READING BUTLER’S EXOGENESIS TRILOGY (3): Betrayal in the service of Becoming

The ending of each book in the trilogy is particularly charged with meaning.

1) DAWN: “She let Nikanj lead her into the dark forest and to one of the concealed dry exits”. Lilith lost her busband and son in a car accident before the war that destroyed human civilisation. Whatever one may think of the Oankali, they, and her ooloi mate Nikanj in particular, are the way out of the dark forest, the path to change and new life.

2) ADULTHOOD RITES: “He was perhaps the last to see the smoke cloud behind them and Phoenix still burning”. Akin, leading the resisters ready to follow him, looks back at their town, called “Phoenix”, burning. He is proposing the rebirth of the phoenix from its ashes: a human colony on Mars. Once again, he is the agent of change for the humans who had been stuck in a dead-end.

3) IMAGO: Jodahs, the ooloi human-oankali hybrid, plants the seed that will grow into a living town, and eventually mature into a spaceship to leave the Earth: “Seconds after I had expelled it, I felt it begin the tiny positioning movements of independent life”. Jodahs, who is like no other Oankali, plants a future spaceship, and is a major agent of change. Despite all the bonding, bondage, dependence and addiction the last words of the trilogy valorise “independent life”.

One is reminded of the axiom “God is Change” of the religion of Earthseed in Butler’s PARABLE OF THE SOWER: “All that you touch, you change. All that you change, changes you. The only lasting truth is change. God is Change.” Lilith accepts change, and is ultimately in return the source of change for the Oankali, as she is the human mother of Akin and of Jodahs. They seem to have inherited from Lilith, and from humanity, the spirit of resistance.

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