Lilith's Brood
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ibsn13: 9780446676106

I was blown away by the premise of Dawn (the first novel in the trilogy) and its execution. The remnants of humanity, after a nuclear apocalypse occurs, are “saved” by aliens and forced to choose between mating with their saviors or never being able to have children again. The rest of the novels didn’t hit me as hard but they were interesting nonetheless.

Dawn - 5 stars Adulthood Rites - 3 stars Imago - 3 stars

What follows is mostly me rambling about the series.

This series is about biological determinism, consent, imbalanced power dynamics and sexual violence (among other things). Although, the books don’t wrestle with these topics as much as I think they should have.

The first book contains a scene of sexual violence that is really phucked up despite not being very explicit. Overall, this book goes HARD. The imagery is powerful and will stick with me for a long time to come.

Adulthood Rites, the second book in the series, follows, from the POV of a mixed-species boy, the story of humanity repopulating the Earth and the tensions between the settlements of human-alien hybrids and the Human resisters who’ve chosen to be sterilized but free(ish) from alien influence.

It’s not as memorable as the first book. It lacks the novelty and the raw-ness of the first book.

The third book in the series, Imago, follows the story of a one of a kind mixed-species ooloi (neither man or woman, a third sex) as it discovers who it is and what it can do (a lot — it can manipulate the genes of others and itself at will). Despite having an intriguing premise, it’s the weakest of the three books. It’s ending feels rushed and the lead up to it was disappointing.

It feels as though the series would have been better served by spending more time reckoning with the fact that as the protagonists become less and less human in each book, what comes naturally to them (AKA using pheromones and the best sex skills this side of the universe to have sex with people who ARE NOT biologically capable of providing actual consent) is extremely phucked up and turns them into monsters (at least from the perspective of the reader).

Lilith’s Brood is so far removed from the reality that we live in that I found it hard to extrapolate much of anything meaningful from the text other than the absolute rollercoaster ride of emotions that I got from reading the first book.

The text is outlandish but it also seems somewhat uninterested in tackling the ethical issues it takes on through its premise. And so, I felt a little disappointed by the end. I was expecting for a bit more push and pull and more of a focus on the ethics of it all.

Although, I felt that, other than a few minor issues, the world felt internally consistent for the most part. And it was easy for me to immerse myself in the universe that Butler built. Despite feeling somewhat cold on the series as a whole, I’m pretty invested in Butler’s writing and I’m interested in reading more from her.

She’s blown me away with how bold her writing can be. Nobody else would fill a book with this much rape and get away with it.