Literature / Lilith's Brood

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 Her: 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 that 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 Sexes: Oankali have three sexes: female, male, and ooloi. Ooloi have "sensory arms" which they use during sex (and also for microsurgery/healing/taking DNA samples).
  • Blue and Orange Morality: The Oankali are peaceful vegetarians who either don't understand or don't care what's wrong with rape.
  • 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 familynote . They tend to encourage values in humans, which means that hybrid families involve TWO EACH of males and females, plus ooloi.
  • 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.
  • Earth-Shattering Kaboom: Turns out the Oankali aren't that nice after all - they're basically strip-mining Earth to make more spaceships because of their drive to genetically merge with other species, hence they can't just let a society of fertile humans alone.
  • Face Full of Alien Wing-Wong: The Oankali solution to humanity's "flaw".note 
  • 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
  • Incest Is Relative: The Oankali's preferred family grouping is between brothers and sisters, and they encourage humans to do the same. Also, the Hidden Elf Village of fertile humans is incredibly inbred as a result of this. All its inhabitants are descendents of a single woman and a random man who raped her and was never seen again.
  • 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.note  The only solution is to correct it by breeding with the Oankali, removing the hierarchical instincts by genetic manipulation of the next generation.
  • Interspecies Romance: The Oankali really seem to genuinely love humanity.
  • It's What I Do: The Oankali in regard to interbreeding, genetic manipulation, and space travel. 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.
  • Mind Rape: Of a sort. Lilith mentions in a later book that if someone goes through the transformation stages of an Ooloi with them, they can't choose to leave them afterward.
  • "Not If They Enjoyed It" Rationalization: Since the Oankali read body language, pheremones, and other physiological things, they can "understand" what humans "want" even though said humans have not actually explained what they wanted.
  • 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.
  • Race Lift: The cover of the first paperback edition of vol. 1 (Dawn) depicted Lilith as white (but the other character in the scene exactly as described).
  • Rape as Drama: The Oankali are essentially raping humanity, and a lot of the humans don't take kindly to this.
  • 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

Alternative Title(s): Xenogenesis