I recall that the aliens all have telekinesis and use it to unlock their doors. The woman is learning to use that same power. I can't recall why the woman was on the alien planet, but it was definitely not on Earth.

I think the cover had the woman and a tall alien in a robe (kind of like a mindflayer.)

This would be from earlier than the mid-90s.


2 Answers 2


This could be the ''Lilith's Brood'' or ''Xenogenesis'' trilogy by Octavia Butler.

In the first part, ''Dawn'', the protagonist awakes on an alien space ship, after a nuclear war has devastated the Earth.

The aliens, the Oankali, open doors and shape furniture from the fabric of the ship by touching them. The mechanism is actually chemical, essentially using pheromones to interact with the living matter of the ship. Later in the novel, Lilith is granted the ability to secrete those same pheromones, and thus control her environment, while she awakens other humans to repopulate the Earth.

The Oankali are roughly human shaped, but sense the world through tentacles, so their "face" resembles a mass of writhing snakes.

A single-volume of the trilogy published in 1989 had this cover depicting Lilith and an Oankali, which could meet your description:

Cover of 1989 edition of Xenogenesis

  • Ooh, this might be it. The cover isn't exactly what I'm picturing (it's been a couple decades...). But if the aliens teach the woman how to unlock the doors with their power it's probably it. I'll snag a copy from the library to confirm. This is the best guess anyone has made.
    – Matt H
    Jan 31, 2023 at 0:22
  • @MattH There are other printings with different covers. isfdb.org/cgi-bin/title.cgi?29426
    – Spencer
    Feb 1, 2023 at 13:50

The protagonist is male, but could it be "Rocket to Limbo" by Alan E. Nourse?

  • I'm very certain it's a woman in the story, but good suggestion.
    – Matt H
    Jan 31, 2023 at 0:22

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