After being awoken by Oankali (aliens) Lilith Iyapo finds out that it has been 250 years since human beings sparked a nuclear war and wiped out most of the inhabitants of Earth. The Oankali came along and found survivors with the hopes that one day they would be able to breed with the humans in order to have a new human-Oankali species.
I found Lilith and later the other survivors so frustrating. I love that Lilith was a strong black female in this story. I also loved that the the Oankali had no problem with seeing her as a strong leader and believed her the only one that they had awaken capable of awakening other human beings in order to get them ready to live on the now inhabitable Earth.
That said, I wanted to shake her. That's because Lilith better than the others should have understood the Oankali better. I hated that she still felt repulsed and angry at them as if it were there fault that the Earth was left destroyed. I definitely got why she was frustrated with the bargain that was given though. I don't think I could have chosen either. Both of them sounded terrible, and just like Lilith I would hate the feeling that I was being manipulated always.
I don't think until the very end Lilith realized that human beings (men specifically) were going to be a bigger problem then she knew. The need for certain people to dominate others was definitely an issue that we got to see play out over and over again. And I honestly think that if Lilith had not been a black women that some of the men in this story maybe would not have been so ready to fight her and call her a traitor for befriending the Oankali.
The Oankali I found seriously fascinating. Finding out that they had three genders, male, female, and then Ooloi was head spinning at first. But even though the names of the Oankali were hard to pronounce, you can quickly work out their personalities the more you read.
I do though love that the book showed us about consent. There were two attempted rape scenes and after one of those such scenes we see a man being "pleasured" by one of the Oankali though he says no. The Oankali (Nikanj) responds that they can that he is saying no, but his body is saying yes and man oh man I freaked at that. For me that was the bigger part of this book and the Oankali start to realize that consent to human beings is important and start to ask for the humans around them to choose.
The writing was very great and I loved the dialogue between characters and the Oankali. Frankly, I don't know why the Oankali were so patient and kept trying to breed with the humans. The fighting, the anger, the violence of humans kept being shown again and again to them would have had me saying well this won't work. I thought the flow worked perfectly, though at times I wish we could have been given a breather while reading. Things get slowly and then quickly revealed to Lilith and the reader at the same time.
The setting of the ship and then to the training grounds was great. Everything felt alien to Lilith and others and that feeling was given to readers. I couldn't imagine a cold Earth and being on a ship orbiting it for centuries. You can sense Lilith's longing to go back to the Earth and to be left alone to start again. But you can also see why the Oankali were concerned since they thought that human beings were too hierarchical and smart which led them to do their best to make others that they looked down upon to feel inferior.
The ending leaves you with a slight feeling of dread of what will become of Lilith and the Oankali. I don't see human beings being happy with being forced to breed with another species, even if it's supposedly for their own good.