Hello, readers! I hope you've been enjoying one of my favorite hard sci fi novels, DAWN by Octavia E. Butler! By this point you have read through Parts I and II, and we will be discussing the novel up to (but not including) Part III: Nursery.
One of the first things that I'd like to discuss -- and that I don't think we can NOT discuss -- is the topic of race in DAWN. DAWN was written by an African American woman, and the main character, we find out in chapter one, is dark-skinned. And yet, the cover on the 1987 first edition depicts two white women. Here are the U.S. Covers for the first book, over the years.
Left to right: 1987 hard cover (first edition), 1988 paperback, 1998 paperback, 2012 ebook edition
- Which of these do you think best represents the author's story, characters, and/or ideology? Do you think that any of these covers are problematic? Why?
Moving on! Another main theme of DAWN is gender. When Lilith, the protagonist, first meets the Oankali character Jdayha, she asks him if he's male or female. And he quickly tells her that, while he is a male, her assumption that he is a male or female is incorrect. The Oankali race has a third gender, ooloi. At first, Lilith really dislikes and even fears the ooloi. She is still wary of her Oankali teacher and companion, Nikanj. But when she meets Paul, the first human she has spoken to since leaving Earth, she finds herself offended by his unwillingness to accept that the Oankali don't and can't conform to human gender binaries.
- When you are reading ooloi characters, do you feel more like Lilith, or more like Paul? Why? Is it uncomfortable to read about characters who don't conform to male or female? Or is it just hard to wrap your head around? Or does it seem to make total sense?
Pause for FAN ART!
Human?The ship was not comprised of matter, exactly; it was energy. But really when you came down to it, matter and energy were both fundamentally the sameenergy being a looser and less complex form of matter. The ships engines did not provide speed as much as it allowed the ship and its inhabitants to shift into their less complex forms of energy, thus able to shift from one place, time, and dimension to the other as naturally as following the solar wind. It is impossible to know when such a shift occurs, and to anyone riding such a vessel the shift would not be detectable to the mind. No, one moment the ship would be in a particular space and time and then another particular space and time and no matter how long it took, its passengers would never know the difference. Pilots of such a ship were no longer even human, parts of them machine, parts of them able to dissolve into energy at a whim, and all
One of the major conflicts in DAWN is that the Oankali seem to be using humans without their knowledge or approval to "make a good trade," by using genetic material, making copies of humans, and even breeding humans without their knowledge. A lot of this comes to a head when Paul assaults Lilith. But even before then, she questions the motives of the Oankali: Are they really here to save Earth, at any cost? Or are they being unfair to the humans by not including them in the decisions, even though the Oankali way may be the only way to preserve any traces of the way of life that humanity destroyed? Lilith tells Nikanj that she doesn't want him operating on her brain, and recalls her husband's brain injury. Nikanj turns out to be one of the only Oankali that understands the idea of informed consent. But it still isn't offering Lilith many answers.
- Do you think that Lilith is being, for lack of a better word, racist when she rejects the idea of having children that are part Oankali? For wanting to preserve the human race as it is, without "medusa children?" If yes, what better options might they have that would not ultimately violate the informed consent of others (like what happened to Paul with his children)? If no, why?
When we leave Lilith and Nikanj at the end of Part II, Nikanj is beginning his metamorphosis into adulthood and Lilith has left Nikanj's family home to live with him and his new mates. She is surprised by pleasant visits from Kahguyaht, the ooloi she despises. It gifts her with human books in English, with paper and with synthesized pens, exactly like she remembers from Earth.
- Were you surprised by Kahguyaht's sudden change in attitude toward Lilith? Where do you think this change is leading the story, and how do you think their new relationship will affect Lilith's decisions to willingly aid (or not aid) in the genetic trade?
Pause for PRIZES!
YAY! I AM SO GLAD YOU ARE HERE TO PARTICIPATE IN BOOK CLUB! And so is the rest of CRLiterature
! Because we love you so hard, every month Book Club offers up prizes for the top participants. To win prizes, comment thoughtfully, write critical reviews and create fan art! (You can note us links to your reviews and fan art.) DrippingWords
and I are keeping track of who says/does what and will send one of these prizes to the monthly winner, and one of these prizes will be put in the "prize bucket" to go to the top participant for the first 6 months of 2015. (We'll have the info on who won for Jun-Dec 2014 soon!)
This month, thanks to Macmillan/Roaring Brook Press
, we have copies of TIN STAR
by Cecil Castellucc
i to give away. If you like books like DAWN, with tough female leads, space ships, and aliens, you'll love TIN STAR
Thanks again for being here! I can't wait to see what y'all have to say!
Also, if you finished early, the February Book Club selection (with neurotype
!) has been announced. Check out the calendar