Imago by Octavia E. Butler
The third in a trilogy, but I read it first. I bought it outside a newsagent in a bin of pulp fiction. In truth, it was the spectacular cover that drew me in. This impossibly attractive, androgynous person with flowing golden snake hair. How could I not buy this book? Of course, the aliens within turned out to look absolutely nothing like that on the cover, but were enchanting in much richer, more resonant ways.
They struggled with identity, sexuality and love. They were so completely alien and yet so perfectly human at the same time, it was heartbreaking and breathtaking to read it for the first, second, third and more times since then.
Of course, I simply assumed the subtitle ‘Xenogenesis III’ was some strange biblical thing and disregarded it. Imagine my joy when I found out there were two preceding novels? Although it somewhat ruined things reading the last book first, I went backwards, second reading the second book and finally starting at the beginning.
These books (and every other book by Butler, which I have now tracked down and read), are all brilliant, but Imago will have a special place in my heart for being my first of hers.
On a side note, this has now reminded me that Sense8 is strikingly similar to her Patternist series. Knowing or unknowing? This would be my question for the Wachowskis.