I feel a little guilty saying this is my favorite in the series, because it's by far the easiest to read. By easiest I mean the one that causes the least discomfort and dissonance. It's okay to root for the oankali in this one; he's a child, he's trying to preserve human independence, and he has no real interest in interbreeding with humans. Having sex with them, yes, but when it comes for looking for a mate he never broaches the possibility of anything but another construct.
So I can like Akin and feel comfortable liking Akin, whereas whenever I get too sympathetic toward Nikanj and Jodahs, the narrative does something that reminds me that these aliens are, actually, terrifyingly creepy in their disregard for minor things like free will.
I like that Akin expresses discomfort toward ooloi, even though he's drawn to them. I wish the book had explored that a little more, and particularly the ways in which it's been constructed (by Nikanj) into his identity as male. We're told in this book that the oankali are deliberately crafting male constructs to have a propensity to wander, to not
seek the intense mating bonds that are natural for all oankali born of the previous trade. It's an odd choice on a number of levels; first because, as Imago
shows, construct ooloi desperately need both male and female partners in a way that the previous generation of ooloi don't
, and second because while the oankali seem to believe they're merely making use of natural human gender roles, we don't actually see many wandering human men over the course of the series.
There's Viktor's brief fling with Lilith, I guess (and I wonder how that went down, given their intense antipathy in Dawn
), but other than that . . . Wray, Gabe, Tino, they're all quite monogamous and settled. It makes the oankali's choice feel irrational, especially since, see the first point, it's likely to be quite damaging to their next generation. Is it supposed to represent their
discomfort toward human males, their desire to push them to be further away? Anyway, it's interesting to see that they're more fallible than they think they are.
Also interesting, both here and in Imago
, is the way it's repeated stressed 1) that humans need
physical contact with other humans and 2) that humans mated with oankali are biochemically unable to touch humans of the opposite sex. Draw your own conclusions.