This week we read Dawn by Octavia Butler. This story is a science fiction tale about confrontation and the mixing of two cultures through war, gender, race, isolation, and more. Within the story, there are the humans who are in a deep sleep and there are the extraterretrials called the Oankali. A war has destroyed the Earth and has killed most of the population. the Oankali transport the remaining survivors to their spaceship, which is very much alive, where they observe the humans for about two hundred and fifty years. During this observation period, they being to understand that human nature is flawed and the humands have the ability to desrtroy any plant or world that they live on. Because of this, they deny the humans the ability to reproduce on their own, but they are willing to use the humans in their own mating to remove any human flaws, which will end up creating a new life-form.
The main character, Lilith Iyapo, is introduced and is in an isolation room for much of the first part of the book, “Womb.” Her room has a bed, table, and bathroom, and she is fed bland foods from edible bowls. After being Awakened, Lilth has to learn to get rid of her past human prejudices. With this task, she is introduced to one of the Oankali – Jdahya. Lilth explains him to be like a weird sea creature with a reptilian exterior. Jdahya does not have eyes or a nose like humans, and also has “sensory arms,” which are used to help feel emotions.
Once she gets to know him and understand the Oankali ways, she goes out of her isolation room with him and meets his other family members. One important family member is Nikanj, Jdahya’s son and is an ooloi. Nikanj is a member of a third gender that can heal illnesses and genetic defects, as well as link mates for sexual pleasure and reproduction. In the second part of the book, “Family,” Lilth oversees and helps Nikanj through its metamorphosis. During this time, she becomes even closer to it and eventually becomes one of its mates.
During the third and fourt parts of the book, “Nursery” and “Training Floor,” Lilth must select forty humans to Awake and train to understand the Oankali, much like Jdahya did when they first met. As she is selecting the forty to wake up, there are many disagreements over who is mating with whom and when and how many people are going to be Awoken at a single time. Many of them don’t believe her to even be human anymore since she can grow the walls, heal faster, and is stronger than all of them. Throughout this process, Lilith must persuade them to follow her example and mate with the Oankali. Once all forty are Awake, the Oankali present themselves and pick which mates will be there.
Over time, the Oankali decide that it is time for them to go into the “Training Room,” which has been designed to look just like Earth and look like where they would be returning and placed once it was their time. While they are there, many of the humans do not believe that they are on the ship anymore, but that they really are back on Earth. Several small groups go off into the wild and try to survive on their own. Finally members of the forty convince Lilith to go with him, her mate, Joseph, being the final pull factor. They go out into the wild, but one night, a man named Curt, comes into their camp and attacks them, leaving Joseph dead. The Oankoli interveen the following day, which leaves one of Nikanj sensory arms hanging by a thread and it almost dead. Lilth has to help heal Nikanj by laying next to it and holding its pieces of sensory arms together. Once it is healed, they go back to camp where Nikanj tells Lilth that she is pregnant with Jospeh’s daughter. This greatly surprises Lilth because she believes that she isn’t ready. The book ends with Nikanj and Lilth leaving the training room and heading back to “home” somewhere on the ship.