Series Spotlight: Xenogenesis

Xenogenesis Series (Dawn, Adulthood Rites, Image) by Octavia E. Butler

CONTAINS SPOILERS

(From Lilith’s Brood, which contains all three novels)

Lilith Iyapo is in the Andes, mourning the death of her family, when war destroys Earth. Centuries later, she is resurrected — by miraculously powerful unearthly beings, the Oankali. Driven by an irresistible need to heal others, the Oankali are rescuing our dying planet by merging genetically with mankind. But Lilith and all humanity must now share the world with uncanny, unimaginably alien creatures: their own children. This is their story…

I took a class on sci-fi literature last fall and we read Adulthood Rites. I always meant to go back and read the other two stories in the collection, which I finally did this holiday.

Each of the stories are interesting and complex in themselves. But what is even more remarkable is how the three stories TOGETHER add up to something much bigger.

To put it simply: Humans destroy the Earth in a war. An alien race, the Oankali saves some of the humans. Their price for saving them is a “trade”. The Oankali survive by merging genetically with new species, always seeking to improve and perfect. The traditional Oankali family structure consists of a male, female, and an ooloi (a gender-neutral being). Oankali are not capable of reproducing except through the aid on an ooloi. The new family structure includes the same three Oankali, plus a male and female human.

This series is many things. It is the story of the human survivor, Lilith Iyapo, and her journey in this strange, new world. It is the story of the Oankali, in a microcosm. It is the story of a species, of us all. When read together the three books essentially represent birth, growth, and adulthood. At the beginning of the series there are no human-Oankali children. By the end of the series, not only are there human-Oankali children, but the “construct” ooloi have essentially ended the feud between the two races: the Oankali and the humans who fear their own destruction through racial dilution.

The series is very complex and worth dissecting in its entirety, if you can manage it. There are so many endless questions, so many conflicts, that it seems impossible to truly grasp the extent of the series. I have never read anything by Butler before, but she is truly a master.

Endymion

Endymion by Dan Simmons

(Endymion is the third book in a series by Dan Simmons)

It is 274 years after the Fall and the universe is in chaos. Raul Endymion, one time shepherd and convicted murderer, is chosen as a pawn in a cosmic game whose outcome will determine the fate of humanity. Selected as a bodyguard to the next messiah, Endymion will cross time, space, and the very fabric of reality as her protector, lover, and finally disciple. At the same time, the enigmatic Shrike – part monster, part killing machine, part avenging angel – has also followed the girl into the 32nd century. Yet it is Endymion who has been chosen to rescue Aenea, against all odds. How will her message change the universe – if she is willing to speak it…and if humankind is prepared to hear it?

While I still find Hyperion to be outstanding and the best novel in the series, I equally liked The Fall of Hyperion and Endymion.

One of the really awesome things that Endymion does is basically takes the reader on a modified tour of the worlds that made up the WorldWeb. In the first two books, we get glimpses of planets like Hyperion, God’s Grove, Maui Covenant, Barnard’s World, Old Earth, Lusus, Tau Ceti Center, and Renaissance Vector. Endymion takes us further. World-building is absolutely one of Dan Simmons’s strengths. And if he really puts that card down hard. And I loved it. I loved that he chose to go further with the WorldWeb, taking us to visit planets 274 years after the fall.

I find that all of Simmons novels don’t really grip you until 30-50 pages in. Endymion was no different. But once I was hooked, I was hooked.

I can’t say too much about the novel since it’s the third in the series, but one of the things it does is give us a new perspective on the Shrike phenomenon. For once, we see the monster as something that is, in fact, vulnerable and can be harmed, if not beaten. After the build-up of the terror of the creature for the past two books, it was interesting to see it in a new light. I can’t say if I liked it or not, though that probably has to do with my hatred of its challenger. What, you disliked something more than the Shrike? Unfortunately, yes. Simmons came up with yet another “monster”.