I don't know why it took me so long to get around to reading Xenogenesis by Octavia Butler , I only know that I am lamenting the wait.
This trilogy was so good. It was so so so so good.
It's interesting because I bought this EONS ago after Justine Larbalestier said it was "the scariest book she'd ever read." I guess I was kind of hoping for something scary, too. Like, in a Rendezvous with Rama kind of way. Instead I think she was panicked because of an existential dread that I just do not share. I HATE humanity. I try not to. I'm a part of it, after all. But I hate it. I hate it so much. I would like to think I would be one of those humans that just accepts the Oankali without question. But who knows?
But back to the story at hand. I cannot overstate the beautiful nuance with which Butler creates, describes, and nurtures her characters. I found every single one of them compelling and irritating and understandable and relatable the entire time. This book (I am going to refer to it in the singular because I don't think it's three component novels are ever published individually) is so against the grain of so much of what we're conditioned to expect. There are no easy answers. There are no easy people. There is no easy story to tell. Being A White, I won't presume into the process or ideation or potential obviousness for which writing such a narrative would be for a Black woman. I can only say that I don't run into a lot of narratives like this. And she is one of so very few WoC in science fiction, especially at the time at which this was written. I cannot help but conjecture that the ceaseless pessimism (or what I may be projecting as ceaseless pessimism) isn't borne out of lived experience. But again, I hate humanity, and at just about exactly 3 days until Joe Biden's inauguration I think I am allowed this particular misanthropic conceit.
I don't like the rebranding of this series as "Lilith's Brood." I think it leans too into itself. Xenogenesis is so much more apt. But I suppose that's neither here nor there.
I am having that problem where for me, to explain what I loved about it would be to give the entire story away. I think it's beautiful. I think that the story of two alien civilizations that are so at odds with their attitudes toward what it means to be alive and apart of a society, or even what a society is, is fascinating.
I would say that if you are in favor of reading science fiction that doesn't pander to expectations, that this would be the book to read. It is wonderful. I can see the threads of it in Jemisin's The Broken Earth trilogy. I will review that trilogy separately, though I think that, in the end, the review will read largely the same.
Everyone should do themselves the favor of reading more books by Black women science fiction writers.