intelligent species we've found, though your focus is different from ours. Still, you had a good start in the life sciences, and even in genetics."

"What's the second characteristic?"

"You are hierarchical. That's the older and more entrenched characteristic. We saw it in your closest animal relatives and in your most distant ones. It's a terrestrial characteristic. When human intelligence served it instead of guiding it, when human intelligence did not even acknowledge it as problem, but took pride in it or din not notice it at all..." The rattling sounded again.”
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“There was no real comfort in being alone with her thoughts, her memories, but somehow the illusion of freedom lessened her despair.” 0 likes
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