Imago (Octavia E. Butler)

Imago is the third novel in the Lilith’s Brood trilogy (or Xenogenesis Series) by Octavia E. Butler. [Here’s my review of the first book, Dawn and of the second book, Adulthood Rites.]

Plot [with slight SPOILERS for Dawn]:
Jodahs is Lilith’s youngest child and as it hasn’t gone through transformation yet, it’s not clear yet what sex it’s going to be. But it turns out that despite precautions taken that it wouldn’t happen yet, Jodahs is going to be the first Human/Oankali ooloi – the third sex the Oankali have. Jodahs is deeply confused by the situation, and entirely overwhelmed by a craving for human mates. But will the Oankali accept it as it is or will it turn out to be flawed?

The problems I had with Adulthood Rites started to annoy me in this book, so I didn’t like Imago quite as much as I liked Adulthood Rites. But it’s still a very interesting read.

Again it was the assumption that hierarchy and intelligence make for a combination that is bound to doom humanity that took its toll on my enjoyment of the book. I’m just not convinced of the biological determinsm that these books espouse. Genetics are the base for a lot, no doubt. Even for things that you wouldn’t immediately assume. But Butler doesn’t give enough credit to socialization and culture. By far. Humans constantly act against their instincts and inclinations because of them. Just because the ooloi smell good to them, they wouldn’t change that quickly. And by change I mean turn 180°. That just feels like deus ex machina laziness.

But still. Even if I don’t agree that humanity really works that way, for the most part I could accept Butler’s premise and as long as I could, the book was an extremely good read. Especially when Butler showed her sense of humor.

It’s not really a fun book, but a thinking book. Which is just as well.

Summarising: Not the strongest of the series, but a good finish.


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