The Thunder Child

Science Fiction and Fantasy
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Vol 1, Issue #4
"Stand By For Mars!"
April 2006

Children's Fiction Book Reviews
by Kathy Thomason

by Octavia Butler
Trilogy: All three books are available as paperbacks

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Throughout the history of man, we have tried very hard to destroy ourselves with war after war. We have finally come very close to succeeding, when a handful of zealots succeed in setting off the final war, the war that would have wiped out humanity. But we are "rescued" by the Oankali, who gathered up as many people as they could find and then they set about to make the planet habitable again. But the remaining humans must decide if the price the Oankali are asking is too high. The Oankali are genetic engineers, they survive by interbreeding with other species. They are gene traders, who give you some of them and take away some of you so that result are beings that look a little like both races. We must decide if the potential loss of what makes us human is worth the cost of survival.

Lilith Lyapo is one of the survivors. She has no idea how long she has been with the Oankali. They have kept her asleep, awakening her at intervals to either silence or to a disembodied voice asking her endless questions. But finally she awakens to a shadowy shape in the corner of the room, one of the Oankali who tells her his name is Jdahya and that he is there to take her to start a new life. But when he comes into the light, she is immediately repulsed by him. He is a grayish color and covered with grey sensory organs - not hair - that writhe and move, much like the Medusa of ancient legend.

Over the next several days, as she learns more of Jdahya and his people, she becomes more and more convinced that this whole rescue is just plain wrong. They are ruled by a group called the ooloi, which is a third sex, neither male nor female, who make all the decisions about what genetic alterations will be made. Lilith and the other survivors face a terrible decision, one that will effect not only their own lives but the future of two species. If they agree to what the ooloi want to do, then the future survival of mankind will be assured but since the children will be hybrids of both man and Oankali, they will no longer be human but a whole new race. Is it a price we are willing to pay for survival?

Xenogenesis, which is comprised of three books, Dawn, Adulthood Rites and Imago, takes us on a wonderful journey into a highly imaginative future and follows the survivors of a great war as they must make a decision that will change the earth forever. Dawn tells, in rich detail, Lilith's story and the decisions that she makes. Adulthood Rites follows an alien-human hybrid that is kidnapped by sterile humans who are resisting the merger of the two races and Imago tells the story an ooloi human who comes of age and brings the two races together.

This trio really highlights Butler's genius as a writer and continues her exploration of the relationships between people and what it means to be a part of a society that is evident in many of her other works. She also continues with the theme of biological diversity as a means of species survival and while these three were not as popular as Kindred, I believe they showcase her talents better.

Author Octavia Butler was born in Pasadena, California. Her father, a shoeshiner, died when she was young; her mother, also named Octavia, raised her in a struggling, racially mixed neighborhood, working as a maid to support the family. After being diagnosed with dyslexia, Octavia began writing at the age of 10 to escape her loneliness and boredom. She became one of the few African-American women to go into the field of science fiction, winning both the Hugo and the Nebula awards and was the first science-fiction writer to be awarded the MacArthur Foundation "genius grant." Ms. Butler passed away Feb. 24, 2006 at the age of 58, from a stroke.

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