The stunning conclusion to a postapocalyptic trilogy about an alien species merging with humans—from “one of science fiction’s finest writers” (TheNew York Times). Human and Oankali have been mating since the aliens first came to Earth to rescue the few survivors of an annihilating nuclear war. The Oankali began a massive breeding project, guided by the ooloi, a sexless subspecies capable of manipulating DNA, in the hope of eventually creating a perfect starfaring race. Jodahs is supposed to be just another hybrid of human and Oankali, but as he begins his transformation to adulthood he finds himself becoming ooloi—the first ever born to a human mother. As his body changes, Jodahs develops the ability to shapeshift, manipulate matter, and cure or create disease at will. If this frightened young man is able to master his new identity, Jodahs could prove the savior of what’s left of mankind. Or, if he is not careful, he could become a plague that will destroy this new race once and for all.
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.
After her father died, Butler was raised by her widowed mother. Extremely shy as a child, Octavia found an outlet at the library reading fantasy, and in writing. She began writing science fiction as a teenager. She attended community college during the Black Power movement, and while participating in a local writer's workshop was encouraged to attend the Clarion Workshop, which focused on science fiction.
She soon sold her first stories and by the late 1970s had become sufficiently successful as an author that she was able to pursue writing full-time. Her books and short stories drew the favorable attention of the public and awards judges. She also taught writer's workshops, and eventually relocated to Washington state. Butler died of a stroke at the age of 58. Her papers are held in the research collection of the Huntington Library.
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 Dawn, 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.
Let me get right to the point. Octavia Butler’s Imago is about colonialism. Octavia Butler believes colonialism is evil. She thinks we can't change history. We can't magically make a world where there's economic justice for everyone. But if creative people of goodwill come together, we can create small "villages" where both native and non-native people reap the economic benefits of their labors. (To use Butler’s metamorphosis metaphor, an economic caterpillar can go through a metamorphosis and become a beautiful economic butterfly. But, an economic metamorphosis is an ugly and risky process that can not be hidden within a cocoon. Public processes that are ugly and risky will cause outrage, and there is no certainty of their success. But there will never be economic equality without an economic metamorphosis.)
My view of Octavia Butler’s thesis is most likely a minority opinion.
Now that I've said all that, let me state that Octavia Butler’s Imago is a brilliant and fun novel, and I hope everyone reads it.
“Listen, no part of me is more definitive of who I am than my brain.”
Octavia's Butler's Imago is a fabulous finale to the Xenogenesis Trilogy. The perspective once again shifts as it has in previous books, from Lilith in the first book to Akin in the second book and finally to Jodals, an ooloi-human construct. What's perhaps most impressive is the depiction of Jodahs' perspective; this is a perspective that is demonstrably not human. There is a also a morality here that feels alien and sometimes wrong. Is this morality really wrong or is it our own preconceptions about right and wrong that makes it feel disturbing?
Butler's story continues following the evolution of human and oankali, and provides vivid descriptions of how this new species interacts, mates and evolves, along with issues of power, consent and manipulation. I was also fascinated by both Jodahs' metamorphosis and Aaor's metamorphosis. In the final reckoning, has humanity survived? I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it, but it really requires reading the whole series. 4.5 stars
Wow! A stunning ending to a magnificent science fiction trilogy, Imago is brilliant. Octavia Butler creates an earth now almost completely made up of the aliens, their human mates, their children and now a new type of offspring. The aliens have 3 sexes, male, female and it. They have deliberately not allowed humans to reproduce by themselves any more, because of their historic violence and hierarchy. They have also only allowed males and female constructs to be created from their matings with humans, no "'its" have been born, but something has gone wrong and an 'it' comes out of its metamorphosis. What will happen to this new being?
Maybe I'll be in the minority by preferring the middle book out of the entire series, but the last one definitely puts everything in perspective. We start out from the purely human perspective in the first, the hybrid perspective in the second, and end with an entirely new perspective of a new Ooloi who now threatens the gene-line of the Ooloi, being the most alien out of all the bunch but with a singular interesting gift...
Of humanity. :)
Enough time has passed since the first book that history upon history has filled nearly all the human settlements with a fairly good case of fear and resentment... after all, these aliens have killed our original genome, preventing our having children except with their third sex. Is this, in the end, an alien invasion? Well, we did basically destroy ourselves off in a nuclear winter and they came along to preserve us, so a good case can be made on both sides.
All of this might be moot when the most human of the aliens comes along and fights for the rights of the last of the flawed species. Never mind that the Ooloi made Mars habitable for the remaining people and gave us back our normal reproduction... what is needed is a real push forward along lines that isn't so perversely paradoxical... Thank you, Mr. Heirarchy.
A very interesting tale... and I mean all three books, considered. I like the ambiguity and the deliciously Biopunk SF-ness. :) I heartily recommend reading all three books together.
Octavia E Butler has amazed me again. I don't know why but i expected this to be a little more about Akin and the mars colony. Akin is barely mentioned and not by name. This is about Jodahs the first human born Ooloi, son of Lilith!
Jodahs is first viewed as a mistake by the Oankali. But Nikanj can't find a flaw in him. So, he metamorphizes into a Ooloi much to the concern of the Oankali. Jodahs has other concerns he needs mates a Human pair and Oankali pair. The problem is there is human mates, but they are all old and would die towards the beginning of Jodahs life. In case you don't know Ooloi are breeder for life. so, when their partners die, they won't remate and the usually die. Jodahs finds two young fertile humans. that's right fertile human something the Oankali didn't believe existed. Butler doesn't explain how this happen, not her style. i know this could upset many readers especially Sci-fi reader (who like knowing all details) but i like Butler giving me a little mystery to solve. You find out a bit about the fertile mother but not the father. The mother was Mexican and spoke Spanish so not one of Lilith's group. Even more amazing is that the mother has a genetic defect. That defect has been passed on to all her inbred descendants. My only guess is a Ooloi let this happen or she just slipped through the cracks. Either way it proves the Oankali are not as perfect as they appeared in Dawn! We see how dangerous not having human mates is to Ooloi with Jodahs sibling who almost dies. Jodahs and their sibling goes to the fertile village to get it mates. They find a dispirited horribly disfigured group who is ready top be absolved. the choice is the mars colony or Oankali mates. Because the earth will be destroyed when the Oankali ships leave.
The genetic trade is complete. Butler writes a efficient fantasy series. with feelings and emotion as it's backdraft instead of Technology. This is really my type of Sci-fi although some might not like it's less technological based invading culture.
What an incredible series and what a terrific ending. But I don't want it to end, I want it to go on and on and on indefinitely. In a way it will because my brain will hold on to these characters for years, wondering "what happened next".
The characters are so memorable and so unique, as is the storyline. I've never read anything quite like this and probably never will again. As I said in my review of Adulthood Rites (book two), Octavia E. Butler was brilliant.
WOW! What a perfect end to this great series! Definitely the strongest book in my opinion.
Will I recommend the series? Only to a certain extant. It's a heavy read, not because of the style or the descriptions, but because of the existential questions you are constantly being bombarded with. It's a world where you can't even decide what's truly wrong or what's truly right, it can be quite infuriating if you try to pick sides. Basically, if you like dystopian books with "peaceful, well-meaning" aliens in it, there's a chance you would enjoy it.
Imago: Finally, we see the Ooloi perspective Originally published at Fantasy Literature Imago (1988) is the third book in Octavia Butler’s XENOGENESIS trilogy. It concludes the story begun with the human woman Lilith in Dawn (1987) and continued with her Oankali-human ‘construct’ son Akin in Adulthood Rites (1988). Imago takes the bold but logical next step by shifting the perspective to Jodahs, an Ooloi-human construct. The Ooloi are the third, gender-less sex of the Oankali, the alien race of ‘gene traders’ that saved the remnants of humanity on the condition that humanity share its DNA with them and be forever transformed in the process.
Once again Butler doesn’t hesitate to plunge us into the unknown, this time exploring the strangest aspect of the Oankali, the psychically-powerful Ooloi who can manipulate the DNA of living creatures directly, serving to help the Oankali continuously evolve as they combine with new lifeforms throughout the galaxy. Until now we have had the perspective on Lilith in Dawn, a human woman forced to come to grips with the Oankali and try to convince other humans that accepting their offer is the only viable option for humanity. Subsequently in Adulthood Rites we shifted to the story of Akin, a human-Oankali construct sympathetic to both sides, though he struggled to reach this understanding.
In Imago we go far beyond this, for to see the world as an Ooloi is to experience directly the feelings, emotions, and genetic structures of both Oankali and humans. Though conventional Ooloi shape the genetic material of their male and female Oankali mates to create children, Jodahs has human DNA as well, so it finds itself not fully suited to Oankali society, and wants to avoid the fate of being forcibly returned to the Oankali ship to find mates there. Instead, as Lilith’s children Jodahs and Aaor are truly something new, and once again face the struggles of not fitting into any group fully.
Moreover, the Ooloi themselves wield great power to genetically alter living things around them, and before they learn to control this they can be a danger to everyone around them, causing random mutations in themselves and others. Because of this, even other Ooloi shun their company. As a result, both Jodahs and Aaor isolate themselves in the jungle. When Jodahs encounters two human siblings, Jesusa and Tomas, it is attracted to them sexually. These humans are from a hidden human settlement that escaped the sterilization program imposed on human resisters that refused to merge with the Oankali.
Much of Imago centers on the evolving relationships of Jodahs, Aaor, the human siblings, and this remote human community that has evaded the notice of the Oankali. As in the previous two books, the sexual and emotional ties are complicated, unsettling, and very alien. This is particularly so in Imago, since we see things as an Ooloi does, where physical and emotional attraction takes the form of irresistible scents, and the almost uncontrollable urge to find a compatible mate.
Once again, the issues of consent, coercion, enslavement, and power are explored unflinchingly. It has been very difficult to pin down exactly what Butler thinks of these subjects, because she consistently refuses to clearly moralize or tip her hand overtly. It can be somewhat frustrating not to be given any clear cues as to which side she thinks is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, whether it be the forced enslavement of humanity by the Oankali, the repeated sexual coercions that occur between and among both species, or the eventual human-0ankali hybrid race that is bound to emerge. Is humanity better off in the end? Did the end justify the means? How many parallels about colonialism and cultural domination are we meant to draw, if any?
The Oankali are driven by the biological imperative to mate with other races and create new DNA combinations to further themselves, so morality as humans understand it is not really their concern, though they always claim it is for the benefit of mankind. But that assertion is questionable when we understand that no real choice is being offered, only the illusion of choice. Can the Oankali offer truly be benevolent when ‘conventional’ humanity is sterilized, essentially a protracted death sentence? Why cannot humans remain on the Earth as they were before? What are the ultimate plans of the Oankali, whose gift of survival has so many strings attached?
I won’t reveal the ending of this series, but it wasn’t what I was expecting based on the hints scattered throughout the series. In fact, I felt Butler pulled her punch at the end, as though she was leading up to a Childhood’s End-like denouement. I felt this final volume was more difficult to follow than the first two books, but that largely has to do with the fact that it is told from the perspective of a genderless Ooloi, utterly different from humans and yet desperately needing them at the same time. Because it is such as alien viewpoint, it was hard at times to connect with its emotions, but that shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Overall, the XENOGENESIS trilogy has been a uniquely unsettling and challenging piece of SF storytelling. There are few stories that plunge you into such unfamiliar and morally ambiguous territory, not to mention many unpleasant situations involving sexual coercion and control, which means that some readers will definitely not find it to their liking. But if you are willing to forge ahead, you will find that Octavia Butler was one of the most unique and uncompromising writers in the genre, continually exploring gender, power and dominance, physical and cultural coercion, and frequently taking a pessimistic view of human nature, but always leaving it to the reader to draw their own conclusions.
En esta última parte de la trilogía seguimos a Khodahs, otro de los hijos de Lilith. Este será el primer ooloi construido, algo que nadie esperaba, y algo al que todos los oankali temen, porque no saben como se comportará.
Vemos como en esta parte de la historia la unión entre oankalis, humanos y construidos cada vez se ve más normal, y como cada vez les cuesta menos acercarse los unos a los otros.
Este libro es el que menos me ha gustado de los tres, y aún así me ha gustado mucho.
No es que la historia tengo un final cerrado del todo, pero creo que así está bien, porque nos podemos imaginar el resto.
Una trilogía super recomendable. Una autora magnífica.
Spoiler Alert. The following is a metaphorical plot summary of Octavia Butler’s Imago.
The scene is a meet-up night club. A and B are strangers to one another. A sneaks up behind B and whispers.
A: If I don’t have sex with you, I’ll die.
B whirls around and faces him angrily.
B: You are disgusting! Get away from me! A: Oh, don’t be like that. Here, let me just touch you like this.
B: Get your limbs off me! I told you you disgust me! Go away! A: If you would just be still and let me finish having sex with you, I’ll chemically modify you to be the way I like.
They grapple for several moments. Eventually B’s struggling subsides.
A: There. How do you feel now? B: If I don’t get to keep having sex with you, I’ll die. And sex with anyone else would disgust me now. And I love you deeply. A: By the way, I also cured your cancer while we were having sex. B: You are so awesome. I love you so much. A: I have a bunch of friends just like me who want to do what I just did to you with all your friends. Will you help me go get your friends so my friends can change them to be the way we like them? B: Yes. Yes. A: And then we’ll all live long cancer-free lives having lots of sex and strange children. B: Mmmmm. Bliss.
That’s basically what it’s about. Only with aliens and humans in a post-apocalyptic Earth instead of A and B at nightclub. It’s imaginative. It’s well written. There’s enough tension to keep the pages turning. But it’s a weak ending to a series whose first two books chronicled the near extinction and then stumbling resurrection of the human race.
2021 reread: This is the book I first picked up off the shelf by Octavia Butler. I have the 80's paperbacks of this trilogy and the cover has human face with fish and other animal body parts. It was fascinating and only upon reading the back blurb did I realize this was the 3rd and final installment in a trilogy. I picked up Dawn and OB became my favorite author🤷🏾♀️ I love how this story comes fully circle. Elements of this story exist in Survivor/Alanna novella as well as the short story Bloodchild. However this is her final word on this thought and again its a bit like the evolution of a story and an idea. I think the Parable books are arguably her best work but this trilogy remains my favorite series by her. Honestly I wish she'd set more stories in this universe.
Review from previous reread: Jodahs is my favorite of the construct characters. I love that they are so kind and seductive. Also their pronoun 'they' has aged well.
If the first two volumes are written in third person, this last part is told in first one, which makes it even more harder for the reader not to be involved in the story.
However, despite the never-ending feeling of discomfort, it is mainly an ode to life and love.
“[…] I think I became all the things he liked, even though he never told me what they were.” “His body told you. His every look, his reaction, his touch, his scent. He never stopped telling you what he wanted. And since he was the sole focus of your attention, you gave him everything he asked for.”
Nothing I ever read felt so wrong and yet, so utterly right on many occasions. Because life as we know it and imagine it never ever included what you’ll find in here.
Ms Butler touches so many sensitive issues that it is impossible to mention all - sexuality, gender identity, deformities, just to name a few. There were many moments when I stopped to absorb exactly what I just read and realize how many things we take for granted and never appreciate them. Or how differently we perceive what we have. Below fragment is just an example:
Our river water at Lo always came to us clouded with sediment. “Rich”, the Oankali called it. “Muddy”, the Humans said, and filtered it or let the silt settle to the bottom before they drank it. “Just water”, we constructs said, and shrugged. We had never known other water.
Usually, I read 200 odd pages in a day, max two. This one took me a week. Too disturbing, too dense, too full of meanings and back to too disturbing.
And no matter what I say about it, or how interesting the blurb is, you’ll never expect what you’ll find in its pages.
The oankali have three sexes: female, male, and ooloi. The ooloi is a crucial part of the reproduction process as it controls and manipulates genes and is responsible for the gene trade. Up until now in the story, there have only been male and female construct children. The creation of a construct ooloi has only been discussed, but not yet attempted until now.
Imago tells the story of Jodahs, the first ooloi construct. This book ties the previous two together seamlessly by showing what Jodahs is and all that it can do; it is the best "result" of the human and oankali gene trade as it has all the skills and intelligence of an oankali ooloi, plus the advantage of an understanding of human-specific struggles and oankali-specific fears (of humans and human potential for destruction). Through Jodahs, we come to better understand the oankali and see that what used to seem alien in the previous two books is just the way life has to be, from here on out.
In the third book of her Xenogenesis series, Octavia Butler gives us the alien’s perspective. It makes the Oankali marginally less creepy, but only a tiny bit. Butler excels at creating truly alien life forms, with wildly different forms of reproduction.
The Oankali having stinging cells and tentacles, giving them some resemblance to jellyfish (Cniderians) in our world, but they are upright walking, hand-and-arm-possessing, intelligent life forms. And, it turns out, they have a three stage metamorphosis like Earth’s insects do. This installment follows that mysterious third sex, the Ooloi, as one of Lilith’s children matures sexually into the adult form (hence the title, Imago).
In the first book, the Oankali have rescued the small remainder of humanity from a disaster of their own creation and have begun combining the two species. That’s what the Ooankali do and they consider it their payment for their rescue services, but that’s not what it looks like or feels like to humans. Lilith gradually becomes convinced that she won’t be allowed to live as human and reluctantly gets involved with the aliens, although it is against her true wishes.
In the second book, we follow Lilith’s construct child, Akin, who actually has five parents and who understands the relationship between the two species better than either the humans or the Oankali. He sees the basic incompatibility between the two species but also how they can also become compatible. Seemingly a paradox, which Akin reveals as a prejudice of the Oankali against humanity—we’ve always known that humans are prejudiced against the aliens.
This third installment reveals just how much the Oankali need and long for relationships with humans. To this point, they have seemed very unemotional, almost clinical, in their desire to revitalize their own DNA through incorporation of the human genome. Jodahs, who is metamorphosing into one of the mysterious Ooloi, shows us the depth of feeling, the intense sexual need, and indeed the pain of separation that we have been missing so far in the story.
Despite gaining understanding, the whole sexual system of the Oankali feels deeply creepy. The human male and female in the sexual constellation experience repulsion when they touch one another directly, but when joined by an Ooloi, experience intense sexual pleasure. Pheromones by the Ooloi make the situation addictive—being apart from one’s group becomes torment.
Butler is skillful in her refusal to “pick a side.” She provides logical reasons for the aliens’ behaviour and points out both the logical and totally illogical responses of humanity. She explores co-operation, coercion, limited choice, and unequal power without making it obvious which species she favours.
In some ways, this series makes me think of Arthur Clarke’s Childhood’s End, in that humanity is being absorbed into a genetic continuum, but likely won’t survive on its own ever again. Do we mourn the loss or celebrate what survives?
Book 260 of my Science Fiction and Fantasy Reading Project.
In an nuclear apocalypse, humans have virtually wiped out life on Earth. From the aliens' point of view, their rescue of humans and repopulation of Earth is for their own good. Without cross-breeding with humans, and blending their DNA with that of humans, the human race is on a direct course for extinction. Human predilection for forming hierarchical societies is the basis for human self-destruction.
But the aliens have their own survival in mind, also. Their motivation is not entirely altruistic. They need to re-invigorate their own DNA as well, as they have travelled in a spacecraft for millennia. They need to cross-breed with humans, to avoid inbreeding.
And the aliens are experts at genetic modification. They can cure serious illnesses very quickly, simply by connecting with humans. And they see illness in a completely different light. To them, cancer is a blessing. Not that they wish it on anybody, but the genetic code for cancerous cells is important for re-growing organs and limbs.
Humans are extremely afraid of the aliens, because they do not understand the situation. They are afraid of the appearance of aliens, they are skeptical of their motivations, and are paranoid of other humans who have associated with the aliens.
This novel has themes of genetic modification, racism, xenophobia, and social structure. I am amazed that Octavia Butler wrote this book so long ago (1989). She seems to have envisioned technologies that were not even on the horizon then.
My only complaint is that the book is filled with typos. The publisher (Aspect) should have done a better job proof-reading.
hmmmm....somehow, I am suspicious of being manipulated into liking this book.
This last installment of Butler's trilogy has us seeing the inside view of the ooloi, the 'third sex' of the aliens that have taken over Earth. Ooloi operate by using their pheromones and sensory arms to calm and pleasure humans. Once this happens to you, you decide you like them and literally cannot live with out them.
What we don't know is how bad they NEED humans. If they don't have human contact, they literally go insane. Thus they tend to bond and mate with the first humans they come across, even is they're siblings. Although it is mutual, it is very much addictive in nature through the oolois biochemical processes. While they all go off happily into their future, it is an induced happiness, which seems, I don't know, wrong somehow. If you can say being happy and healthy and having over a hundred years to raise a family is wrong. Hmmmm.
so this not-quite-consensual mating thing is fodder for some deep thoughts, as well as the resistors ideas about trying so hard to make a comeback for humanity that they force the mutant yet fertile humans they find into a breeding program.
In the end, humans really are a fascinating species....
Imago is the third and final entry in the Lilith’s Brood series. Honestly, I found it to be the weakest entry by far.
Imago is a much more focused story than either Dawn or Adulthood Rites. It really does not add much to the lore. The setting has not changed much. No broad decisions are made the way that Dawn had the resettling and interbreeding of humans and Adulthood Rites had the establishment of the Mars colony. Instead, it focuses almost entirely on Jodahs’ internal experience of transforming into the first construct ooloi. Jodahs is a mistake. Construct ooloi were not meant to happen for a long time, if ever. The story centers narrowly on Oankali mistrust of Jodahs and Jodahs’ struggle to control his abilities and find mates.
I normally prefer focused stories. Here, I think the focus is detrimental. It is all about the experience of beings I cannot appreciate. I have no experiences that allow me to understand or empathize with Jodahs. I cannot transform my body at will. I have not been exiled for my biology. I certainly have not been so compelled to mate. Moreover, the story is filled with repetitive details about this experience. I could not count how many times Butler painstakingly described its longing for human mates, or the struggle to control its abilities, or how it manipulated humans into bonding with it. The repetition really dragged down the plot.
It does not help that Oankali and constructs knowingly violate consent and autonomy on an ongoing basis. The story repeatedly emphasizes that they constantly use chemical emissions to manipulate humans. Jodahs drugs Tomás and Jesusa, and develops biological dependency with them without their knowledge or consent. Jodahs and Nikanj straight up acknowledge that they lie to humans and ignore their will as a policy. Over the course of this series, my view of the Oankali has gone from benevolent and interesting to contemptible and repulsive. I do not want to read more about them from a sympathetic perspective.
Imago is thematically shallower than its predecessors as well. Dawn had troubling themes of consent and domination and salvation and sex - it was messy and challenging. Adulthood Rites continued to develop these themes, along with new themes of violence, the importance of choice, autonomy, and colonization. Those books made me consider uncomfortable thoughts. Imago was really just an alien coming-of-age story. The themes of the series seemed lost or muted. I was disappointed to feel so unchallenged by the work.
I am not sure why Butler chose to end the series with this story. There is clearly another important - I would argue vitally important - story left: the departure of the Oankali from Earth. Adulthood Rites set up the departure of the Oankali as a dramatic and traumatic event. The Oankali secretly plan to strip the Earth of all life sustaining resources and abandon the Mars colony. What will this process look like? How will the humans of the Mars colony react? How will this color the relationship between humanity and Oankali? This story has the most interesting questions of any in the series, and Butler never wrote it.
I love and respect Octavia Butler. She earned her status as a grandmaster. I wish I had skipped Imago entirely. It was such a dragging disappointed that I could have read 2 or 3 enjoyable books instead.
A solid read, though an interesting shift from third person to first person perspective for this last installment.
I stand by the idea that this is my least favorite of Butler’s works that I’ve read thus far. But it’s still a very good series & explores some really interesting ideas about humanity, individuality, independence, and codependence. I’m glad to add the series to my shelves & I’m excited to read more from Butler.
"Mi pueblo va a venir aquí, pero mi pueblo no os matará. No mató a vuestros ancianos: los arrancó de entre las cenizas de su guerra, los curó, se unió con aquellos que lo desearon voluntariamente, y dejó que los demás se marchasen. Si mi pueblo fuera un pueblo de asesinos, vosotros no estaríais aquí. Y no habría una colonia humana en el planeta Marte, en donde los humanos viven y se reproducen totalmente en libertad, lejos de nosotros."
Me ha gustado muchísimo la trilogía de Butler, encontré que Ritos de madurez fue la más fascinante para mí. La prosa de Butler es realmente impresionante. Repito la estupidez que dije en algún momento y que me la robé de Matrix: como limpiarse el culo con seda.
Aunque prefiero las novelas de contacto alienígena con un corte más tirado a lo militar y armamentista, hay que resaltar que, con Xenogénesis, Butler tal vez haya logrado uno de los contactos más realistas y mejor contados, con personajes bastante bien construidos. Con los oolois construidos parece que una ya ni siquiera tiene la opción de decidir por cuenta propia, que las decisiones son solo una ilusión y que del amor al odio no hay absolutamente nada en el medio. Tal vez nunca tuvimos posibilidades con estos malditos demonios de cuatro brazos, si tuviera uno al frente le parto el cuello de un solo.......... ¡atríenme!.
Muy, muy recomendada la trilogía. ¿Qué sigue? ¿Tal vez Parentesco?
Butler occasionally traveled for pleasure, including her journeys to Peru and hiking Huayna Picchu, the tallest mountain peak in Machu Picchu. But some of these travels were also for the purpose of research. Travels to the Amazon rainforest informed her famed Xenogenesis trilogy.
This is the kind of book/series that I wish was read in English classes, because it is both an intensely absorbing narrative and a perfect jumping-off point for a myriad of discussions: about consent, biological determinism, transhumanism, the extent to which we can ever truly understand other people... it is thought-provoking and rich without being didactic. You could argue that the Oankali truly have destroyed humanity just as well as you could argue that they have saved it, and the book itself could support either reading. It doesn't so much ask questions as present scenarios which force the reader to ask them, and that's so beautifully subtle and brilliant.
One of the things that I love about the series as a whole is that though Lilith is not the main character of books two and three, it is clear to see that she is still struggling with the same moral quandaries she has been from the beginning; still not sure whether her loyalties and her relationships align; never truly certain if she had made the right choices along the way. I feel much the same way, as a reader - still not entirely sure how I feel about the events of these stories, not sure how hopeful the series truly is in the end. That, to me, speaks of great writing: the ability to write a situation with so many moral shades of gray that there is no evident right answer, no obvious conclusion. There is only the story, and the reflections the reader has within themselves.
An unexpectedly good final installment to the creepy but fascinating Xenogenesis trilogy. Butler does ethical quandaries very well though she does find some very cerebral, awful new forms of oppression and enslavement.
3.9⭐ A fine, hopeful ending to the Xenogenesis series. One of Octavia Butler's major themes is metamorphosis, changing to become something else, something better. Butler believes humanity must change in order to survive and in her series she uses the metaphor of interbreeding with an alien species to stand in for intercultural understanding and acceptance.
I won't attempt to summarize the complicated, hybrid society the author has created other than to say she brings her story to what I thought was a satisfying conclusion, offering both aliens and humans renewal and salvation. Some of major characters from the previous books are present but the main focus is on the newly introduced Jordahs, who represents the culmination of Butler's exchange program.
Butler's writing style is clean, clear and compelling. The pacing of the novel (and the series) is brisk but not rushed or confusing. She relies heavily on what are, in essence, alien superpowers to move the plot along but at least she does so convincingly. I liked this trilogy a bit better than the melancholy ( but well written) Patternist series. I look forward to reading more of the author's books. -30-
So this is the last in the Xenogenesis or Lilth's Brood series written by Octavia E. Butler.
I liked this one a lot. We once again focus on just one POV throughout the entire novel. We have Lilth's son Jodahs who is born an Oankali construct (humans and Oankali breed with the help of an Oankali called ooloi) and every child born has 5 parents. The ooloi, a sexless subspecies capable of manipulating DNA and without them no one would be able to have children. Jodahs starts to metamorphosis and realizes that he is becoming an ooloi. Until now, no one has been allowed to bear an ooloi since they are careful of so many things and without training, can end of hurting everyone around them.
So once again this book brings up a lot of issues that people may have trouble with. The rape of women is brought up constantly (thank goodness we don't get in depth scenes with that). We also have the discussion of free will, coercion, and human beings who just want to be free without feeling manipulated by the Oankali. The Oankali seem to think that human beings are just one big contradiction since they can tell that humans do want what is being done to them even though they keep saying no (shudder).
Since it has been several hundred years since book #1, and now it is has been 50 years between books #2 and #3, we have a lot of callbacks to the preceding books.
You feel for Jodahs, but also I was torn because as readers we know that he and his other sibling have to have mates or they will be forced to be exiled to the ship and away from their family. When Jodahs comes across two humans with a ton of genetic abnormalities, he finally realizes that fixing humans is something he is supposed to do. Now we get why ooloi could not sit back in books #1 and just let the humans they were paired with be hurt. It also hurts them as well.
We now get an update regarding what is happening and that the Oankali is not stopping any humans/resisters from going to Mars. They just know though that ultimately the humans will fail since they still can't stop fighting or harming each other.
The writing in this book was very though provoking. We have a lot of discussions about looks and Jodahs feels I would say ugly and does his best to look like those around him that he is trying to "seduce". In fact we get to see Jodahs do these several times so unlike the previous ooloi he looks more human. It is even said later in the book, if the ooloi had looked more like how Jodahs now does, more humans would not have been able to say no to the Oankali and resist. So there is definitely a discussion of appearances in this one.
Also Butler doesn't shy away from discussing homosexuality in this one. It is mentioned how many human males are angry for becoming "women" since they need to be around their Oankali and ooloi mates and hate that they can no longer mate with human females. But in this one, Jodahs male human mate definitely loves him and is more forgiving to him of things he holds back (how they will all get sick and feel desperate without one each other) and constantly keeps saying that Jodahs will never get away from him.
This book flow was much better than book #2. I liked how we saw Jodahs go and interact with his family more. And you get a better idea of why the constructs need to be around their siblings and mothers and fathers so much. It keeps them "solid" and more likely to be look more human.
The setting of this book was more expanded than in previous books. We now know the new Earth has a lot of towns/villages and their are shuttles arriving to take humans who want to leave to Mars. There are a lot of resistors angry about the Oankali just not giving up Earth, but the Oankali refuse to leave the Earth to humans and you get why when Jodahs and others talk about what is going to come next with this new race.
I thought the ending was definitely supposed to be more hopeful than books #1 and #2. You know have ooloi who look human and maybe in several hundred years they will look even more human and eventually human beings as we know it will be another species.
In this final book of the Xenogenesis trilogy, the focus shifts again, this time to another of Lilith's sons, Jodahs, who turns out to be the first human-born ooloi (the third Oankali gender). He is considered a mistake by the Oankali and must struggle to find mates and carve a place for himself in the world.
This is the only book told in first person which makes it more intimate but I never connected with Jodahs as I did with Akin in Adulthood Rites. I was also disappointed that we see nothing of what has happened to the Mars colony; it is mentioned only as an option for the humans still on Earth. Is it succeeding? Failing? We have no idea.
I was generally disappointed with this as a conclusion to the series. I didn't feel that the questions that arise from the human/Oankali interaction were explored in any new way from the previous books and it didn't grip me like the second book did. There also wasn't a true sense of completion. I just didn't get that feeling of satisfaction that I wanted--it felt like there should be more.
I'm glad I read the series as it stretched my brain in a way that good books should--I just wish I felt more satisfied with the conclusion.
I’ve never read, seen or heard of anything like this before, and short of a post-Octavia Butler movement I don’t expect to. Alien invasion without violence, “kill ’em with kindness” tale, inter-species family drama. Along the way it manages – playfully, but with requisite seriousness – to upturn myriad taboos, from the gender-bending of its first-person, part-alien protagonist to various configurations of sexual intercourse, all of them tempered and enlightened by their part-alien context. Other nice touches abound: a character (Ooloi – ie part-alien) devolves into a sluglike ooze floating in a jungle river for lack of human touch, its body mimicking what species it comes most close to; if it should devolve further, we’re informed, it would break apart into diseased cells, each capable of the same mimicry, and infiltrate the ecosystem, ultimately endangering the planet. Meantime villages are not built but planted, and serve as biological, living platforms on which the Ooloi and their alien parents the Oankali find nourishment. And the Earth itself is slowly milked of lifeforce, until one day it will be a husk and the new race resultant from the interbreeding will move on to greener pastures. But fascinating as these concepts are, it’s not from them that the story derives its power; instead, it’s psychology that drives this thing, and provides a subtly haunting depth throughout. The protagonist, evidently, wants nothing but the best for its humans, but is driven to manipulate and withhold truths from them to that end, because for all its superior strength, skill and endurance, it physically can’t live without them. Skewed slightly to either direction, this voice could be either cloying and self-justifying or cruel and ruthless, but in Butler’s careful hands it rides the line between soppy and savage; thought-provoking moral ambiguity is the result. Yes, the ending’s a little pat, as befits its genre context, but that didn’t bother me, since its apparent fairytale resolution has, nonetheless, this sinister subtext. Nor did the plainness of the prose offend me; it was neat, exact, unfailingly correct and transparent – it did its job. Overall, I’m impressed. I hear Imago is the third book in a series of four (the others told, I think, from human perspectives); that didn’t bother me either – the story seemed complete enough in itself – but I’m curious to read more.
Octavia Butler is a genius. She is a master of story telling and a master world builder. I admire her style, the simplicity of her writing and the various intricately woven meanings in her stories. This last book though. I think that I'd had my fill of the issue of cross species mating in the first two books such that in this last book... well it sort of spilled over but not in a nice enjoyable way. The overwhelming message/concern/point/question in the Xenogenesis trilogy is: are you really helping a people when your help is not wanted and the people would rather die than take said help? Does anyone have the right to force their way of life/understanding on a people even if it is in the name of love and help? The Oankali saved the few remaining people on a scorched Earth after the inhabitants tried to wipe each other out. They restored Earth and offered to send humans back to live on her surface. But there is a catch. Isn't there always a catch? The Oankali want to trade. Their help for our genetic stuff. Imagine mating with a tri-gendered gross looking species with mind probing tentacles that can alternately sting you to death or send you to heights of erotic ecstasy... Yeah. I'm not sure I'd be so keen on it either. Imagine not being given a choice. Imagine having the ability to to produce, to give birth to your own human baby is taken from you unless you agree to this trade. Imagine being told that we're no good for ourselves, that while we're intelligent, our hierarchical tendencies doom us to repeat the same mistakes unless we agree to the trade. In this tale human beings quite predictably dissolve into a mode that shows just how awful we can be. I think Butler got it right. This was an excellent hypothetical study in humanity, and it showed that for the most part, humans ultimately have far less than we think. I'd recommend this series to anyone. It's well written, in many ways surprisingly realistic, objective and optimistic, diverse and honest. Did I mention that Butler is a master? Well, she so is.