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Adulthood Rites by Octavia E. Butler
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Adulthood Rites (1988)

by Octavia E. Butler

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Xenogenesis (2)

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Showing 1-5 of 16 (next | show all)
I wavered between three and four stars for this one. I eventually decided on four because despite my annoyance with the constant talk of mating and the sexual function of the Oankali, I deeply admire the very fluid and ingenious way that Butler introduces her central issues and messages.
Much like Dawn, the first book in this series, we have been presented with moral and ethical dilemmas that do not have easy answers.
The Oankali have saved Earth and the few remaining inhabitants from a man made disaster. We apparently went to war and destroyed not only ourselves but our planet. According to the Oankali we have two incompatible traits that are the cause of our near distinction: intelligence and our hierarchical nature. They have proposed a trade in which we can be saved and they can sample our unique genetics. They propose a blending of our races, but in doing so, humankind will cease to exist as we know it.
The Oankali have a complex mating/communication system that rankles against our very fixed understanding of gender and sexuality. The Oankali have male and female but also a third nongender and all three are needed for procreation as well as sexual pleasure. Human men have the most difficult time with this concept.
I won't drop any heavy spoilers but consider these points that dominate the plot:
1. Do the Oankali have the right to help us even if we don't want the help?
2. Should we accept said help even if it means the end of our race as we know it, by creating a biracial tri-gendered species that is no longer quite human?
3. What is humanity or what does it mean to be human?
4. Humankind in this fascinating tale has been given the opportunity to reestablish communities on Earth after the Oankali healed her. Humankind has proven to be violent, stubborn, hierarchical, possessive, unruly, and in many ways cruel. We are very inhumane. With that in mind, considering our self destructive natures, do we even deserve to be saved in this human form with the flaws identified as responsible for our undoing in tact?
5. The Oankali, being a tri-gendered race have a method of procreation that while it is definitely pleasure based relies as much on the mental as the physical and it blurs the lines of gender as well as considerations of incest. As you can imagine humans have a difficult time sorting this out.
While I'm not bothered by the blurring of sexuality in these books, I am a bit disturbed by the amount of time dedicated to the intricacies. The Oankali love new sensations, love receiving and giving pleasure, so even the most mundane exchanges of information of communications come off as sexual. Admittedly, I'm still having confusion about how all of this works, despite Butler's clear resonant prose. That said, there is so much discussion of finding a mate, the act of mating, the act of linking, arousal, sex and lovemaking , non-consensual encounters between human and Oankali, actual violent rape among the humans, puberty and metamorphosis that I felt absolutely drenched in sex throughout this entire book. To be clear, this isn't some raunchy blow by blow, but the imagery is certainly plain and often enough to rankle, and it felt like overload to me.
What I admire most is Butler's ability to write human being as they are. Her view of humanity is candid and rings true in every way. She doesn't spare our feelings with some pie in the sky picture of humanity. In this series, we have been laid bare on the page in all of our glory and flaws. Boy are we flawed. With that truth in mind the mood of this tale is fairly dark and while I actually prefer my stories that way, the sheer reality and honesty make this a particularly heavy read. I may take a break before finishing this trilogy. We'll see. ( )
  khaalidah | Mar 14, 2014 |
Intelligent, perceptive and frequently disquieting, this was an excellent introduction to Octavia Butler's works. ( )
  salimbol | Nov 30, 2013 |


I enjoyed it, really. It was not as rushed as the first part and probably as twice long. It begins 30 years after the first book, with the first human born male construct (Onakaly-human hybrid). We are following him while he grows up and learns about both races and discovers his purpose in life. Will there be any humans left after the merging? is it right for them not to have a choice? Will he be their saviour? ( )
  crdf | Sep 15, 2013 |
Lilith has given birth to a boy, Akin, who appears to be human. However, Akin has five parents: a male and female human, a male and female Oankali, and a sexless Ooloi. The Oankali have saved what is left of the human race from its own extinction. However, the alien species merges with its humans and alters the genetic make up. There are resisters who have been sterilized. Akin has been selected by the Oankali to see whether or not the humans should be allowed to reproduce despite the human tendency towards self-destruction. ( )
  creighley | Aug 9, 2013 |
Adulthood Rites is the second novel in the Lilith’s Brood trilogy (or Xenogenesis Series) by Octavia E. Butler.

Plot [with slight SPOILERS for Dawn]:
The Oankali/Human trade has gone off to a pretty good start. There are various settlements on Earth where Oankali and Humans live in unity, but also resister villages where the humans who don’t want to live and breed with the Oankali are allowed to live in relative freedom, even if forced sterility. One of the sons of Lilith and her Oankali mates is Akin. Akin looks astonishingly human but has the Oankali ability to remember everything. One day he is abducted by resisters which enables him to discover a very new perspective on things.

Adulthood Rites was a fascinating read thtat drew me right in. Though I still have qualms with some of the underlying assumptions Butler makes, I liked Akin and it was generally thought-provoking.

Read more on my blog: http://kalafudra.wordpress.com/2012/07/10/adulthood-rites-octavia-e-butler/ ( )
  kalafudra | Jul 26, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 16 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (6 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Octavia E. Butlerprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Barlowe, Wayne DouglasCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Underwood, GeorgeCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0446603783, Paperback)

In this sequel to Dawn, Lilith Iyapo has given birth to what looks like a normal human boy named Akin. But Akin actually has five parents: a male and female human, a male and female Oankali, and a sexless Ooloi. The Oankali and Ooloi are part of an alien race that rescued humanity from a devastating nuclear war, but the price they exact is a high one--the aliens are compelled to genetically merge their species with other races, drastically altering both in the process. On a rehabilitated Earth, this "new" race is emerging through human/Oankali/Ooloi mating, but there are also "pure" humans who choose to resist the aliens and the salvation they offer. These resisters are sterilized by the Ooloi so that they cannot reproduce the genetic defect that drives humanity to destroy itself, but otherwise they are left alone (unless they become violent). When the resisters kidnap young Akin, the Oankali choose to leave the child with his captors, for he--the most "human" of the Oankali children--will decide whether the resisters should be given back their fertility and freedom, even though they will only destroy themselves again. This is the second volume in Octavia Butler's Xenogenesis series, a powerful tale of alien existence.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:55:28 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Told in the haunting voice of Lilith, the heroine of "Dawn", this book is the story of Lilith's only son, Akin. Though he resembles a normal human, Akin is the first "construct"--part man/part alien.

» see all 2 descriptions

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