Dawns’s plot is centered on the Oankali, an alien specie that disturbingly differ from humans in their manner of existence. They look extremely different than us and they have three genders: male, female and ooloi. Brother and sisters usually mate in association with a ooloi. There is a logic in their system of breeding. The siblings’ genes combined keep and strengthen their desirable characteristics and the ooloi, called the “treasured strangers,” sort of balance out the combination, avoiding problems caused by interbreeding. Finally, they use genetic manipulation to alter themselves and their environment. From all the living things Oankali have encountered so far, they had extracted and manipulated genetic information as well as incorporated what they judged useful to their own genetic code. They are the result of a radical process of interbreeding and absorption of other species genetic material.
In essence, the Oankali, offensively, differ from humans. Indeed, they contradict the most fundamental foundations for human beings: They blur and rearrange gender differences, family structures and the very way species manage to survive. Their appearance is shocking at first but the possibility their lives represent to us is, to say the least, blasphemous and stunning.