Adulthood Rites

Adulthood Rites

by Octavia E. Butler


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Told in the haunting voice of Lilith, the heroine of "Dawn", this book is thestory of Lilith's only son, Akin. Though he resembles a normal human, Akin isthe first "construct"--part man/part alien.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780446514224
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication date: 05/01/1989
Series: Xenogenesis Series , #2
Pages: 288

About the Author

OCTAVIA E. BUTLER was a renowned African-American writer who received a MacArthur "Genius" Grant and PEN West Lifetime Achievement Award for her body of work. She was the author of several award-winning novels including Parable of the Talents, which won the Nebula for Best Novel. Acclaimed for her lean prose, strong protagonists, and social observations in stories that range from the distant past to the far future, sales of her books have increased enormously since her death as the issues she addressed in her Afrofuturistic, feminist novels and short fiction have only become more relevant. She passed away on February 24, 2006.

Read an Excerpt

Adulthood Rites

By Octavia E. Butler

Warner Aspect

Octavia Butler
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-446-60378-3

Chapter One

He was Akin.

Things touched him when this sound was made. He was given comfort or food, or he was held and taught. Body to body understanding was given to him. He came to perceive himself as himself-individual, defined, separate from all the touches and smells, all the tastes, sights, and sounds that came to him. He was Akin.

Yet he came to know that he was also part of the people who touched him-that within them, he could find fragments of himself. He was himself, and he was those others.

He learned quickly to distinguish between them by taste and touch. It took longer for him to know them by sight or smell, but taste and touch were almost a single sensation for him. Both had been familiar to him for so long.

He had heard differences in voices since his birth. Now he began to attach identities to those differences. When, within days of his birth, he had learned his own name and could say it aloud, the others taught him their names. These they repeated when they could see that they had his attention. They let him watch their mouths shape the words. He came to understand quickly that each of them could be called by one or both of two groups of sounds.

Nikanj Ooan, Lilith Mother, Ahajas Ty, Dichaan Ishliin, and the one who never came to him even though Nikanj Ooan had taught him that one's touch and taste and smell. Lilith Mother had shown him a print image of that one, and he had scanned it with all his senses: Joseph Father.

He called for Joseph Father and, instead, Nikanj Ooan came and taught him that Joseph Father was dead. Dead. Ended. Gone away and not coming back. Yet he had been part of Akin, and Akin must know him as he knew all his living parents.

Akin was two months old when he began to put together simple sentences. He could not get enough of being held and taught.

"He's quicker than most of my girls," Lilith commented as she held him against her and let him drink. It could have been difficult to learn from her smooth, unhelpful skin except that it was as familiar to him as his own-and superficially like his own. Nikanj Ooan taught him to use his tongue-his least Human visible organ-to study Lilith when she fed him. Over many feedings, he tasted her flesh as well as her milk. She was a rush of flavors and textures-sweet milk, salty skin smooth in some places, rough in others. He concentrated on one of the smooth places, focused all his attention on probing it, perceiving it deeply, minutely. He perceived the many cells of her skin, living and dead. Her skin taught him what it meant to be dead. Its dead outer layer contrasted sharply with what he could perceive of the living flesh beneath. His tongue was as long and sensitive and malleable as the sensory tentacles of Ahajas and Dichaan. He sent a filament of it into the living tissue of her nipple. He had hurt her the first time he tried this, and the pain had been channeled back to him through his tongue. The pain had been so sharp and startling that he withdrew, screaming and weeping. He refused to be comforted until Nikanj showed him how to probe without causing pain.

"That," Lilith had commented, "was a lot like being stabbed with a hot, blunt needle."

"He won't do it again," Nikanj had promised.

Akin had not done it again. And he had learned an important lesson: He would share any pain he caused. Best, then, to be careful and not cause pain. He would not know for months how unusual it was for an infant to recognize the pain of another person and recognize himself as the cause of that pain.

Now he perceived, through the tendril of flesh he had extended into Lilith, expanses of living cells. He focused on a few cells, on a single cell, on the parts of that cell, on its nucleus, on chromosomes within the nucleus, on genes along the chromosomes. He investigated the DNA that made up the genes, the nucleotides of the DNA. There was something beyond the nucleotides that he could not perceive-a world of smaller particles that he could not cross into. He did not understand why he could not make this final crossing-if it were the final one. It frustrated him that anything was beyond his perception. He knew of it only through shadowy ungraspable feelings. When he was older he came to think of it as a horizon, always receding when he approached it.

He shifted his attention from the frustration of what he could not perceive to the fascination of what he could. Lilith's flesh was much more exciting than the flesh of Nikanj, Ahajas, and Dichaan. There was something wrong with hers-something he did not understand. It was both frightening and seductive. It told him Lilith was dangerous, though she was also essential. Nikanj was interesting but not dangerous. Ahajas and Dichaan were so alike he had to struggle to perceive differences between them. In some ways Joseph had been like Lilith. Deadly and competing. But he had not been as much like Lilith as Ahajas was like Dichaan. In fact, though he had clearly been Human and native to this place, this Earth, like Lilith, he had not been Lilith's relative. Ahajas and Dichaan were brother and sister, like most Oankali male and female mates. Joseph was unrelated, like Nikanj, but although Nikanj was Oankali, it was also ooloi, not male or female. Ooloi were supposed to be unrelated to their male and female mates so that they could focus their attention on their mates' genetic differences and construct children without making dangerous mistakes of overfamiliarity and overconfidence.

"Be careful," he heard Nikanj say. "He's studying you again."

"I know," Lilith answered. "Sometimes I wish he'd just nurse like Human babies."

Lilith rubbed Akin's back, and the flickering of light between and around her fingers broke his concentration. He withdrew his flesh from hers, then released her nipple and looked at her. She closed clothing over her breast but went on holding him on her lap. He was always glad when people held him and talked to each other, allowing him to listen. He had already learned more words from them than he had yet had occasion to use. He collected words and gradually assembled them into questions. When his questions were answered, he remembered everything he was told. His picture of the world grew.

"At least he isn't any stronger or faster in physical development than other babies," Lilith said. "Except for his teeth."

"There have been babies born with teeth before," Nikanj said. "Physically, he'll look his Human age until his metamorphosis. He'd have to think his way out of any problems his precocity causes."

"That won't do him much good with some Humans. They'll resent him for not being completely Human and for looking more Human than their kids. They'll hate him for looking much younger than he sounds. They'll hate him because they haven't been allowed to have sons. Your people have made Human-looking male babies a very valuable commodity."

"We'll allow more of them now. Everyone feels more secure about mixing them. Before now, too many ooloi could not perceive the necessary mixture. They could have made mistakes and their mistakes could be monsters."

"Most Humans think that's what they've been doing."

"Do you still?"


"Be content, Lilith. One group of us believed it would be best to dispense with Human-born males altogether. We could construct female children for Human females and male children for Oankali females. We've done that until now."

"And cheated everyone. Ahajas wants daughters, and I want sons. Other people feel the same way."

"I know. And we control children in ways we should not to make them mature as Oankali-born males and Human-born females. We control inclinations that should be left to individual children. Even the group that suggested we go on this way knows we shouldn't. But they were afraid. A male who's Human enough to be born to a Human female could be a danger to us all. We must try though. We'll learn from Akin."

Akin felt himself held closer to Lilith. "Why is he such an experiment?" she demanded. "And why should Human-born men be such a problem? I know most prewar men don't like you. They feel you're displacing them and forcing them to do something perverted. From their point of view, they're right. But you could teach the next generation to love you, no matter who their mothers are. All you'd have to do is start early. Indoctrinate them before they're old enough to develop other opinions."

"But ..." Nikanj hesitated. "But if we had to work that blindly, that clumsily, we couldn't have trade. We would have to take your children from you soon after they were born. We wouldn't dare trust you to raise them. You would be kept only for breeding-like nonsentient animals."

Silence. A sigh. "You say such godawful things in such a gentle voice. No, hush, I know it's the only voice you've got. Nika, will Akin survive the Human males who will hate him?"

"They won't hate him."

"They will. He isn't Human. Un-Human women are offensive to them, but they don't usually try to hurt them, and they do sleep with them-like a racist sleeping with racially different women. But Akin ... They'd see him as a threat. Hell, he is a threat. He's one of their replacements."

"Lilith, they will not hate him." Akin felt himself lifted from Lilith's arms and held close to Nikanj's body. He gasped at the lovely shock of contact with Nikanj's sensory tentacles, many of which held him while others burrowed painlessly into his flesh. It was so easy to connect with Nikanj and to learn. "They will see him as beautiful and like themselves," Nikanj said. "By the time he's old enough for his body to reveal what he actually is, he'll be an adult and able to hold his own."

"Able to fight?"

"Only to save his life. He'll tend to avoid fighting. He'd be like Oankali-born males now-a solitary wanderer when he's not mated."

"He won't settle down with anyone?"

"No. Most human males aren't particularly monogamous. No construct males will be."


"Families will change, Lilith-are changing. A complete construct family will be a female, an ooloi, and children. Males will come and go as they wish and as they find welcome."

"But they'll have no homes."

"A home like this would be a prison to them. They'll have what they want, what they need."

"The ability to be fathers to their kids?"

Nikanj paused. "They might choose to keep contact with their children. They won't live with them permanently-and no construct, male or female, young or old, will feel that as a deprivation. It will be normal to them, and purposeful, since there will always be many more females and ooloi than males." It rustled its head and body tentacles. "Trade means change. Bodies change. Ways of living must change. Did you think your children would only look different?"


Excerpted from Adulthood Rites by Octavia E. Butler Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Adulthood Rites 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
MoniqueReads on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In Adulthood Rites, Butler picks what where she left off. It is about 30 years after Dawn and Lilith has bore and contains to have alien hybrid (constructs) children. Adulthood Rites is the story of one of those children. Told in a limited third person narrative, Adulthood Rites is the look into the struggles that the Akin (Lilith's only human born constructs male child) and the humans resisters that now inhibit the earth. As in the first book (Dawn), Butler contains to explore the theme of what it means to be human and the contradictions that are inherent in humanity. Even though the story is in third person, the reader only gets to see the world through Akin's senses. This position allows readers not only to connect with the human resisters but also evaluate aspects of humanity that lead the Oankali make humans resist sterile. Through Akin, readers get to see how humans make choices that lead to violence, rage, despair, and sorrow. But they also get to see that for most people the idea of the future and progress, mainly through children, is what makes up want to achieve greater heights. Butler is able to do all this expertly in a simple narrative that is less than three hundred pages.Pros: Writing, Characters, PlotCons: N/AOverall Recommendation:This book in my opinion is better than Dawn. It could just be because I like the outcome more in this book than the other. But I would recommend this book to anyone that has read the first. But it is important that the books are read in order, so of the important themes and events are needed to make the story make flow accurately.
stubbyfingers on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I loved the first book in the Xenogenesis series, Dawn, and this, the second book, was not a disappointment! It's full of great ideas to make you think. I was enthralled the entire time I was reading it, never wanting to put it down. The characters and the ideas were all very interesting. This could easily have been a much longer book with more details about the characters' lives and decisions, but it definitely works the way it is. I can't wait to read the third book!
jshillingford on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This sequel to Dawn is just as good. Lilith has given birth to a human-looking son, Akin. But, he is actually a genetically engineered hybrid of human and Oankali. But, not all humans are willing to be "saved" by merging with the Oankali. They want to rebel, but the Oankali are technologically superior. But, they may find salvation in an unlikely advocate - Akin.
ragwaine on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This one got better toward the end. My only problem with this series is the names and how complicated the "mating" system is. The combination makes it hard to tell what's going on sometimes. Other than that some very cool unique situations. Butler had a way of portraying fantastic situations (like crazy looking aliens) as if they were mundane. It doesn't feel like your reading fantasy/sci-fi but instead another reality.
heidilove on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
i read this one first, not realizing it was in a series. i really like what is brought up about the nature of the Other, what makes us human, and the human condition.
Eric_the_Hamster on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Octavia Butler always leaves me breathless with her creative mind, and the level of her inventiveness.This is book 2 of the Xenogenesis series, developing the theme of a post-apocalyptic world, where the few surviving humans are saved and genetically adapted by the alien Oankali. This species travels the universe absorbing other species into its genetic family. The story not only describes the fascinating science behind this premise, but also the complex emotions expressed by humanity at what the Oankali have done to them (albeit as a benign invader).In this second book, the first of the human/Oankali hybrids are born, and have to bridge the gap between the two parent species. The first male is a danger to both species, and himself.
BlackAsh13 More than 1 year ago
Adulthood Rites is book 2 of the Xenogenesis Trilogy (also known as Lilith's Brood). Book 1, Dawn, follows the story of Lilith, a human, who has been kept in some form of suspended animation for many years, then awakened by an alien race. Earth has been ravaged by years of war, and humanity is all but gone, save for the few that the alien race has rescued. It is their intention to restore humanity back to Earth as trading partners...the materials traded being of a genetic nature. Dawn captivated me because of the anguish that Lilith underwent, as she struggled with the plans that the aliens have for the human race and their decision to make her the "leader" of the other humans being awakened. Her emotional turmoil was what stood out for me. But Adulthood Rites picks up the story with the birth of Lilith's son, Akin, and he is now the main character. Akin is half human, half alien. The early portion of the story follows his early life, the details of which I found dull. Just as with Dawn, though, the story is original and incredibly well written. Thankfully, Adulthood Rites, picks up as Akin and makes his decision as to what his life's work will be. Once he does this, I was immediately intrigued and already looking forward to book 3, Imago. As always, Butler's writing is amazing. The story continued to be unique and emotional and thought-provoking. I am anxious to start Imago.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As a sequel to her first novel in this trilogy, ADULTHOOD RITES measures up to the quality and intrigue of the preceeding book in rhe series. My personal feeling is to continue to the end of the trilogy. ------- Leonard
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