Monday, April 9, 2007

A New Race

The constructs in Lilith’s Brood really are both Human and Oankali. The constructs are raised in an Oankali family structure and in an Oankali town, in this case Lo, which is itself a living entity; yet their humanity is important to them. They are missing the human drive for violence and some of the human need for independence, yet they understand these needs in a way the Oankali never could. Although the Oankali set out to create a new race, part human and part themselves, they seem almost surprised by the human needs that surface in their construct children. The human parents, on the other hand, seem to be pleasantly surprised by their children’s human qualities, as if they did not expect them.

In Adulthood Rites Akin spends part of his youth living in the Human town of Phoenix, and so he grasps a deeper understanding of the human need for independence than any other Oankali or construct. He becomes an advocate for and later a founder of an all human colony on Mars. He believes that the human conflict, hierarchy and intelligence, will eventually cause these humans to destroy themselves again. He also realizes that part of being human is a need for a second chance, the humans need the hope that maybe this time they can find their own way out of the conflict. “All he could do for them, if he could do anything, was to let them be bound in their own ways. Perhaps next time their intelligence would be in balance with their hierarchical behavior, and they would not destroy themselves.” Akin is the first construct to realize that humans need to be given a choice, because even Lilith resents the way she is forced into loving her Oankali family. As we see in the third novel, the humans Akin meets are right, eventually they are able to reproduce on Earth, somehow the Oankali make a mistake and fertile humans survive, but so do some genetic disorders. Akin’s plan for Mars provides a safer alternative. The humans who go to Mars sacrifice their home planet in exchange for reproductive health and freedom.

In Imago, Jodahs is the first human-born ooloi construct, yet despite its alien sex; its narrative gives us the first glimpse at the ultimate blending of human and Oankali. In many ways it is the most human construct we have encountered in these books. It is easily accepted by humans because its body strives to please them, physically and chemically. It shape shifts to fit the fantasy of its human. “Oankali ooloi frightened humans because they looked so different. Aaor and I were much less frightening. Perhaps that allowed humans to respond more freely to our scent. Or Perhaps, being part human ourselves, we had a more appealing scent.” It is seductive, yet the humans’ feelings for it go beyond a physical or chemical attraction. As Nikanj says at the end of the novel, pheromones only help Jodahs at first, but eventually the humans just love him. The humans Jodahs “converts” do not harbor the same resentments as Lilith. They do not feel forced into mating with him. It finds a colony of humans who have somehow managed to reproduce, but who have been passing on genetic disorders and have crippled themselves with inbreeding. His seductive, lovable nature makes it easy for him to convince these humans that they should join him and have construct children, even though they know that they are capable of having their own human children.

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