by Octavia E. Butler
Reviewed date: 2005 Jun 7
Rating: 3
248 pages
cover art

Mankind destroys himself in nuclear war, and a few survivors are picked up by extra-terrestrials. The alien Oankali hold the humans prisoner in suspended animation, waking them at intervals for questioning and experimentation. Finally the Oankali awaken Lilith Iyapo as ask her to act as leader for a group of humans who will resettle Earth.

Dawn is the story of Lilith Iyapo. At first she is skeptical of her captors' intentions, but soon she displays signs of bonding with the aliens. The bulk of the book focuses on Lilith's rationalization of her treatment, and her conflict with the other human prisoners: they view her--rightly, I might add--as having been duped by the Oankali.

The problem with Dawn is not that it is poorly written, because it isn't. The flaw is lack of growth or even simple awareness on the part of the main character. Lilith Iyapo is utterly dependent on her captors, and as such she rationalizes all the abuse she endures as necessary and right. The conclusion of the novel is unsatisfactory: Lilith does finally come to a rudimentary awareness of the atrocities committed upon her, but she is unable to let go of her blind trust in the Oankali.

Dawn is well-written but fails to reach excellence because all its characters are static and unchanging.

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