Adulthood Rites is the second book in a trilogy. After a devastating world war, an alien race has come to earth. The aliens completely dominated the world. The aliens are genetic masters that use genetic manipulation as their main technology. The aliens have come to absorb all the resources of the earth, including the genetic information before moving on to their next conquest. As part of their conquest all humans have been sterilized and only those humans that are willing to breed with the aliens are allowed to have children.
The main character in this story is Akin, the first human/alien male construct. As an infant he is stolen by rogue humans who want children. After he is recovered, he continues to explore the rogue human’s world. Over time he develops an understanding of his human and alien sides and finds his calling.
I think this is a much better book than the first in the trilogy. Butler is always concerned with concepts of oppression and community and independence. Part of what she is exploring here is the human propensity toward violence. There is oddly a very paternalistic (not quite utopian, but in that direction) bent to this series. The aliens have real limits, but their intent is to change humans for their own good in a way that the humans do not necessarily want.
Akin has the ability to reach between the alien and human societies to understand both. His alienation from being not fully a part of either society is what drives his understanding. It is hard not to psychoanalyze Butler as I read her. As a female, black, maybe gay (or bisexual) science fiction author, I have to work to let the words speak for themselves without reducing everything to parallels with modern sexual, racial, political or social issues. At the same time, she is writing about those issues and I do not want to ignore that either.
Butler also is somewhat obsessed with sex in her writing. This is a less graphic book than the first in the trilogy, but sex is present, although mostly in the first section. Sex and gender roles and issues of power within relationships need someplace to be worked outing fiction. And while those places do not need to be graphic (and sex is hinted at more than graphic here), one of my complaints against Christian fiction is that the ideas around sex and gender are often taboo. The very idea of having space for the reality of these ideas is made difficult when some Christians find the discussion of sex in fiction necessarily pornographic.
The first and second book of this series are on sale for $1.99 each right now. The audiobooks are $3.49 each with the purchase of the kindle books.
Adulthood Rites by Octavia Butler Purchase Links: Paperback, Kindle Edition, Audible.com Audiobook