My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This second novel of the Lilith’s Brood series focuses on Akin, one of the first human-born male constructs as an experiment to see if the Oankali genetic manipulation is at its most beneficial. Son to Lilith & her Oankali family, he grows up in their settlement but their security wavers as the other humans who have left Oankali protection, & had been previously sterilized, occasionally raid them for food & children. Akin is kidnapped & kept in a human settlement for nearly a year before his family is allowed to come & get him. Akin cannot forget the bleak circumstances that the deserters live under & advocates for them to be given another choice: to be allowed to live and reproduce on another planet. He returns to the deserters an an emissary of this new opportunity, but his metamorphosis into his next form during his mission creates more upset than relief.
I’m so glad that I’ve finally finished this series & can consider it as a whole now. (Although of course, I still have to read it in order!) Each of these novels succeeds in making the new dynamic between the Oankali & the human manifest in the main character. Akin’s fear & defensiveness toward his kidnappers are heartfelt but also conveys the odd new ways that chosen ties and blood ties of family & relationships can be found amid hardship. However, since Akin as a child doesn’t yet understand the deeper nuances of relationships, considering the humans through his perspective can be truly disorienting.
Akin’s masculinity is also fascinating. He’s created with the drive to not seek out a specific set of mates & wander in order to spread his genes, sort of like the stereotype of men being interesting in “anything that moves”. Yet he is constantly struggling with what that means for his future & how he may not be able to replicate the relative security of his family. This struggle influences his mission to help the deserter humans to an extent, I believe–driven to care for those who tried in their own stunted way to care for him. This series gives me so much to think about!