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Dawn (Xenogenesis #1)

4.09  ·  Rating Details ·  14,140 Ratings  ·  1,350 Reviews
Lilith Iyapo has just lost her husband and son when atomic fire consumes Earth—the last stage of the planet’s final war. Hundreds of years later Lilith awakes, deep in the hold of a massive alien spacecraft piloted by the Oankali—who arrived just in time to save humanity from extinction. They have kept Lilith and other survivors asleep for centuries, as they learned whatev ...more
Paperback, 248 pages
Published April 1st 1997 by Warner Books (first published 1987)
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Jun 05, 2014 Carol. rated it really liked it  ·  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
Jan 15, 2015 Zanna rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 22, 2015 Michael rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Michael by: Apatt
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
Mar 02, 2016 Lyn rated it really liked it
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
Christina White
Dec 14, 2015 Christina White rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
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
Oct 25, 2013 Apatt rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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
Dawn: Aliens grant humans a second chance — at a price
Originally posted at Fantasy Literature
Dawn (1987) is the first book in Octavia Butler’s XENOGENESIS trilogy, written after her PATTERNIST series. By this point she had been writing challenging science fiction novels for a decade, and her writing craft and ideas had reached a high level. Dawn is a very impressive book. Imagine that mankind has largely destroyed itself and the planet — it’s a fairly common doomsday scenario.

But instead of the
What an unsettling little book! I stayed up late last night to finish it and I awoke this morning with it still on my mind (and I think I dreamed about it too). Octavia Butler is skilled at making me re-examine my beliefs about humanity.

The Oankali are interesting and somewhat threatening aliens. Their evolutionary history seems to have come from the echinoderm or cnidarian branches of the tree of life and their appearance is initially terrifying to any human. Our protagonist, Lilith, has to be
Oct 10, 2014 Brian rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-to-wife
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
Jun 24, 2014 Gary rated it liked it
Shelves: sci-fi
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
Apr 23, 2015 Mimi rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Jun 09, 2015 Elizabeth rated it really liked it
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.
“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
Jennifer Theriault
Jun 02, 2012 Jennifer Theriault rated it it was ok
Shelves: hard-sci-fi
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
Lilia Ford
Jun 12, 2015 Lilia Ford rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 24, 2016 David rated it it was amazing
Recommended to David by: Michael
Shelves: science-fiction
Although I have read a lot of science fiction, I had never even heard of Octavia Butler before reading this book. But I am so glad that I read it, and the next two books of the Xenogenesis series.

This is an excellent sci-fi novel about Lillith, a young woman in the after-days of a nuclear apocalypse on Earth. She is one of a few survivors, just barely alive, picked up by an alien race in a spacecraft. She is brought back to health, but kept in almost total isolation. She is pretty much clueless
Sep 27, 2015 Jennifer rated it it was amazing
I have many questions. Nothing to do with the book, but with myself. What I mean to say is that the book has created this intense inner dialogue. You know, where suddenly you find yourself speaking out loud to yourself.

I love aliens. No, I don't LOVE aliens. I love the idea of aliens. I am terrified of aliens. We have created many images of what we think aliens might look like, and we have also created ideas of how we would react to them. While I love it all, from Arnie and his "Your one ugly s
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
Feb 26, 2016 Frank rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
Female SF authors are very good at making one identify with the characters and connect with their emotions at a level where it becomes as much the story as whatever new technology, space opera and whatever make up the universe of their novel. Marge Piercy and Ursula K. Leguin are good examples of such authors, and now I have the pleasure of having made the acquaintance of Octavia Butler as well.

In the story we meet the Oankali, a species that discover an Earth which has almost destroyed itself
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
Dec 29, 2008 Honeycarmel rated it it was amazing
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
Megan Baxter
Dec 19, 2014 Megan Baxter rated it really liked it
t's a challenging one, in the very best way. It's only my second venture into Octavia Butler's canon, and I'm delighted to be back, after The Parable of the Sower knocked me off my ass a few years ago. And I should be reading all three in this particular trilogy in fairly short order, as they were books my science fiction group picked as the first read in our Women Science Fiction Authors Group Reads. I'm a bit behind, as we've now moved on to Elizabeth Bear's Jenny Casey trilogy.

Note: The rest
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
Mar 02, 2012 Kurt rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 12, 2010 Punk rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
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
1987? This book was written in 1987? You've gotta be kidding me...Finished it in one day, enough said.
Oct 03, 2013 jo rated it it was amazing
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
Spider the Doof Warrior
Aug 18, 2015 Spider the Doof Warrior rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: folks who like cool aliens
So I just read this book again for the I don't know how manyeth time.

I really like this book. But I think I like the aliens better than the humans, it's not the first time I've identified more with aliens than my own species.
Lilith is a cool, brave woman (who is also black, not that it matters, but the old school cover I first encountered did show her as a white woman which is confusing, but maybe they figured that folks wouldn't read it if it was about someone black, kind of like Motown album c
Jul 06, 2014 terpkristin rated it really liked it
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
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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)

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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.”
“Your people contain incredible potential, but they die without using much of it.” 3 likes
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