sophia_sol: drawing of Combeferre, smiling and holding up a finger like he's about to explain something (Default)
sophia_sol ([personal profile] sophia_sol) wrote2017-07-06 07:04 pm

Dawn, by Octavia Butler (Xenogenesis #1)

Octavia Butler is a highly-renowned author in sf and I've been intending to read her for ages, so when a friend lent me an omnibus of the Xenogenesis trilogy I was excited! But although Dawn (first in that trilogy) is objectively a good book, it really wasn't for me.

I mean for starters, the book's number one theme is reproduction, which is just not a theme that's ever going to interest me. (Plus it's about how the humans think it's of utmost importance that one's offspring are 100% human, which also isn't a priority I grok.)

But the book is also full of characters I didn't understand and couldn't care about - and I'm including both the human and alien characters in that assessment. And generally speaking for me to enjoy a book I have to be interested in the characters the book is about, and I just never felt that way about any of the characters in this book.

I usually enjoy themes of cross-cultural interaction, but I didn't enjoy how this book handled that theme either. The Oankali are too uninterested in things like meaningful consent for me to ever really WANT successfully built connections between human and Oankali. So instead I just felt uncomfortable. Which I'm pretty sure is what the book was in fact going for! But it's not the kind of cross-cultural interaction I most enjoy reading about.

And the worldbuilding is too narrowly shown in this book (given the pov of a caged human) for that to ever become an element I could really sink my teeth into.

I think I won't read the other two books in this series. Possibly other books by Butler would appeal to me more, but I get the sense from reading up about her writing that she tends in the direction of serious literature saying difficult things. Which is important! But not how I usually want to spend my fiction-reading time, given how much serious difficult stuff the real world has. (Although tbh it's possible I have more trouble with the "serious" aspect than the "difficult" aspect. This book was entirely humorless, and that definitely makes for a harder read for me personally.)
the_rck: (Default)

[personal profile] the_rck 2017-07-06 11:27 pm (UTC)(link)
I've seen Butler's work described as an exploration of what people do when all the choices are terrible, and that fits well with what I've read of her work.
sholio: sun on winter trees (Default)

[personal profile] sholio 2017-07-07 12:22 am (UTC)(link)
Most of Butler falls into the "good, but not for me" category too (too bleak, too depressing, too many unlikable characters) but I absolutely loved Kindred, so perhaps you'd like that one better? It's also quite dark, but it had a very relatable heroine with an appealing problem-solving mentality (that is, the whole book is about her using brains and bravery to figure out a way out of the situation she's trapped in, which made it feel more upbeat than other Butler books I've read) and I found it a lot more my cup of tea.
conuly: (Default)

[personal profile] conuly 2017-07-07 04:38 am (UTC)(link)
Well, I was going to suggest her Parable books, but if you don't want to read bleak books with no good choices then you're probably better off with another author right now.
pauraque: bird flying (Default)

[personal profile] pauraque 2017-07-07 11:53 am (UTC)(link)
Yeah, I hear you. Butler's writing is really good, but if bleak and serious fiction puts you off, it might be hard to engage with her. Like, I agree Kindred is probably one of her more upbeat books, but it is also about slavery and has many aspects that made me feel intense dread and grief. Which I'm not saying as a criticism — I thought it was excellent, and did not object to feeling those things in that context. But that's the upbeat one!