Octavia Butler is a fabulous writer, and her voice is greatly missed in the science fiction world, indeed in the whole of literature. I have read other books by Ms. Butler, including Parable of the Sower, Parable of the Talents, Wild Seed and Fledgling. I don’t read science fiction that much (I prefer to watch on TV or film, rather than read it), so I can’t say that I am surprised that I have mixed feelings about the book. I feel it necessary to mention that I did a combo thing here. I both read and listened to the audiobook. I will say that Amazon’s Whispersync technology worked perfectly, and I was able to seamlessly move from page to audio with no problems. I actually enjoyed listening to the audiobook more than I did reading it. Anyway, here are my thoughts.
I thought that the main character, Lilith, was an interesting choice as narrator. She wakes up on a spaceship after life on earth, and earth itself, have been basically destroyed due to what seems to have been a nuclear holocaust. In the end, the exact detail isn’t important, but we do know that however the destruction of the earth happened, it was the humans’ fault. The strange beings that captured Lilith are attempting to help humans and Earth get back on track- press the re-set button so to speak. Of course, things are never that simple when you are dealing with aliens! There is always a price. And the aliens have a plan.
The first part of the book felt very lonely to me- its just Lilith and the aliens, getting to know each other. I wanted to get a better idea of the fear that Lilith was going through- she seemed to be pretty calm about the whole thing. I was not able to connect with Lilith in the way that I would have liked. You learn a bit about her past, but I still never felt connected. I couldn’t imagine myself in her place. Even when we learn about tragedies in her life, I could never get in her head. I think this would also have helped me to enjoy the second half of the book more, because it is quite different from the first half.
The second half of the book is where we begin to see other humans. The other humans also came across very flat to me. They are representations of certain types of characteristics, rather than fully fleshed out characters. And maybe they don’t need to be- maybe this is something that gets flushed out in subsequent novels in the series ( I believe there are two more books). But I never felt that they had an importance to the story, other than to fill certain roles. They are one dimensional with no signs of getting a noter dimension. We definitely are not seeing the best that humanity has to offer. We also get to see the humans interact with the aliens, and Lilith’s gradual attitude change when it comes to the aliens and their plan. I won’t reveal to much, but let’s just say that not everyone is on board with the plan.
The premise of the story is interesting, and I think that the overarching themes are there- what does it mean to be human? What does it mean to be different? What is “normal”? How far would/should we go to save humanity? Is humanity worth saving? I may try the second book to see how these questions are answered, but I can’t say that I am that excited about it.