I bemoaned that the first book in this trilogy was very clearly a series starter- but now that I've read this book, it feels more like a prequel. While I never felt I could fully connect with Lilith due to her strange (but explainable) behavior, this book offers a new perspective on the aliens vs. humanity argument via her son Akin (A-keen), a human alien hybrid (called a construct in this book).
Akin brings us a somewhat neutral perspective. While he is logical enough to understand the aliens' refusal to grant humans their fertility back, he also gets to see what it is like to be a human on Earth, which isn't all that peachy. Personally, I find Ms. Butler's interpretation of humanity's reaction on the milder end of things- but then again, the aliens/Oooloi had messed with their bodies, so who knows what else may have been tweaked?
The Plot (As Seen on Goodreads):
'In this sequel to Dawn, Lilith Iyapo has given birth to what looks like a normal human boy named Akin. But Akin actually has five parents: a male and female human, a male and female Oankali, and a sexless Ooloi. The Oankali and Ooloi are part of an alien race that rescued humanity from a devastating nuclear war, but the price they exact is a high one the aliens are compelled to genetically merge their species with other races, drastically altering both in the process.
'On a rehabilitated Earth, this "new" race is emerging through human/Oankali/Ooloi mating, but there are also "pure" humans who choose to resist the aliens and the salvation they offer.These resisters are sterilized by the Ooloi so that they cannot reproduce the genetic defect that drives humanity to destroy itself, but otherwise they are left alone (unless they become violent).
'When the resisters kidnap young Akin, the Oankali choose to leave the child with his captors, for he the most "human" of the Oankali children will decide whether the resisters should be given back their fertility and freedom, even though they will only destroy themselves again.'
As you may have guessed, due to his being a construct, Akin is a bit different from your average toddler. He is basically an adult in a toddler's body, but he has the physical limits of a toddler, making it hard to escape when he's kidnapped. He is also conscious enough to the ways of the human to know they'll be freaked out by a baby who's talking in full sentences to speak as little as possible when he's with the resisters.
I could write about the themes in this book all day long: it's really a great thinking book. Racial prejudice, consent (of the sexual variation), and pretty much everything to do with what it means to be human is covered. What makes it hard to fully hash out those themes is I am a loather of review spoilers (because I choose to spoil myself on books all the time) and so I'm left shrugging my shoulders on what to share. Needless to say, the logical construct Akin finds racism most puzzling.
Adulthood Rites is a clear improvement on Dawn, which felt largely unresolved and more like a prequel than an actual book. Although I was exceedingly impressed with the themes in the first book, Adulthood Rites took those themes and ran with them. If you like science fiction that makes you think on things while reading, without being overbearing in page count, I recommend Adulthood Rites for your next read- as long as you've read Dawn first.
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars for an excellent sci-fi sequel that outshone the previous book!
Content: Ages 18+ since you have to read Dawn first, which is more intense with its violence and sexual content.
Page Count: 277 pages