Dawn (Xenogenesis, Book 1)

Dawn (Xenogenesis, Book 1)
Octavia E. Butler, 1987

Premise: After a horrible war, few humans were left alive. Lilith Iyapo lived through the war, only to awaken in a featureless room. Who brought her here, are they rescuers or captors or something more complicated? And what plans do they have for the remnants of humanity?

Dawn is a brilliant, moving book. I realized that I had never read anything by Octavia Butler - one of the few highly successful African-American women writers of Science Fiction - so I set out to remedy that. I'm very glad that I did.

Lilith is a strong, complex character, and the reader sees the plot unfold entirely from her perspective. Her struggles - within herself, with the Oankali, with other humans - prove her to be smart, adaptable, human and fallible. How her personal convictions grow and shift while she learns more about her situation make up the greatest part of the drama.

It won't be giving much away to tell you that Lilith and the other survivors have been taken on board an alien spacecraft. The aliens are keeping most of the humans suspended or separated while they learn about them and repair the damaged Earth. The alien-ness of the Oankali is wonderfully done. They can act human, and are bipedal, but every time Lilith thinks she understands, something new is revealed. I am always intrigued by a truly alien race, and few authors do a good job with them.

Dawn deals with human sexuality and relationships in an intriguing, dark, adult manner, without being in almost any sense a “romance”. The complexity and ambivalence of this book was fascinating to me. I absolutely loved it

5 Stars – An Amazing Book!

I will definitely be seeking out the sequels to this.


  1. I really loved this story and the whole Xenogenesis series. It's a premise that could have been very simple and typical of a sci fi story, but Butler makes the characters so complex. Do you plan on reading the rest of the trilogy?

  2. Yes I certainly do, I actually just picked up a combined edition from the library!

  3. I haven't read any Octavia's books yet. I did pick one up for my Kindle when it got super-discounted, but haven't gotten around to reading it yet. Loved this review though - may just skip over to this book. Love the Scifi/alien aspect!

  4. @randomizeme: Thanks! Glad you liked the review. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the series, and have looked into tracking down more of her work.

  5. Lindsay - if you'd like to read more of Butler's work, I recommend Wild Seed. It's very good.

  6. Thanks for the suggestion, Marian! It's definitely going on the list.


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