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Lilith Iyapo awakens to find that most of the Earth has been destroyed by nuclear war, and the surviving humans have been kept in suspended animation by an alien race called the Oankali. The Oankali are driven to travel the universe in search of other intelligent species to breed with in order to share their genetic code, altering both species. They have reconstructed Earth in order to make it habitable for what is left of the humans, but in order to rebuild humanity, the Oankali must change it forever.

Lilith's Brood, by Octavia Butler, previously published as Xenogenesis, is the compilation of three novels. The first in the series follows Lilith after she awakens to her new world, while the sequels are told from the point of view of her genetically altered children.

This series contains examples of:

  • Actually, I Am Him: Sort of. In the second book, Lilith introduces herself to a human who had run away from the Oankali. He remarks that she has an unfortunate name, since it's the same as the woman who betrayed humanity by allying with the Oankali, before she explains she is the woman.
  • After the End: The first book opens after nuclear war, which the Oankali almost interpreted as a collective suicide by humanity.
  • Benevolent Alien Invasion: The Oankali generally mean well, as they see themselves making humanity better by creating a new, unflawed race. Many of the humans, however, don't see it that way.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: The Oankali are very alien, even the ones that are specifically modeled to look more human, so much so that the humans have a hard time accepting them, and many never do.
  • Bizarre Alien Reproduction: Oankali have three genders: female, male, and ooloi. Ooloi have "sensory arms" which they use during sex (and also for microsurgery/healing/taking DNA samples).
  • Brother-Sister Incest: The default and ideal mating group ("coupling" is inaccurate by 33%, as explained above) for Oankali is a brother and sister plus an ooloi from a different family. They tend to encourage these...family values in humans, which means that hybrid families involve TWO EACH of males and females, plus ooloi.
  • Contemptible Cover / Covers Always Lie: The cover of Lilith's Brood makes it look like a romance novel.
    • It is a romance novel. It's just a very, very, very unconventional one. What's contemptible about the cover is that the woman on it generally looks nothing like Lilith is described.
  • Cursed with Awesome: The Oankali consider humans uniquely blessed and genetically very attractive because we have . . . cancer. It turns out the same genes that can go so horribly wrong also can be used for regenerative abilities they've never seen before.
  • Earthshattering Kaboom: Turns out the Oankali aren't that nice after all - they're basically strip-mining Earth to make more spaceships, hence they can't just let a society of fertile humans alone.
  • Face Full of Alien Wingwong: The Oankali solution to humanity's "flaw".
  • Half-Human Hybrid: The children of Lilith and the other humans who breed with the Oankali.
  • Hidden Elf Village: It turns out that the Oankali's sterilization of humanity wasn't entirely perfect; by the time of the third book, there's one settlement that's inhabited by the (extremely inbred) descendants of the two remaining fertile humans.
  • Humans Are Bastards: see below
  • Humans Are Flawed: also see below
  • In Your Nature to Destroy Yourselves: The Oankali believe that humanity is doomed to destroy itself because of its contradictory traits - intelligence and hierarchical social structures.[1] The only solution is to correct it by breeding with the Oankali, removing the hierarchical instincts.
  • Interspecies Romance: The Oankali really seem to genuinely love humanity.
  • It's What I Do: The Oankali in regard to interbreeding and genetic manipulation. It's just something they're as compelled to do as humans are to breathing.
  • Living Ship: Oankali ships are living organisms grown for the purpose.
  • Meaningful Name: Lilith occasionally references her Biblical namesake, and how fitting it is that she should have it, given that she's demonized for "betraying" humanity.
  • Naughty Tentacles: The Ooloi's extra 'arms' are used in reproduction.
  • Only You Can Repopulate My Race: The human race, in this case. One hidden community is willing to take desperate measures to keep "pure" humans reproducing.
  • Organic Technology
  • Polyamory: Oankali relationships involve a human male and female, an Oankali male and female, and an ooloi, a third Oankali gender.
  • Rape Tropes: The Oankali are essentially raping humanity[2], so this goes through a few of them:
  • Red Herring: In the second book, it's established that plastic is poisonous to the Oankali. You'd think this would lead to it being used in some sort of resistance, but it's never brought up again.
    • That's because Akin was easily able to eject it from his system without letting it harm him: if even a toddler was able to easily rid himself of it, fully matured Oankali would have no trouble with it at all. Butler was probably just trying to toss in an environmental message.
  • Screw You, Elves: The Oankali are very certain of themselves and extremely frustrating to argue with, which makes it something of a relief when they're proved wrong, even if that being wrong has horrible consequences, and more of a relief when they at last agree to let a small amount of humanity survive untouched to find their own fates.
  • Someone to Remember Him By: Nikanj manages to save the sperm of Lilith's first mate from the ship after he is killed, and impregnates her with it years afterward, despite originally telling her it would only last a few weeks. It's mentioned that another Ooloi figured out how to make it last indefinitely.
  • Squick: In-universe version. Even the Oankali who are specifically engineered to look as human as possible look so alien that Lilith can't help but recoil in horror from them initially.
  • Starfish Aliens

Notes

  1. Indeed, Oankali and their hybrid descendants can see this contradiction. A hybrid who argues for permitting a pure-human settlement on Mars does so knowing that the settlement must, inevitably, destroy itself.
  2. they even use the "your mouth said no, but your body said yes" rationale, which may or may not hold water considering their whole thing is reading body language, pheremones, and other physiological things like humans would read a book
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