Book Review: Dawn

Paperback cover: Dawn by Octavia E. Butler

This was one of those books I read more on a friend’s recommendation rather than any interest in the subject. And I’m glad I did.

Dawn drew me in from the first page. Lilith has memories of contemporary Earth, before “the war”, but she has no idea why she’s in this tiny room with no clothes, held by captors she can’t see and who won’t answer her questions, nor does she know why she’s put to sleep for indeterminately long periods. The story slowly and expertly expands, revealing elements piece by piece, giving us time to adjust to the incredible ideas in the author’s head, before introducing the next idea, then the next character, then a batch of characters, always giving us time to catch up but not enough to feel comfortable. That’s a good thing, by the way.

Octavia’s aliens are duly strange without being so foreign you can’t relate. Her characters are strong, opinionated, diverse, and full of conflict. In fact, my only gripe is that, perhaps, a group of people when put together in the situation they were may not have been quite as conflict driven, but I’m no expert, either. Regardless, Octavia did a fantastic job of weaving them together and keeping the plot moving, rehashing just enough throughout the story to reinforce some of the stranger concepts, but not enough to feel annoying.

I’m sad that I discovered this author so long after her passing, but I’ll definitely be reading more of her work, and recommending them to my children when they’re older. If you’re looking for a different xenomorphic story full of thought-provoking moral challenges and inner and external turmoil, I can’t recommend Dawn enough.