This post marks my third and final visit to Octavia Butler’s Lilith’s Brood. I’ve written about colonization, desire, transformation and negotiation in Dawn and Adulthood Rites. Imago ups the ante on all these, raising questions about identity and the performed self.
The human-Oankali breeding program begun a century earlier with Lilith and the events of Dawn reaches a critical turning point in Imago. To everyone’s surprise, one of Lilith’s hybrid children enters its adolescent metamorphosis indicating that it will become ooloi, the third sex. Jodahs is the first ooloi with genes from both species. Uncontrolled, flawed ooloi have the capacity to do massive genetic damage to everything they touch, and an ooloi with a human side poses even greater danger. Lilith and her family move to the deep woods to be isolated during Jodahs’ metamorphosis, awaiting possible exile on the Oankali ship orbiting Earth. Jodahs gains the ability to regrow limbs and change shape. But without human mates it’s unable to control its changes, and there is no chance of finding human mates on Earth before being exiled. Jodahs becomes isolated and silent. Beginning to lose its sense of self, it changes erratically with the weather and environment. Aaor, Jodahs’ closest sibling, follows suit, becoming ooloi. It then transforms into a sea-slug-like creature and nearly physically dissolves in its loneliness.