Monday 27 June 2011

Lilith's Brood - Octavia E. Butler

Title: Lilith's Brood
Author: Octavia E. Butler
Genre: Sci-Fi
Published: 2000
Formats: Paperback

Available at:
Amazon UK
Barnes & Nobel

Lilith's Brood by Octavia E. Butler is a Sci-Fi novel that is the June read for Women of Science Fiction Book Club . The first thing I noticed when I picked up this novel is that it is quite long and this is because it is actually a collection of three novels that form the Xenogenesis trilogy.

The overall plot of this collection is that after the end of human civilization in World War Three (a very typical sci-fie beginning) an alien species called the Oankali intervenes and rescues what it can from Earth. This alien race then begins an attempt to repair the planet prior to re-populating it with the rescued humans and other creatures. However, very soon it is revealed that as payment for this help the humans must "trade" with them. This "trade" entails inter-breeding to create a new species that takes genetic traits from the aliens themselves and the humans. As you can imagine some humans dislike this plan, especially when it is revealed that humans will not be able to breed amongst themselves anymore without the intervention of the Oankali and will therefore soon cease to exist as an independent species. The collection takes us through the lives of several Human and Human-Oankali hybrids as some members of humanity try and resist the "trade" whilst others are willing to accept this quasi colonisation attempt.

It is a rather complex and thoughtful book and I won't really say much more about the plot as I think it may ruin it for any readers. This is due to the fact that one of the most interesting aspects of this collection is the way in which Butler slowly reveals information to both the characters and readers about the full predicament that faces humanity and Earth itself. I will just say that the book's plot enables it to delve into various aspects of society such as slavery, freedom, eugenics, racism, sexuality, violence, rape and what it really actually means to be human.

One specific thing I am going to have to speak about is Butler's attempt at creating an alien species that has three genders. It is very strange concept to try and get your head around as a reader and I think that she has made a reasonable attempt at doing it. I will say however that in my opinion the characters that were from the third gender grouping mainly just came across to me as being male. I suspect that this is because any reader will understand a two gender species and therefore will usually try to typecast anything into the male or female box no matter what an author may try to do.

Other than this, the main issue I had with "Lilith's Brood" is that I found some of the various descriptions and points being made were being repeated throughout. I can understand that this was probably quite useful when the three stories were released over a period of time and it enabled the reader to re-mind themselves about overall plot points etc. However when reading the collection in one go I found that my overall desire to keep on reading diminished as I progressed so that I found it rather slow going. For example, I finished the first book in the collection titled "Dawn" in a couple of days whereas the final book titled "Imago" took me several weeks.

To summarise, I did like Lilith's Brood despite the fact I found it slow going as I progressed. It was quite enjoyable getting to read about an alien species that really was different to us and overall it was a very thought provoking book that didn't follow the normal alien invasion colonisation route of many other Sci-Fi stories.


  1. Sorry, I meant to come by and read your review faster than this, but I got distracted!

    I don't recall having trouble with the third sex in the book, though it's been a long time since reading it. I think some of the ooloi I saw as male, but others not so much.

  2. No problems with getting distracted.

    I wouldn't say it was a problem with the 3rd Gender. It was a good attempt, I just found that they didn't appear much different than a male with some differnt abilities from a normal male that was required to reproduce.