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Wild Seed by Octavia E. Butler

book cover of Wild Seed

What an amazing book! The heart of Wild Seed is the entrancing dynamic between Anyanwu and Doro, two immortal people who meet in western Africa around 1690 before Doro brings Anyanwu across to New York. Anyanwu is a powerful healer and shapeshifter, but Doro – as we might remember from Mind of My Mind – has the power to leap from body to body, killing the person inside. As they gain familiarity with one another their relationship evolves: sometimes lovers, and sometimes mortal enemies, but always with the overriding tension that the more powerful Doro considers himself the rightful “master” of people with supernatural abilities like Anyanwu, and what Anyanwu wants for herself and her descendants is to be free.

I did feel like (much like the other Patternmaster books) the novel took a little while to build momentum, but once it did it was unstoppable. Wild Seed felt more focused and cohesive than Mind of My Mind; in fact, I’m glad I read this one after that, because I think Mind of My Mind would have been disappointing in comparison (with the Doro/Mary conflict retreading much of the same ground as the better conflict between Doro and Anyanwu here, and with Anyanwu in that book – now renamed Emma – being an underwhelming character to say the least). I did find it interesting that Doro here seems less sure about what it is he’s hoping to create through his breeding program – instead he’s working on gut feelings about “potential” – whereas by Mind of My Mind he seems much clearer that he’s trying to establish a race of telepaths.

Overall, this book shows why Octavia E. Butler deserves her place as one of the greats of the science fiction genre. I’m sure the relationship between Anyanwu and Doro will stick in my mind for a long time to come, especially the way their characters developed in the superb third part of the book. Although Patternmaster does come close, this is probably the best instalment in the series yet.

Books in the Patternmaster series (publication order)

  1. Patternmaster
  2. Mind of My Mind
  3. Wild Seed (you are here)
  4. Clay’s Ark

★★★★★

a cartoony avatar of Jessica Smith is a left-wing feminist who loves animals, books, gaming, and cooking; she’s also very interested in linguistics, history, technology and society.