(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Butler has won both the prestigious Hugo Award, representing the accolade of her fans, and the Nebula Award, from professional science-fiction writers. She is one of the most literate, sensitive, and imaginative authors in her chosen fields. In Xenogenesis, as in several of her science-fiction novels including Kindred (1979) and Wild Seed (1980), there are important recurrent themes or messages other than her basic strictures against—and depictions of—the devastation of Earthly life as a consequence of human greed, rapacity, and violence. In Xenogenesis, Butler emphasizes, through characterization of her alien race of Oankali, the inexpressible value of all forms of life and the equally vital importance of diversity—not only in regard to biological species but also in regard to racial, sexual, and cultural pluralism. As an African American woman, she perhaps brings particular insights into these issues.

Unlike many traditional science-fiction tales that emphasize hostile alien invasions of Earth, Xenogenesis stresses the vastly superior intelligence and wisdom of the Oankali and the almost benign, patient, and tolerant manner in which they present their proposals for salvaging life on Earth. Despite the near destruction of Lilith Iyapo’s world, it is difficult for her and for others of human origin to adapt to Oankali offers for an extended, disease-free life in a transformed state on Mars or in the...

(The entire section is 545 words.)