Thursday, 19 February 2015

Review: Dawn

Dawn by Octavia E. Butler

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this first many years ago, and remembered mainly that it was good, and difficult. It is both of those things.

There are some powerful themes here: consent, for one; how we cope when we're in a situation we can't control, under the power of implacable forces; how we deal with reality; how we interact in groups; what it is to be human.

The initial premise of a humanity devastated and reduced to almost nothing by a nuclear exchange between the USA and USSR is the only thing that dates it. (The fall of the Soviet Union in 1989 is one of those rare watershed moments that divides science fiction into "obviously written before" and "obviously written after".) This makes it technically post-apocalyptic, a genre which I don't usually read, though that's a relatively minor thread in what is much more an alien-contact story. The action all takes place off Earth in the aliens' ship, though, of course, the war and its losses are a constant memory.

I was left with the feeling that, even though the aliens were unfailingly kind and well-meaning, they were still, in a way, abusers. It's an uncomfortable thought.

I bought the other two in the trilogy while they were on sale, but I'm not going to read them straight away. This is the kind of book I space out with lighter material in between.

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