Thursday, January 15, 2015

Imago (Xenogenesis #3) by Octavia E. Butler

Format: Audio

Narrated by: Barrett Aldrich

Lenght: 8 hrs and 18 mins

Series: Xenogenesis (#3 and Final)

Previous Book: Adulthood Rites

Source: Audible

Genres: Science Fiction

Publisher: Audible Studios

Publication date: May 2nd 2014 (first published 1989)

First impression

What an amazing trilogy. I am so glad this was my first contact with the work of Octavia E. Butler, because I completely loved every book and the series as a whole. In this book we encounter Jodahs, another son of Lilith and her Oankali family; a construct. For the first time, a construct that is turning into an ooloi, the first one to come from human parents. Once again, Butler explores how we deal with the unknown and the changes this brings to everyone including yourself.

Final thoughts

I think I have never encountered and author that makes me question what identity really is like Octavia E. Butler with this series. Not only to what a human is, but all those little labels that we gather through our lives: male, female, foreign, normal, etc. This third book is off course not exception, and it comes in the form of a coming-of-age for the main character, Jodhas, who as it turns out, won't be male or female, since the ooloi are neither. First we see its own struggle it has accepting what he is becoming and at the same trying to explain to others so they will not only understand this new step in the Oankali-Human relationship but also so they will accept it and hopefully embrace it.

Once again, as in the rest of the series, the subject of xenophobia is discussed at large, except that in this book, is not just humans who are afraid, the Oankali don't know what to do with Jodhas, and fear what its presence might mean. I loved that she (Butler) shows so beautifully how the unknown is always scary, independent of our background, but that at the same time, we don't need to be afraid. Acceptance is always present in this trilogy, sometimes reluctantly, but always there.

Jodhas has this ability to modify its appearance to make whoever is around more comfortable, to adapt to others and I found this extremely interesting, as it cannot help but do it, most of the time it wouldn't realize this was happening until someone else pointed this out. This is something so common in relationships, we change a bit, not to much that we lose ourselves, but enough to reflect our new situation. The problem of changing so much that our identity is lost is also addressed, but I don't want to discuss it too much, as I fear it might give some spoilers.

I particularly enjoyed the feeling of family portrayed in the book. While sometimes it would seem like a more complicated structure, at the end it is always a net of support, with all of the members being woven together by love, expectations and belonging.

The other thing that the trilogy addresses in an impressive way is sexuality, and what it might mean to a person (or to an Oankali). What it might mean to feel and identify as male, female, both or neither and how others that might be more accustomed to a more black-and-white perspective would respond to this perspective being challenged. I can only say that Octavia E. Butler was a genius being able to put herself in the skin of so many issues and most importantly being able to transmit these feelings in her writing.

I would recommend this series to anyone seeking a brilliant sci-fi series with a lot of social subtext.

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