Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Imago by Octavia E. Butler

It was like lightening struck when I realized I could buy audiobooks of my favorite sci-fi author, Octavia E. Butler when Audible did their 50% off sale.

I dutifully listened to the voice actor and concluded that she had a clear voice with no annoying quirks. It had been a while since I picked up a Butler book, and since she passed away in 2006, I wanted to stretch them out before they were all gone. Also, Butler's books are hardly ever on sale, audiobook or not, so 50% off sale was pretty sweet.
I enjoyed the first two bookx of the Lilith's Brood Series, or the Xenogenesis series. The books are about an alien race that discovered Earth right when a major war unleashed nuclear bombs on a large part of the world, effectively killing off most, if not all, humans. The Oankali rescued many dying people, starting with Lillith and restored her to optimal health. However... there is a catch.

In order for the Oankali to survive, they must combine their species with that of humans, effectively creating a new species. The Oankali are perplexed to why the humans, Lilith included, want to do anything other than combine their genes with theirs, simply because they perceive their way of life to better, no sickness, violence and the drive to learn and continually educate themselves by traveling the stars.

Each book has a different perspective. First it's human, with the introduction of Lilith, then it's a male construct by the name of Akin, and finally, it's a human construct named Jodahs that turns into an ooloi, a third male/female gender that goes by the pronouns of "it."

Sooo.... at first when I read Dawn and Adulthood Rites, I thought they were entertaining and different and I was pleased that Butler continued to write good books. However, when I read reviews of the books, many critics pointed out about how hetero-normative both humans and Oankali are, and how Butler seems to ignore homosexual relationships as well as other aspects of gender and sex. So, with that in mind, I listened to the third book.

I was underwhelmed.

First of all, the voice actor blew. Hard. She was OK when she was simply talking in her own voice, but then, she dropped her voice to talk in Jodah's voice (when he had dialogue with others), which had me adjusting my volume as I worked constantly. Then she had a completely different voices for other characters, and all of them were grating and annoying. By the end of it, I hoped that all the characters died horrible deaths.

Speaking of the end of the book... it was very anticlimactic. I thought Butler was leading the reader somewhere, and then she makes a left hand turn out of nowhere to make sure that all the characters essentially get what they want.

 I thought overall, this book was the weakest of trilogy. Dawn and Adulthood Rites was so exciting to read with Butler's philosophical musings of the purpose of humankind without it being preachy or even knowing that Butler is exploring what it means to be human. However, Imago just seems to be an afterthought. It's a natural progression to shift the perspective from different people who are affected by this alien invasion, but... Imago wasn't very interesting. It didn't have interesting characters or a very interesting plot.

I have Wild Seed on the dock and I hope this audiobook is good and her audiobooks aren't inherently bad.

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