October 13th, 2008

Book review: Dawn

Today's book review is Dawn by Octavia E. Butler.

This is the first book in a trilogy, and I actually have it in an SF book club omnibus titled Xenogenesis.  It does not come to a strong conclusion; I suspect it would be better to just read the whole trilogy at once, but I find that it's really not what I'm in the mood for right now.

This book presents some genuinely interesting, truly alien aliens, and by having them interact with humans, tries to illuminate what really makes us human.  Too many writers give us aliens who are entirely too similar to humans, both in their physical structure and in their psychology, to really be believable.  Butler's Oankali are definitely not just humans with a couple of token oddities grafted on.  The aliens themselves work pretty well for me.  Unfortunately, I find too many things jarring about the interaction between the humans and the aliens to be able to sympathize well with the human characters.  As a minor example that shouldn't be any sort of a spoiler, it is extremely difficult for the humans in the story to handle the idea that they're actually dealing with extraterrestrials.  As someone who's been reading SF for just about as long as I've been reading at all, I find it hard to deal with a whole cohort of humans who never even consider the possibility that they're dealing with ETs and immediately reject it as crazy if it's suggested.  I had such a hard time getting past my lack of identification with the human motives that I only started to care at all about the characters toward the end of the book.

6 out of 10.  Some very interesting ideas, but it just doesn't click with me.

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