Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Imago by Octavia E. Butler

Rating:3 out of 5 Stars
Pages: 264
Genre: Science Fiction
Series: Xenogenesis (Book 3 out of 3)
Publication Date: 1989

Synopsis (From Inside Cover):
The alien Oankali have saved a doomed Earth and dying humanity – as part of a “trade”; because Oankali survival requires constant genetic exchange. We are their new mating stock; and the children are Constructs, trans-species hybrids destined for the stars. Loving, gentle, wise with the legacy of a thousand such trades, the Oankali have anticipated and provided for every objectios, resistance, contingency... except this.

Except Jodahs. One of many construct children born to Lilith Lyapo. But not a son. Nor a daughter. Jodahs is a human-ooloi. Ooloi – the Oankali third gender essential to breed humans and aliens, makes and females. Utter alien, shapeshifting, the essence of Oankali: ooloi sort and mix genes withing their bodies; ooloi heal the sick and repair the maimed. And more. For ooloi can survive with food, water, air... but not with quenching and absolute physical need – to love. To touch. To taste – and to change – all other forms of life.

Yet a single flawed ooloi can endanger a world... cause cancer and sores with every glancing caress... mutate the ground it walks on... breed disease in the very air it breathes... bur in unloved agony... and project that pain on every organism near it.

Nor daring to risk the trade the Oankali want Jodahs to return to their ship and face eternity as a quarantined biology experiment. Unless he – unless it – can control the change to ooloi adulthood, live as a genderless human, and master powers and passion beyond even alien comprehension.

Jodahs' family flee into jungle exile, a small, caring band of humans, aliens, and hybrids on a desperate quest of self-discovery. Here they must raise the child who will either become the final link between all that is human and all that is not... or grow into a mad, living pestilence. And beyond strength, beyond will, beyond endurance, Jodahs himself must find something the Oankali's wondrous science can never provide...

A miracle.


Imago is the last book in the Xenogenesis series and the most disappointing. While reading the book, the thought kept occurring that the series could have ended at book two and been perfectly complete. Imago at times feels like an afterthought, a way to keep things going.

There is nothing wrong with the writing style. Butler is an excellent writer, quickly engrossing the reader in the world that she has created. She was able to keep that up in Imago, the pages just seemed to fly by. The first difference that the reader will notice is that this story is told through the perspective of Jodahs, the genderless hybrid. It seems forced and the feelings that Jodahs' express are flat.

Unfortunately, the characters lacked the same feel as they did in the first two books (Dawn and Adulthood Rites). There was a loss of connection between what Jodah was feeling and the response that I felt. I didn't really care. I just wanted to see what the outcome was. Jodahs observation about his able to shapeshift were interesting, but his observation about humans not. The observation about humans and there nature were part of the beauty of the first two books, a beauty that was not continued in the final book of the series.

Another problem with this books is that the ending was bland. It was just sort of a quick wrap up, something to conclude the story. But it opened the possibility to another book, and as this is the end of the series, it was satisfying at all.

Writing, Theme
Cons: Characters, Conclusion

Overall Recommendation:

Personally, I think that readers can stop at book two and be done with the series and still be satisfied. Book 3 is more of an afterthought and could be skipped. But it is a quick read and Butler writing is always engaging.

Series Challenge (12 out of 15 books)
Library Challenge (23 out of 25 books)

If you have a review of this book or any other book reviewed on my site. Post a link to that review in the comment section so, I can link back to you.


  1. I haven't read anything from this series, but I've read a bunch of her other books. I might have to look for those first two and pick them up. Thanks!

  2. You can get the whole series as one book called Lilth's Blood