Dawn is the story of the aftermath of World War III, where only a few human beings have survived, who are then plucked from the planet Earth by a race of alien beings. Dawn by author Octavia Butler represents the aftermath of World War III, across a period of over three hundred years, and is a powerful, moving and exceptionally well written dystopian novel.
Dawn, the first of the trilogy, opens on the onset of World War III and thermonuclear war, across the planet. The few survivors were lucky enough to be in the right places at the right time. In the case of the main protagonist, Lilth Iyapo, a thirty-something, African American female, her right place was high in the Andes mountains. However, the resulting radioactive fallout, nuclear winter and the toxic contamination of all food stocks have rendered the world uninhabitable. Fade to black.
Lilith awakens at some point in the future in a barren white room, composed of materials, that are completely foreign to her. She curiously investigates her ‘holding cell' which has no observable entrance/exit. Her frustration rises, but not before an edible substance is provided for her in a bowl upon the floor. She eats. And then, fade to black. This selfsame situation continues over and over for Lilith, unbeknownst to her, for over two hundred years. She is being slowly acclimated and cured to face who and what lie ahead.
At the end of this acclimation period, Lilith meets one of her rescuers, healers, jailers and the mere sight of him sends her into fear, convulsions, the cold sweats, nausea. He is something even her wildest science fiction fantasies could not have constructed. Eyes, ears even a nose are not a part of his makeup. He is of the race Oankali, who are masters of genetic manipulation. And he has awoken Lilith this time, because it is crucial that she understand what has happened and what is to happen.
Slowly, very slowly, Lilith acclimates to the sight of her Oankali keeper. He informs her that she is one of the few survivors, who have been rescued from Earth and ‘healed' upon their ship, where she has been for over two hundred years. He then tells her that they via their abilities to genetically manipulate literally anything, and that the Earth is being reborn. The Oankali tells Lilith, that it is their plan to repopulate Earth with the remnant of humanity, but only those, of the remnant, who they deem ‘appropriate.' Further, the Oankali tells Lilith that she is the first to be awakened and that she will be trained and educated in order to prepare the other humans for their repopulation on Earth.
Over the course of several months Lilith is trained, genetically manipulated (speed and strength to handle the conscious humans) and then small number of humans are awakened and told the truth. However, not all believe and there are those who would rebel, given the right opportunity.
The balance of the story deals with the surreal, contentious and, at times, troubling dynamics of two species, races; one hyper-violent and responsible for the destruction of their home world, the other hyper-intelligent, extremely powerful and in possession of senses and abilities far beyond human understanding, who are not to be toyed with.
Octavia Butler has written a powerful novel that showcases the good, bad and horrific of the human race, currently on display for all to see across our world. Is Ms. Butler's book prophetic in a sense? Only time will tell.
Best part of story, including ending:
Loved the movement and the suspense, that held together exceptionally well throughout the course of the book. Also loved the characters, the depiction of the Oankali alien race and their 'quid pro quo' regarding their payment for helping the humans
Best scene in story:
Lilith awakening to see her alien host and being completely repulsed by his physical appearance, completely unlike anything she would have imagined in her wildest dreams.
Opinion about the main character:
Octavia Butlter's characters are, in general, stubborn, self-righteous, which can distract from their goal or purpose. In this case Lilith is on cue for possessing those traits and in a number of cases acts against her best interest.