Dawn by Octavia Butler

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According to Jewish apocryphal traditions, Lilith was the first woman whom God had created along side Adam, before Eve. When Lilith was repeatedly persuaded to be subservient to her husband, Adam, she deserted Eden, revolting against God and her husband. This act of defiance has characterized future legends that epitomize her as manifestation of chaos, seduction and everything apostasic. In modern interpretations though, Lilith is an exemplar for feminist movements, for being a woman who stood up against dominance and subjugation. And for Butler’s post civilizational dystopian universe, that doesn’t have a God or any promised progenitors, I found the choice of protagonist’s name or the series renaming- Lilith’s Brood very fitting, allegorically and narrative wise.

tumblr_oqmsqmEkT91r1u2w8o2_500.gifDawn, as the name rightfully implies, opens with a proxy God scenario. Earth has been left uninhabitable by an obscure nuclear war, and what’s left of mankid is under the cryostatic protection of an alien race called the Oankali. The Oankalis are a very alien Alien species with Medusa-ish body hair, Cthulhu tentacles for sensory receptors, Karellen-ish face and strange names(“Kaaltediinjdahya lel Kahguyaht aj Din“) that makes you wonder whether the author had accidentally bumbed her head on keyboard and decided to roll with it, or was being ridiculously imaginative. This Childhood’s End soon escalates into Overlords awakening their Stormgren- Lilith Iyapo in this case, 250 years since the war, with the intention of repopulating Earth with humankind. But there is a disturbingly weird catch. Something far more unsettling than the proposition of Monks from Doctor Who or maybe even that of Clarke’s Overlords.

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Karellen from syfy’s Childhood’s End. I can’t even imagine how Oankalis would look in a screen adaptation

The Oankalis are perhaps the strangest species I have ever read, both in biology and psychology. As repulsive as this sounds, they have terrifying sensory tentacles all over their body, three sexes as a species, ability to manipulate genetic biochemistry and an entirely different perception of the outside world to which our sentience is rather handicapped in comparison. Though it is easy to go to generalizations with the what is left of us as and the Oankalis as a species, this book evades the appropriation by presenting grey scenarios; Where it is difficult to assert right and wrong, for characters as well as reader. Dawn is reaction driven than character or plot, right from the very inception where Lilith is recruited as prime emissary for the new world order to her conflicting loyalty towards humanity and its godly captors. The book has captured the moral confusion, acceptance of apocalypse and prospectus of strange future from now captivity, rather beautifully. I loved how subtley, it reminded me of racism and xenophobia, and how futile it looked when another species is in play. And how imaginative, though a bit unsettling, the concept of bioship and biological manipulation was in comparison with our industrial contraptions. In addition to this technological incompatibility, genetic dissimilarities made them all the more alien, with reasons to doubt and fear. And author seemed to have let the events just unfold, in all its messiness, confusion and partisian conflicts, without passing any judgemental remarks or assigning any moral codes. It was hard to objectively blame anyone as the possibility of humankind being like pets or Oods to an Ood looking odd species in itself sounds pretty terrifying. And it took me a while to make peace with it.

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Lilith by John Collier and Watchers as per Noah movie/graphic novel

I couldn’t help but compare the Onakalis with Enochian Watchers from Bible. In Aronofsky’s Noah they were depicted as Rock giants helping the selected ones pursue the ways of God, with minimum possible interference. This obvious appendage to Lilith allegory might be an overkill, but Oankali’s refined yet nonchalant attitude towards humans, even with the weird proposition for co-operation, sounded like something that would eventually become a legend, holy or unholy, once humanity is completely revamped as a civilization. Leaving these far fetched metaphors aside, Dawn felt well written and fast paced, if not completely reassuring. Loved the prose and I was gripped till the end, though it took me some time to decide whether the disturbance I felt were good or bad. Some feministic undertones could be interpreted from the lead being black and female, but, it might beat the purpose if not fun, as humanity itself is reduced to double digits. And just when I thought the book couldn’t get any more stranger, it surprised me by being even weirder. Definitely going to explore the rest of the books.

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No, I haven’t; still

Anyway, the weeboo in me was amazed by the fact that, Butler’s aliens haven’t permeated into the hentai market yet, to which their sexuality is seemingly begging for. Well, there is still time and resources at the disposal of this really strange place called internet.


 

Lilith’s Brood is a collection of three works by Octavia E. Butler. The three volumes of this science fiction series (Dawn, Adulthood Rites, and Imago) were previously collected in the now out of print volume, Xenogenesis. It has been picked up by Ava DuVernay, Charles D. King’s Macro and director-writer Victoria Mahoney for adaption into a television series.

source: wiki

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Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said by Philip K Dick

What are you up to?

Reading a Dick novel.

A what!

"Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said"

Dude, is this your coming out?

my what!!

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In a highly reductionist view, this novel is Borne Identity on drugs and in reverse, with Dick’s own domestic Jason.

Jason Taverner is a ‘six’, a genetically superior elite human, both in looks and skills. He is wealthy, extremely successful as a TV musical personality and well popular among ladies. Though written a bit insolent with narcissist tendencies, Taverner is a reasonably decent man, maybe as much as Bester’s Foyle. After being attacked by a parasitic life form, Jason finds himself in a warped reality where every evidence of his existence has been erased, from minds of people and public archives.

The plot that follows is very surreal and dream like, there are no constants or focal points as far as the narrative is concerned. Its like being in a half lucid dream, where you are conscious about things you need to do, but are paralyzed to do so. Story’s varying premises with broken shards of reality don’t entail any rational conclusion as well. The dystopian society is more or less an NPC filled open world where neither the writer nor the protagonist is interested in fleshing out any of the characters, or the central narrative. And if you are someone who insists on stories making logical sense or involving conclusive tropes, this might be a bit off putting, even with the expected messiness of a PKD novel.

Speaking of Dicksian weirdness, the usual suspects were there in open – authoritarian state, radicalized students, genetic superiority, patronizing men, futuristic society, pornography, mind altering drugs, yadda yadda yadda. There was this one specific aspect of the Welfare/Authoritarian state that disturbed me. Going from a well known celebrity to nobody, our protagonist finds it almost impossible to do the very basic things like traveling, eating, shopping etc without being picked by police for his lack of identity. And I found his struggles through the underground economy to avoid labour camp prophetic towards current refugee crisis and rising nationalistic sentiments. Another disturbing element was the random act of kindness by the end of the book, like some sort of apology against novel’s racial selectivity. It is nagging me more than novel’s incongruous epilogue since that unprecedented ‘act’ forms most of book’s title.

[Spoilers in below para]

Well, later contemplations frustrated me even more. The alien creature Taverner got attacked with, at the start of the novel, the one incident that triggered the warped realities in first place was neglected into oblivion ever since, with zero revisit even by epilogue. Maybe the attack was the hidden twist, a ‘bardo’ between the incident reality and the one in which Taverner finds himself lost. And a ‘Jacob‘s Ladder’ reading was intended of novel’s open interpretation. It will actually elucidate the rationale behind story’s lack cursory or even deus ex machina explanation for Taverner’s survival, if one considers the madness that followed as an uncollapsed limbo. 

Whatever the case is, ratiocination wasn’t Dick’s primary objective here and it is better to sit back and enjoy the book on its own illogical terms. I am more inclined to parody it as the Android cried me a river though.

These words from early pages of the book perfectly summarizes my feelings, towards this book and PKD in general.

“The terrible power, he thought, of illogic. Of the archetypes. Operating out of the dear depths of the collective unconscious which joined him and her- and everyone else – together.”

The Forever War by Joe Haldeman

The Forever War feels a lot like Halo, with Captain Mandella playing a novice Master Chief against the Covenant looking Prophet less Taurians. For a novel written in 1976 on horrors of Vietnam war with an Interstellar undertone, this hard science fiction feels so surprisingly contemporary and expedient. Or accurately prognostic.

Humanity is at war with Taurians, an alien civilization we know very little about except the fact that they initiated the conflict on the very first contact, attacking Earth’s outpost in farther space. Planet’s elites, the ones with IQ above 150, are soon absorbed by UNEF and then send to Charon for revenge and recon. Many couldn’t survive the rigorous training itself, and a lot more were killed during the first post-hypnotically suggested initial combat, thanks to the alien environments and weaponry. Soldiers travel intergalactically through Collapsor jumps (worm holes), with enigmatic relativistic effects, by the order of centuries back on Earth, making them alien to the world whose very future they’ve been fighting for.

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Sci fi is often metaphorical in nature, and in this novel Haldeman depicts the horrors he experienced in Vietnam war, without recreating it essentially. I don’t think any other linear work directly dealing with the subject of war could have accurately conveyed the essence and remained ageless at the same time. Another book I know which did a similar job, though not essentially similar is Slaughterhouse Five, which portrayed war through a nonchalant non linear life, where everything felt preordained with time travel.

Peter F. Hamilton calls this “damn near perfect” for a novel and I couldn’t agree more. Haldeman’s vision for future covered almost everything in Taurian war, where survival was only by mistake.

  •  Unaccounted combat units either slaughtered or lost or crawling through normal space at near light speed to a Earth, which by their arrival would be centuries ahead.
  • Heavily outsourced job scenario, where most of the countries are promoting homosexuality as a strategy for population control.
  • Temporal lingua franca with which a soldier could communicate with someone contemporary of his/her double digit time grandfather or grand-kid for that matter.
  • Wormholes and collapsor jumps making some one feel like Galileo meeting Einstein or Genghis Khan meeting Mass Effect’s Shepherd in terms of military tech (future shock).

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Couldn’t help but notice the areas Interstellar borrowed from this one, including the final letter between Marygay and Mandella. Even though this was a dystopian military sci-fi novel, it had a pleasant aura around it, and subtle humour, with a very satisfactory ending. Like Hamilton says- “damn near perfect.”