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Doro is an entity who changes bodies like clothes, killing his hosts by reflex or design. He fears no one until he meets Anyanwu. Anyanwu is a shapeshifter who can absorb bullets and heal with a kiss and savage anyone who threatens her. She fears no one until she meets Doro. Together they weave a pattern of destiny (from Africa to the New World) unimaginable to mortals.


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Doro is an entity who changes bodies like clothes, killing his hosts by reflex or design. He fears no one until he meets Anyanwu. Anyanwu is a shapeshifter who can absorb bullets and heal with a kiss and savage anyone who threatens her. She fears no one until she meets Doro. Together they weave a pattern of destiny (from Africa to the New World) unimaginable to mortals.

30 review for Wild Seed

  1. 5 out of 5

    Apatt

    “Recently, however, I began to suspect that calling myself a science fiction critic without having read anything by Octavia Butler bordered on the fraudulent.” “Books to Look For” - Orson Scott Card I have to thank OSC for the above-mentioned article (from 1990) which piqued my interest for reading Octavia Butler. It is strange that I first read Wild Seed in January 2012, I loved it and it made me a lifelong fan of Octavia Butler, but since then I have not read any of the sequels. I have, however “Recently, however, I began to suspect that calling myself a science fiction critic without having read anything by Octavia Butler bordered on the fraudulent.” “Books to Look For” - Orson Scott Card I have to thank OSC for the above-mentioned article (from 1990) which piqued my interest for reading Octavia Butler. It is strange that I first read Wild Seed in January 2012, I loved it and it made me a lifelong fan of Octavia Butler, but since then I have not read any of the sequels. I have, however, read most of her other novels, and she has never disappointed me. Wild Seed is the first of the Patternmaster series, some of the later books in the series were written prior to this book, but in term of chronological order this is the first. I won’t do an overview of the series at this point as I have not read the other books, I will just stick to Wild Seed for now. Wild Seed is about an African woman named Anyanwu who is immortal and has shape changing abilities. One day she encounters a man called Doro who is also a shape-changer, of a very different sort. Where Anyanwu changes her shape by metamorphosis, Doro does it by evicting people from their bodies and taking over (and thereby killing the body’s owner). At the beginning of the narrative, Anyanwu is already about three hundred years old, living in a village among her descendants. While it is not clear how old Doro is, he was born in Egypt during the reign of the Pharaohs, so he is more than twice her age. Doro coerces Anyanwu into leaving Africa with him and move to a community he built in New York, he does this mainly by threatening the safety of all her descendants. It transpires that Doro is working on a project to breed people with unusual powers (the word mutant does not appear in this book) and he perceives Anyanwu as a “wild seed” to become a potent new ingredient in this project. What follows is a story of power struggles between these two characters, involving intimidation, submission, heartbreak, courage and rebellion. To say that Wild Seed is a page turner may give the impression that this is a sci-fi thriller that moves at breakneck speed. This is not the case at all; the story spans over a hundred years and is not particularly fast paced. However, it is very compelling, I always look forward to discovering what happens on the next page. Ms. Butler has an uncanny ability to effortlessly create vivid and believable characters. At times it seems like she can make them seem real as soon as they are introduced in the narrative. The only snag is I love her protagonist so much I wish she can just get away from this nefarious Doro, who is not only a creep but also doing a very creepy project; but if she does get away early in the book we would not have much of a story left. Anyanwu The book’s timeline spans over 100 years, from the late 1600s to the 1800s, at a time where slavery is prevalent in the US. Unlike Butler’s Kindred, Wild Seed is not exactly a slave narrative, Anyanwu is enslaved in a manner of speaking, without actually being a slave. The narrative is more concerned with her struggle to free herself from Doro’s project without risking the people she loves (her children and descendants). The sci-fi element of Wild Seed tends to read rather like science fantasy with all the shapeshifting going on, and no technology involved. However, Anyanwu has an ability to synthesize medicines from inside her body with the application of medical science principles. She comes up with a much more humane method of genetic engineering than Doro’s degrading version that treats human beings as seeds and animals. What makes the novel works so well is Butler’s humanity and compassion. Anyanwu is one of sci-fi’s best protagonists who embodies the best characteristics of motherhood, even Doro is a very complex kind of villain with understandable motivations, considering his backstory you can almost forgive his heinous behaviour, but he certainly is an overbearing larger than life character. For me, Wild Seed is one of the all-time greats, and I look forward to finally moving on to the subsequent volumes soon. Notes: • One of the things I love most about Octavia Butler is her love of the sci-fi genre, and how she was happy to embrace it; unlike some literary authors who utilize the genre's tropes but reject the label. • Sadly she is no longer with us, and I am running out of her books to read (。•́︿•̀。) Quotes: “Haven’t you seen the men slaves in this country who are used for breeding? They are never permitted to learn what it means to be a man. They are not permitted to care for their children. Among my people, children are wealth, they are better than money, better than anything. But to these men, warped and twisted by their masters, children are almost nothing.” “I kill, Anyanwu. That is how I keep my youth, my strength. I can do only one thing to show you what I am, and that is kill a man and wear his body like a cloth.” He breathed deeply. “This is not the body I was born into. It’s not the tenth I’ve worn, nor the hundredth, nor the thousandth.” He smiled a little, but could not help wondering how hard it might be to tame even partially a wild seed woman who had been helping herself for three hundred years. Wild seed always had to be destroyed eventually. It could never conform as children born among his people conformed. But like no other wild seed, Anyanwu would learn to fear him and bend herself to his will. Nice new cover

  2. 4 out of 5

    Lyn

    Dear Goodreads friends, If you like to read science fiction / fantasy you should get to know Octavia Butler. Love, Lyn Butler’s 1980 novel Wild Seed is the first chronological book in her Patternmaster series. This details the beginnings of the sub-race of humans that will, in Patternmaster, be set in the far future. Butler begins her narrative in 1390, in West Africa, where her protagonist Anyanwu meets a strange young man named Doro. So begins a centuries old relationship, often rocky, between two Dear Goodreads friends, If you like to read science fiction / fantasy you should get to know Octavia Butler. Love, Lyn Butler’s 1980 novel Wild Seed is the first chronological book in her Patternmaster series. This details the beginnings of the sub-race of humans that will, in Patternmaster, be set in the far future. Butler begins her narrative in 1390, in West Africa, where her protagonist Anyanwu meets a strange young man named Doro. So begins a centuries old relationship, often rocky, between two immortals. Anyanwu is a healer and a shape shifter and seems to remain at about 20 years of age though she can take the shape (and apparently the DNA makeup) of other people and even animals. Doro, on the other hand, turns out to be much older and is a kind of spiritual vampire, taking the bodies of his victims and “wearing” them for a while. The central conflict of the story is the dynamic opposition between Anyanwu and Doro in regard to Doro’s millennia project of breeding a super race. Doro, who is more spirit than man, has been gathering people with unusual talents and getting them together so that their talents may be made more usable and more apparent in the offspring. Anyanwu vehemently opposes his methods and his dehumanization of the subjects. As interesting as this story is, and it is quintessential Butler, the magnetic tension between Doro and Anyanwu is the gripping central focus of the book. And like Milton’s Satan, Butler’s Doro is a fascinatingly complex and intriguing antagonist who displays both god-like power and transcendent ennui. Anyanwu’s humanism, and her female relational practicality and leadership offer a vital juxtaposition to Doro’s attentive but disassociated deity. On the checklist for SF/F books that should be read and a must read for Butler fans.

  3. 4 out of 5

    J.L. Sutton

    “In my years, I have seen that people must be their own gods and make their own good fortune. The bad will come or not come anyway.” Absolutely fantastic! Wild Seed (Patternmaster #1) is my latest dip into Octavia Butler's work, and I continue be amazed by Butler's vision and talent. After her community is wiped out by slavers, Anyanwu, an immortal shape shifter and healer, travels to colonial America with another immortal named Doro. Their aims and origins are very different. Anyanwu wants to “In my years, I have seen that people must be their own gods and make their own good fortune. The bad will come or not come anyway.” Absolutely fantastic! Wild Seed (Patternmaster #1) is my latest dip into Octavia Butler's work, and I continue be amazed by Butler's vision and talent. After her community is wiped out by slavers, Anyanwu, an immortal shape shifter and healer, travels to colonial America with another immortal named Doro. Their aims and origins are very different. Anyanwu wants to live among and support her people. Doro, on the other hand, plans to exploit Anyanwu to breed communities of people with superhuman abilities. Very engaging narrative with lots to think about. 4.5 stars

  4. 4 out of 5

    Regina

    I really don't know where to start with this review. Wild Seed is unlike anything I have ever read before but yet it was still very accessible and easy to read. I would say this book is a combination of urban fantasy, horror, historical fiction and fantasy. Butler addresses slavery, gender roles, racial issues, sexuality, and class issues so subtlety you can miss the commentary if you want to and she does this all through the lens of a fantasy world involving supernatural beings that are seeming I really don't know where to start with this review. Wild Seed is unlike anything I have ever read before but yet it was still very accessible and easy to read. I would say this book is a combination of urban fantasy, horror, historical fiction and fantasy. Butler addresses slavery, gender roles, racial issues, sexuality, and class issues so subtlety you can miss the commentary if you want to and she does this all through the lens of a fantasy world involving supernatural beings that are seemingly immortal and have various abilities from shape shifting, body snatching, mind reading, and telekinesis. Personally, I don't want to miss the commentary and I enjoy the unique view. I tend to like my urban fantasy and fantasy stories with a slice of heaviness on the side and Octavia Butler seems to be able to deliver that every time. This is the third book by Octavia Butler that I have read. I have come to expect that in reading her books I will have an escape from reality and a complete immersion into the characters that she writes. She writes characters that seem to breathe and live somewhere off the pages of her books, they are real and three dimensional. But such tangible characters come with a price, there is pain and anguish in her books and as a reader, I felt these emotions. Wild Seed was no exception. The characters witness some painful and sad events. This is not urban fantasy lite. Wild Seed is a sweeping historical story that begins in Africa with ancient powerful beings. These beings get caught up in the slave trade and arrive in the now United States. These characters seem to have limitless power. One being prefers to use her power morally and compassionately. Another being, no longer sees himself as human and is not governed by any morality. And of course they clash, both romantically and otherwise. The book is surprisingly sexual in parts and raises some really interesting questions. A shapeshifter that can take on any shape -- animal and human -- and gender -- how do you feel about it taking on the opposite gender and engaging in sexual relationships? What about while it is in animal form? The sex scenes are not explicit but they are referenced. Octavia Butler is not shy about putting her toe across the border of most people's comfort zones. I plan to continue on with the series and am excited that Butler's books are being published in e-book and audio book format. To read more reviews like this check out www.badassbookreviews.com

  5. 4 out of 5

    [Name Redacted]

    Butler's sci-fi classic has so much to recommend it. She is a very talented writer, and she creates a mythology and cosmology which are, if not unique, then arguably the best-developed of their kind. "Wild Seed" is beautiful and lyrical and powerful, but the rampant misandry and peculiar romanticization of pre-colonial Africa mar it -- infect it like a virus. There is neither subtlety nor nuance in Butler's representation of the two sexes. No woman is ever a criminal or a monster or a villain -- Butler's sci-fi classic has so much to recommend it. She is a very talented writer, and she creates a mythology and cosmology which are, if not unique, then arguably the best-developed of their kind. "Wild Seed" is beautiful and lyrical and powerful, but the rampant misandry and peculiar romanticization of pre-colonial Africa mar it -- infect it like a virus. There is neither subtlety nor nuance in Butler's representation of the two sexes. No woman is ever a criminal or a monster or a villain -- those roles are reserved exclusively for the men. And the only men who show any virtuous traits are remarkable because they are explicitly exceptional -- aberrations who invariably die at the hands of other "true" men. Butler presents the male as mind, male as monster, male as thief, male as predator, male as manipulator, male as sociopath, male as destroyer, male as wanderer, male as slaver, male as arrogant false-god, male as controller and dominator, male as compulsive, incurable rapist. Butler presents the female as body, female as healer, female as savior, female as settler, female as nurturer, female as victim, female as mother, female as creatrix, female as liberator, female as rebel, female as builder, female as gardener, female as defiant and noble and inherently virtuous. The sense is often that the male is the rude, brute beast from which the morally, ethically & spiritually superior female has evolved. And re: her depictions of pre-colonial Africa...Well, i think this novel would have benefited from consultation of the works of Frank M. Snowden cross-referenced with that of Lloyd A. Thompson. It's moving in a Pan-Africanist sense, but it lacks reality. Again, there is so much of worth here, and it deserves its status as a classic, but its flaws are so glaring, so appalling, that they can eclipse everything that is good about it. I was able to see more of its worth with this re-reading, able to filter out the hypocritical misandry and suspend my disbelief for the African history portions, and maybe next time I'll be able to filter out a bit more. For now I regrettably leave it as a 3 star book.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Christopher Paolini

    As close to a perfect book as I can imagine. There’s almost nothing that one could do to improve Butler’s prose, pacing, or characterization. She never gives you an excuse to not turn the page . . . which is why I read Wild Seed in a single sitting. The moral issues Butler addresses make for fascinating drama.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Tomoe Hotaru

    blog | goodreads Most of us don't believe in gods and spirits and devils who must be pleased or feared. We have Doro, and he's enough. What can I say about Wild Seed that could come anywhere close to doing it justice? This is the story of how Doro met Anyanwu, the only living soul on Earth who could possibly match his will; test his patience, endure his passive cruelty, and time and again defy him in ways even she could not possibly understand. And forever is a long time to endure one another w blog | goodreads Most of us don't believe in gods and spirits and devils who must be pleased or feared. We have Doro, and he's enough. What can I say about Wild Seed that could come anywhere close to doing it justice? This is the story of how Doro met Anyanwu, the only living soul on Earth who could possibly match his will; test his patience, endure his passive cruelty, and time and again defy him in ways even she could not possibly understand. And forever is a long time to endure one another when you are two of the only immortal beings on the planet. Theirs is a love story that goes beyond physical desire; Anyanwu needs Doro as much as he needs her, whether either are willing to accept it or not. Doro looked up. He held Isaac's gaze, not questioningly or challengingly, not with any reassurance or compassion. He only looked back. Isaac had seen cats stare at people that way. Cats. That was apt. More and more often, nothing human looked out of Doro's eyes. Doro is both our antihero and villain. An ogbanje -- evil spirit -- as Anyanwu would call him, he is not malicious through any evil intent of his own. He simply is. Much like fire must burn and virus must spread, Doro's nature is simply a part of him he cannot destroy. (view spoiler)[ image from DeviantArt (hide spoiler)] Having lived long before the Son of God even walked the earth, Doro has developed his own moral compass -- or lack thereof. He has very utilitarian motives, is constrained by no societal boundaries, and therefore much of the contents of this book would strike the reader as outrageous, disgusting, and their abhorrence inevitably directed towards our antihero. But I could not bring myself to hate him. This is what it should be like to be immortal and see your loved ones die one after the other. To bury your lovers, children, grandchildren ... you don't live for thousands of years without these kinds of things changing you. Doro could have been intentionally malevolent and put his power to actively harm people. Instead, all he seeks for is a way to simply endure. And in this aspect, I sympathized for him. (view spoiler)[ image from DeviantArt (hide spoiler)] But this is what Anyanwu has a hard time accepting -- and I do not blame her one bit! How can a healer, a mother, a being that respects all forms of life such as her, submit to the heartless demands of a sociopath? Doro looked at people, healthy or ill, and wondered what kind of young they could produce. Anyanwu looked at the sick — especially those with problems she had not seen before — and wondered whether she could defeat their disease. And when people say opposites attract, this is what they're talking about. Anyanwu and Doro are two very opposing beings who complement each other perfectly. Their love for each other is so complex it's beautiful. They hate each other for completely different reason, they need each other for equally different reasons, and they are inevitably, constantly drawn back towards one another. For Doro, Anyanwu is the only one who could last long enough to keep him rooted to his long-forgotten humanity; and for Anyanwu, Doro is the only one who can understand her with an intimacy no mortal man ever could. But please, if you are daunted by romance novels (such as I am), do not be hesitant about Wild Seed. Despite my gushing on and on and on about Anyanwu and Doro's beautiful love, this was not a romance book. Well, it is, at the core. But in no way, shape, or form does it torment you with romance. It is only there subtly, being hinted at in our two main characters' interaction and behaviour towards each other. Power came the way a child came -- with agony. Wild Seed is a complex, multi-layered prequel to the Patternmaster series. It is a fantasy novel, rich in themes of slavery, colonialism, and subtle commentary on human morality. It is a long, deep look into multiple aspects of humanity, and as such readers looking for action and adventure are better off turning to a different book. But for those of you undaunted by exposition, and those of you who enjoy complex and subtle romances; for me this book was heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time -- and I cannot recommend it enough. *** more reviews are also available at my blog

  8. 5 out of 5

    Ashley Nuckles

    School book this semester & was not a fan. It gave me the creeps

  9. 5 out of 5

    Wanda

    A great book, I can’t believe that I just discovered Octavia Butler this year. She has been one the gems that I have encountered while reading through the NPR list of classic science fiction and fantasy. This novel could easily be a stand-alone novel, but I was intrigued when I realized it was the first in a series—I will be very interested to see where Butler takes the story from here. Although this is another book about extraordinarily long life, Butler examines it from a very different view po A great book, I can’t believe that I just discovered Octavia Butler this year. She has been one the gems that I have encountered while reading through the NPR list of classic science fiction and fantasy. This novel could easily be a stand-alone novel, but I was intrigued when I realized it was the first in a series—I will be very interested to see where Butler takes the story from here. Although this is another book about extraordinarily long life, Butler examines it from a very different view point. Two very long-lived beings encounter one another and despite a relationship that is uneven in power, their lives remain entwined. There is as interesting exploration of the nature of slavery and the uneven power situation (examined much more directly in Butler’s novel, Kindred). But what really spoke to me was the contrasting way that Doro and Anyanwu deal with people around them. Now, I have found over the years that I enjoy my relatives immensely. I like spending time with them, talking to them regularly, and planning events to share with them. Anyanwu was my kind of immortal. She collected family around herself, surrounding herself with children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc., building a community of relatives all around her and enjoying their company. Completely different from Doro, who was also surrounded by descendants, but looked at them more as a farmer would regard his livestock—breeding them in an attempt to create people with special abilities including extra-long life. One doing it out of love, the other out of utility. I’m only guessing, but I think that Anne Rice must have read this book—it reminds me strongly of her book The Witching Hour, where the family of Mayfair women are haunted by a malevolent spirit which nudges them towards the sexual liaisons that would be required to produce the qualities it required in their children in every bit as calculating a way as Doro manipulates his progeny. This is the 151st book that I have read from the NPR list.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Aubrey

    4.5/5 As Woolf once said Middlemarch is one of the few English books written for grown-ups, so too is this one of the few pieces of science fiction written for the real world, not marketing and academia. Of course, so chock full is this work with critical engagement and unflinching history that the cries of 'polemic' and 'bias' would not be an unlikely reaction. If that doesn't work, 'prosaic' could always be used as a strong condemnation via completely arbitrary standards of institutionalized re 4.5/5 As Woolf once said Middlemarch is one of the few English books written for grown-ups, so too is this one of the few pieces of science fiction written for the real world, not marketing and academia. Of course, so chock full is this work with critical engagement and unflinching history that the cries of 'polemic' and 'bias' would not be an unlikely reaction. If that doesn't work, 'prosaic' could always be used as a strong condemnation via completely arbitrary standards of institutionalized repute. The work has too high of a rating for those sorts of epithets to have much of an effect, but not all creations inherently concerned with the same material in many of the same ways prove as undeniably excellent in their respective domains. Black History Month as defined by the US Government has its last day tomorrow, and I wonder how much immortality would be required to value the conversation of the survival over the death of 'it's over, it's done, have a cookie to stave off the resolution cause it's never going to come.' The last of this is all white people creation, for after centuries of winning in the absolute worst ways known to humanity and then some, we can't imagine going out in any way other than that which we put upon others. A simpler explanation is that we love our money too much and would rather be run out on a rail than give it to those as reparation for a country's history of eugenicist leeching, but hey. Life's a mess and the reasons for a collective people's amnesia and hoarding of personal trauma at the expense of anyone who doesn't correctly foot the physiognomic bill must involve more than fear of violence and indoctrination via capitalism. In this particular world of Butler's, the name of the game is power and its more subtle kin empathy. Along with the much increased measure of supernatural inclusion that I am suspect to gorging on, I liked this better than Kindred because of the vaster space Butler worked on for her creations. If there's one plus to my current philosophy class beyond my getting a measure of many an auspicious overheard name and finding the majority of them lacking, it's seeing where the body hatred came in, the disregard for existence other than the self, the splintering of mind and soul and truth that results in a class named 'Philosophy' and should really be 'Greek and English and Scottish and German Philosophy of Various Hopscotch Periods in Somewhat that Particular Order'. This is an ideological movement of centuries whose myriad challengers are still fringed around the main, so if you want to write a work that destabilizes a thought process that so smugly thinks of itself as the 'center', you need eons of time and continents of space. Butler is not Anyanwu, but when it comes to the evil wrought by white supremacy in its breeding lines and uselessness makes waste, it's not hard to see that the main factor missing is humanity. Butler is also not Doro, but the prototype of the white serial killer bred on a millenia of alienation and instinctive thrill kill is not hard to construct with the aid of the canon of literature and film and creed. Anyone accusing this work of misandry, please. Accuse each and every vaulted work of misogyny, white supremacism, classism, heteronormativity, etc, etc, ad nauseam when appropriate, and you will actually work towards saving lives and spirits. Misandry? Try reverse racism while you're at it. If someone goes on a genocidal rampage against white men on a hegemonic scale and inculcates long lasting civilizations with the trend, I may start to take you seriously. Will I scare away readers by saying that this work is ultimately a romance? If I do, they were not the right audience for this work anyway.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Stuart

    Wild Seed: Two African immortals battle for supremacy in early America Originally posted at Fantasy Literature Wild Seed (1980) was written last in Octavia Butler’s 5-book PATTERNIST series, but comes first in chronology. The next books by internal chronology are Mind of My Mind (1977), Clay’s Ark (1984), and Patternmaster (1976). Butler was later unsatisfied with Survivor (1978) and elected to not have it reprinted, so I will focus on the main 4 volumes. Wild Seed is an origin story set well befo Wild Seed: Two African immortals battle for supremacy in early America Originally posted at Fantasy Literature Wild Seed (1980) was written last in Octavia Butler’s 5-book PATTERNIST series, but comes first in chronology. The next books by internal chronology are Mind of My Mind (1977), Clay’s Ark (1984), and Patternmaster (1976). Butler was later unsatisfied with Survivor (1978) and elected to not have it reprinted, so I will focus on the main 4 volumes. Wild Seed is an origin story set well before later books and can stand on its own. It’s one of those books whose basic plot could be described in just a few paragraphs, but the themes it explores are deep, challenging, and thought-provoking. I’ve read a lot of academic discussion of the book, but my approach is always on whether the book is engaging as a SFF story. It’s the story of Doro, a being who inhabits and discards human bodies at will, who first arose in the time of the Pharaohs in Egypt. Initially he was a just the sickly youngest child of 12 siblings, but when he was dying he accidentally took over his mother and father’s bodies to survive. After that he spent millennia continually switching bodies and creating seed colonies in West Africa where to attempts to breed people with psychic abilities, creating more and more powerful beings. However, if they ever become a threat to him, he destroys them without hesitation. For reasons unknown even to himself, he takes the greatest pleasure in taking the bodies of such psychic beings. One day Doro detects the presence of Anyanwu, a powerful black female shape-shifter and healer. She can heal her own body and change into the shape of any animal or person, and has lived for over 300 years. Doro knows her genetic abilities could be tremendous if he breeds her with the right partners. Because Doro thinks of humans as merely livestock intended to further his psychic breeding projects. She is a proud creature, but she recognizes that his power is even greater and more lethal, so eventually she agrees to be taken to the New World on a slaver ship, taking the Middle Passage that so many slaves from Africa travelled. But because Doro rules the crew, who are mostly his ‘people’, including his white son Isaac, they don’t make the trip in chains. During the trip Anyanwu, who knows no English or Western customs, is slowly taught the ways of the New World. Upon reaching the New World, Doro mates with Anyanwu but then decides that she should marry his son Isaac, as he thinks this union will produce the most promising offspring. Initially she is unhappy with this situation, but as she learns that Isaac is a decent man and nothing like his ruthless immortal father, she settles into this new life in the town of Wheatley. It turns out that Doro has numerous seed communities, and they revere and fear him as a god-like being who can take their lives at his whim. But he also provides them protection from Indian attacks and sometimes from White racism. Sometimes he takes white bodies, other times black bodies, but his freedom of movement is better with the former. So he comes and goes, checking on each place, mating with the most promising women, and then moving on. The relationship of Doro and Anyanwu is an uneasy one – he knows that she does not love him and resents his ruthless killing and domination of his people. Yet he recognizes her value as a breeder. She is also a strong-willed woman who does not easily submit to him, a situation unthinkable for an all-powerful being like himself. One day fateful events involving Isaac and their daughter Nweke drive her to turn into an animal and run away, since Doro cannot track her in that form. A hundred years later, Doro discovers Anyanwu in a Southern plantation colony, where she has been conducting her own version of a seed village, one lacking the fear of death and oppression of Doro. When he tries to force himself into this community, Anyanwu threatens to kill herself, the only viable threat for Doro. He agrees to back off and be less contemptuous of his seed people, but it is an ambiguous victory. There are so many themes and dichotomies to explore here: master vs slave, man vs woman, white vs black, killer vs healer, Africa vs New World, African tribal networks vs modern Western communities, Colonialism vs Autonomy, Coercion vs Cooperation, etc. The genius about Butler’s books is that they dive into these complicated themes without resorting to convenient moralizing or stereotypes. The book is almost exclusively focused on the relationship of Doro and Anyanwu, but it is a constantly-shifting one. Certainly Doro is a capricious killer and parasite, treating his people like livestock that exist for his convenience only. But once he encounters the strong female presence of Anyanwu, whose powers manifest as a healer and protector of families and communities, he has to reassess his millennia of cruel behavior. And despite Anyanwu finding herself in the slave position initially, she does everything in her power to resist in a peaceful and reasoning way. Their relationship is all about the struggle for control. Whether this plays itself out in gender, skin color, master vs slave, Old vs New World, we are constantly confronted with this dualism. And while Doro could be easily categorized as the dominant male, slaver and killer, he also has a paternalistic attitude towards his peoples. He also has a conflicted connection with race, taking over both black and white bodies, and understanding the New World ways of America but having millennia of experience in Africa and the Old World. Meanwhile, Anyanwu is in many ways like Dana, the protagonist of Butler’s Kindred, a strong woman forced into submission by a cruel and paternalistic master, but still retaining her resilience and strength, fighting to protect her family and children from harm. It is part of the centuries-long struggle that black women have fought against slavery and domination. This is a book that demands repeat readings, analysis, and reflection, but also remains a compulsive reading experience, a tight story focused on the complicated entwined fates of these immortal African beings. I listened to the audiobook narrated by Dion Graham, a gifted voice actor who has appeared in a number of films and dramas including The Wire. He is given a very difficult assignment here, which he pulls off magnificently. He needs to give a strong African identity to his two lead characters, Doro and Anyanwu, and also convey their immortal perspective. But once they reach America, they encounter various settlers and communities, and Doro himself is constantly switching bodies, so I was very impressed that Dion also switched accents accordingly.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Peter Tillman

    A+, her best (per me). Immortal body-shifter vs. shape-changer. Awesome book, based on West African legends and folktales, with a dose of Hollywood flash (she grew up in SoCal). This would be a great graphic novel. Or Marvel comic! There's a long-term exhibit of her papers up at the Huntington. Almost worth braving the horrors of LA traffic. She gave them her stuff: https://www.huntington.org/verso/2018... Great leading photo! Died way too young. RIP. Notes for 2018 reread, in progress: Currently re A+, her best (per me). Immortal body-shifter vs. shape-changer. Awesome book, based on West African legends and folktales, with a dose of Hollywood flash (she grew up in SoCal). This would be a great graphic novel. Or Marvel comic! There's a long-term exhibit of her papers up at the Huntington. Almost worth braving the horrors of LA traffic. She gave them her stuff: https://www.huntington.org/verso/2018... Great leading photo! Died way too young. RIP. Notes for 2018 reread, in progress: Currently rereading this early Butler novel, based on (I think) West African folk tales, but fundamentally a contest between two mighty Superheros, or at least superpowered immortals: Doro the amoral body-swapper vs Anyanwu the immortal shape-changer. This is my favorite of Butler's novels, and is startling in its directness and clarity. I'm looking forward to the rest of the reread of this 1980 novel, which seems as fresh now as it did almost 40 years ago. I didn't finish rereading it (library book came due), but I will, sometime. Third reading, per booklog.

  13. 4 out of 5

    David Katzman

    A unique fantasy novel that centers around supernatural/superhuman characters from Africa. The story begins in the time of slavery, when slaves were captured and brought to America. I found it to be a very unique and refreshing premise, compared to the common tropes of fantasy, be they paranormal or Tolkeinian. The two central characters (and antagonists) were interesting personalities. One seems to represent the Earth Mother--the power of healing and nature and animals. The other seems to repres A unique fantasy novel that centers around supernatural/superhuman characters from Africa. The story begins in the time of slavery, when slaves were captured and brought to America. I found it to be a very unique and refreshing premise, compared to the common tropes of fantasy, be they paranormal or Tolkeinian. The two central characters (and antagonists) were interesting personalities. One seems to represent the Earth Mother--the power of healing and nature and animals. The other seems to represent Patriarchy and masculinity and control. And although they both have great power in many ways, the male force is dominant and relatively unstoppable. Doro, the male, can't be killed, and he can kill anyone at will by taking over his or her body, and then abandoing that body to move into a new one. He essentially takes over their brain and then leaves it empty when he's done. Anyanwu can heal almost any injury, sickness or disease in her own body and can transform it into an animal once she observes that animal closely. She has near total control of her body and can even disguise herself to appear as any human shape she chooses. She also does not age and like Doro may never die unless her body is physically destroyed. Wild Seed is a story of power, of slavery, of social control and of gender issues. It's also a story filled with powerful emotions, the pain of loss and the struggle to develop empathy. It's also a story of compromises, and the choices that are made by those with less power in order to survive. The following spoiler relates to what does NOT happen in the book, not what DOES happen. But if you are looking to avoid any tip-off, then please avoid it. In the hands of a lesser writter, (view spoiler)[Anyanwu would have figured out a clever way to kill Doro. She would have "won" by somehow defeating him with trickery or battle. That's what you'd read in a mainstream fantasy book or movie. The issue is faced more honestly and with complexity here. Patriarchy can't be defeated in battle or with trickery. It's a social force that requires significant social upheaval over long periods of team. We have not won this battle, as exemplified by the throw-back to cro-magnon-times President we have in place today. (hide spoiler)] Wonderfully told with profound and meaningful themes invoked without facile answers. This is great storytelling. Would appeal to anyone looking for an unusual refreshing take on the fantasy genre with socially powerful meaning. ​

  14. 4 out of 5

    Zen Cho

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I really like what I've read by Octavia Butler so far and I wish I could give this at least three stars, but I can't because I hate Doro with a passionate fiery hatred and I wish he would die. I do not care if he is secretly a brain-hopping alien parasite and so thinks differently and that makes it okay for him to do eugenics. (Although, ooh, it will be supercool generations later when his offspring develop the power of flight and stop being crazy about their telepathy and basically become the X I really like what I've read by Octavia Butler so far and I wish I could give this at least three stars, but I can't because I hate Doro with a passionate fiery hatred and I wish he would die. I do not care if he is secretly a brain-hopping alien parasite and so thinks differently and that makes it okay for him to do eugenics. (Although, ooh, it will be supercool generations later when his offspring develop the power of flight and stop being crazy about their telepathy and basically become the X-Men, only incestuous -- but no! I hate Doro! I do not care about his awesome incestuous future X-Men!) Anyanwu is cool. She is like the Animorphs, or Arthur in T. H. White's The Once And Future King. I liked how she could tie her Fallopian tubes using the power of her brain.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Shannon (Giraffe Days)

    My first foray into the unique world of Octavia Butler's imagination does not disappoint. Terrify, yes, and fascinate in an almost grotesque way, but it's oh so worth it. It is also a good example of speculative fiction and what you can do with it. For over three thousand years Doro has wandered the Earth, gathering together those born special, with latent potential or abilities, usually mental, that can endanger themselves or others. Born human, Doro died during his own "transition" as a boy, ye My first foray into the unique world of Octavia Butler's imagination does not disappoint. Terrify, yes, and fascinate in an almost grotesque way, but it's oh so worth it. It is also a good example of speculative fiction and what you can do with it. For over three thousand years Doro has wandered the Earth, gathering together those born special, with latent potential or abilities, usually mental, that can endanger themselves or others. Born human, Doro died during his own "transition" as a boy, yet cannot be killed. He is a kind of spirit, a demon it seems to me, inhabiting one body after another. He kills effortlessly and usually without a care. Because he is not the body he inhabits, he is impossible to kill. And he is lonely. Part of his aim in collecting these people is to create someone who will stay with him, or a community of them. He breeds them, and they worship him like a god. (Imagine the poor misfits of Obernewtyn brought together for such purposes... isn't it horrible?) In 1690 he is in Africa, collecting slaves with special abilities, when he senses the presence of a Wild Seed: a person with great ability who has known too much freedom. He tracks down Anyanwu, a beautiful woman who is immortal and over three hundred years old: she never ages unless she wills it, for she has complete control over her body. She can heal herself of almost anything, and can change her body completely into any animal or bird. Doro sees great potential in her, and by threatening her descendents and promising her long-lived children, gets her to willingly accompany him back to one of his settlements in New York. It does not take her long to understand Doro's nature, and resist where she can. His one demand is obedience, and Anyanwu is not ready to die. His breeding program is almost as scary as Doro himself. Do you remember the character Vincent from Collateral? Cold, calm, ruthless, determined, single-minded, manipulative, implacable, threatening. That's Doro, except he's worse. He's been "alive" so long his humanity is almost entirely gone. He reminds me of what commonly terrifies us most: the idea of "never". The universe never ends. This computer I am using will never biodegrade, but will always be here, in one way or another (this is my big fear, scarier than the certainty of death to me). Humans will never stop fighting, will never agree. Doro can never be killed, can never be stopped, can never be diverted from his purpose. And because of this, he "uses" people, thinking of them only in terms of the children they can produce if mated together, even incestuously, and when they have outlived their "usefulness", he takes their body, maybe even gets more children from them while inhabiting it. Sometimes the special abilities drive a person mad, but all Doro cares about, really, is what potentially great children he can get from them. Still, "his people" are well cared for, the slaves are free, and he protects them all - mostly because he is so possessive and considers them his property far more absolutely than the slave owners, for example. You can look at Doro and Anyanwu another way: he is manufacturing, unnatural, forceful, going against nature, while Anyanwu is highly attuned to the natural world, creating medicine and food from natural products (plants etc.), and living as a bird, as a dolphin. She can change her body so completely that she can become an old white man, and father children. Perhaps this seems unnatural, but if you think about it, she possesses all of what nature is capable of, whereas Doro can really only bring an end to life, even as he seeks to create the ultimate companion. Creation and Destruction - it's a bit black-and-white, a bit obvious, but the comparison is there to be made. Considering how long this book has been out, it has way too many typos and other errors. At times words are doubled-up, or whole sentences and paragraphs repeated, which gets confusing. The prose, though, is deft and mostly descriptive, allowing the story to tell itself. However, especially in regards to the main characters, I often felt distant, like I was not given a decent chance to understand them. I'm not sure how well you could understand them, but I guess I was surprised at how little Anyanwu changed over the centuries, while Doro's 2nd transition, if it could be called that, happens a little too suddenly. And I never really, truly understood why Doro was doing all this. Mostly I felt thrown off track by a thought Doro has that implies he is building a kind of army of genetically-manipulated super-people, who will be no match for the weaker, ordinary humans. But this was never followed through, so maybe I read too much into it.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Tiara

    4.5 stars. How do I even begin to review this? I'm going to have to think on this for a few days. If you have Kindle Unlimited, do yourself a favor and read/listen to this book. If you don't, just buy it. Doro, a man who steals the bodies of others and uses the until he must find another or he feels he deserves the body of another person, finds Anyanwu in the African forests living alone on the fringes of a village as a old medicine woman. While searching for one of his lost groups of people, pe 4.5 stars. How do I even begin to review this? I'm going to have to think on this for a few days. If you have Kindle Unlimited, do yourself a favor and read/listen to this book. If you don't, just buy it. Doro, a man who steals the bodies of others and uses the until he must find another or he feels he deserves the body of another person, finds Anyanwu in the African forests living alone on the fringes of a village as a old medicine woman. While searching for one of his lost groups of people, people who were likely taken and sold into slavery, Anyanwu’s power pulls him toward her. This aged woman reveals herself to be a young healer with strength that could crush a grown man who has roamed the world for over 300 years, but her lifetime is still a drop in time compared to his own lifespan. Anyanwu agrees to leave the safety of her home to help Doro forge a bloodline of children who have special abilities and share their immortality in a world where loneliness and boredom are the enemies of people like them. While her agreement is made in order to save her own bloodline from him, part of her wonders if there could truly be a time when she would no longer have to watch her children die. This book follows Doro and Anyanwu from Africa during the early years of the American slave trades to the end of slavery as love, fight, hate, and dream about everything from the ethical issues of true workings of Doro’s breeding plan to their feelings about each other. It’s hard to pin this book down to just one thing. It’s science-fiction mixed with historical fantasy add a little romance and a generous helping of social issues (racism, gender issues, ethical issues). Even describing it like that, I don’t think I’ve capture the essence of this book. This books takes so many conventional ideas and presents them in such an unconventional way as Butler uses words to weave this tale that can really take her readers on an emotional roller coaster. I love a good light, quick, fun speculative read, but there’s nothing like speculative fiction that uses the medium to really transcend expectations of the genre. Butler managed that this with book. Dion Graham was such a powerful, amazing narrator choice for this book. The emotion and voices that he used for the characters captured me as much as the words did themselves. Butler’s characters were already so powerful. I love characters that can really shake me to my core. There was nothing simple about any of them. Even the ones you hated had this part of them that you still recognized as human, and Butler was able to convey so much of their humanity in less words than many author’s use to get you to care about characters in books twice this size. These characters combined with Graham’s narration was fantastic. I’m hoping that he’ll be narrating the other books in this series. Despite all the ugliness in this book, it was counteracted with so much beauty. I had one minor complaint with a transition later in the book. It seemed a little hurried as Butler tried to wrap up the story, but I did like what it transitioned into.This was my first read by Octavia Butler, and it took me so long to read her because others had told me she could be a heavy read. And while I expected something amazing, something that would probably affect me on a profound level given how many people I know read her books and praise how she touched on issues, I hadn’t expected the incongruous beauty that waited for me or the feelings and thoughts that was this book.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Lois

    Anyanwu remains my most beloved literary character ever.I CAN NOT wait until this becomes a TV show🥰

  18. 4 out of 5

    Stephen

    I’m not sure what Butler intended readers take away from this novel but I found it demeaning toward women and largely abhorrent. The story focuses on two “people.” Doro is an evil shade thousands of years old who survives by jumping from body to body, killing the host, and absorbing the new body’s energy to survive until jumping to the next host at few week intervals. He has thus killed some hundred thousand people when this book begins. His entertainment over the millennia is rounding up people w I’m not sure what Butler intended readers take away from this novel but I found it demeaning toward women and largely abhorrent. The story focuses on two “people.” Doro is an evil shade thousands of years old who survives by jumping from body to body, killing the host, and absorbing the new body’s energy to survive until jumping to the next host at few week intervals. He has thus killed some hundred thousand people when this book begins. His entertainment over the millennia is rounding up people with special abilities—mind reading, healing, telekinesis—and breeding them like animals—stranger to stranger, father to daughter, mother to son, sons to daughters—in Joseph Mengele fashion to create offspring with enhanced abilities to no real purpose other than his amusement, and as food. The more powerful the offspring, the more satisfying when he takes their bodies. None with power enough to challenge Doro are allowed to live. He has no empathy. He rules by fear and the seductiveness of the devil. Anyanwu is also immortal. Born with the ability to manipulate every cell in her body, she has for hundreds of years been a wife, mother and healer to those around her. Doro finds her and desires to breed her as “wild seed” in his breeding colonies. And my problems and disgust with this novel begin. Anyanwu initially welcomes Doro to her bed and follows him hoping to protect her extended family from also becoming breeding stock. When it becomes apparent that nothing will stop Doro, she becomes his willingness accomplice and enabler, giving birth to many children by the various incarnations of Doro himself as well as allowing herself to be prostituted to men of Doro’s choosing to beget their children, even after she is married to Doro’s son, who himself is prostituted to many women to impregnate them. All in furtherance of Doro’s breeding experiments. Like a woman with battered wife syndrome, Ananyu knowingly and willing participates as Doro’s destroys the lives of those around her, taking even some of her own children as hosts. Late in the book Anyanwu escapes and founds her own colony bringing together people of extraordinary abilities like those sought by Doro, but with the purpose of healing their souls to lead normal lives after being ostracized from society, hunted or tortured. Doro of course eventually finds her and her community. And she takes him back like a lover, abetting him to again destroy everything she’s built. Butler seeks to paint Anyanwu as a Florence Nightengale figure who comforts the damaged in the face of unspeakable horrors. But she is decidedly not. She enables much of the horror by actively supporting Doro’s experiments, excusing her actions as necessary to enable her to heal some of the victims. She is the accomplice who puts a bandage on your arm before allowing the serial killer to eat you. Actions she could have taken instead: 1) Leave and never again contribute her “seed” to Doro’s experiments; 2) Marshal those outside of Doro’s colonies to act against him; 3) Kill him; 4) Imprison him where he can’t hurt anyone again. Which brings me to the gaping plot holes in this novel. 1) With Doro’s ability, he could amass a fortune, and through fear and his apparent seductiveness create armies, conquer nations, and pretty much do anything he wants. And all he wants to do is piddle around with small scale animal husbandry that for a millennia has failed to produce any material results? Not very ambitious for a demon as sadistic as Doro. 2) What is the purpose of his experimentation? NO ONE EVER ASKS! It’s THE most obvious question and NO ONE EVER ASKS! 3) For Doro to pass from one body to the next the story suggests he must be either touching or in very close proximity to the victim. If true, there are countless means one might capture or kill him (drug him, sink his ship at sea, blow his head off when few people are around to jump to, bury him in a hole, a cell, or the ocean where he can’t connect to anyone ever again). No one in the roughly 200 years covered in the novel even tries to counter him. They all just roll over. Finally, I believe Butler intended Wild Seed to be read as a kind of love story between two entities destined to always feel alone because they can’t die. Butler writes several times that they need each other. I call bullshit on this notion. Anyanwu is never alone. She is a mother figure, always connecting to others and birthing descendants. Over and over she speaks of loving those she surrounds herself with through the generations, and of the joy of seeing them grow and develop….And then shacks up repeatedly with the Mengele serial killer showing that she also revels in victimhood, misery and death. This is the first book I’ve read where I cringed all the way through. It has no redeeming quality. The content far overshadows for me Butler’s writing which has won many awards. Given the book's better than four star rating on GR others clearly read this book differently. I’ll not be continuing this series nor Do I recommend this book to anyone.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sumant

    This review is going to be hard, because Octavia Butler has a big reputation in the sci-fi world, and given that fact I had started this book in the series. But unfortunately this book was a huge disappointment, also I don't get as to how can I call this book sci-fi because although there were many people in this book with X-Men like abilities, but without a coherent story I just did not get the point of throwing them together. The book has basically has two main characters with some side charact This review is going to be hard, because Octavia Butler has a big reputation in the sci-fi world, and given that fact I had started this book in the series. But unfortunately this book was a huge disappointment, also I don't get as to how can I call this book sci-fi because although there were many people in this book with X-Men like abilities, but without a coherent story I just did not get the point of throwing them together. The book has basically has two main characters with some side characters thrown together with them, but I did not get the motivation of the lead characters as to why they were doing the things they were doing. One character keeps on making blunders one after another and other deals with its consequences, and the same pattern is repeated throughout the book, and add with it tons of mind numbing dialogue. Also there were some time jumps in the book which I clearly failed to get. The biggest drawback for me is the story which just seems a concoction without having any structure to it, and events just keeping without any connection to one another. I give this book 2/5 stars.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Rona Fernandez

    This is one of my favorite books ever, for its superb blending of atmosphere/landscape, characterization, politics, history, race/gender/sexuality, politics, and plot. Ms. Butler (may she rest in peace) created some of the most memorable characters in my mind in Doro and, of course, Anyanwu/Emma. I could read this book over and over. Just doing a text analysis of the opening 7 paragraphs is such an education to an aspiring novelist like me. Didn't like 'Mind of My Mind' as much, but wonder if an This is one of my favorite books ever, for its superb blending of atmosphere/landscape, characterization, politics, history, race/gender/sexuality, politics, and plot. Ms. Butler (may she rest in peace) created some of the most memorable characters in my mind in Doro and, of course, Anyanwu/Emma. I could read this book over and over. Just doing a text analysis of the opening 7 paragraphs is such an education to an aspiring novelist like me. Didn't like 'Mind of My Mind' as much, but wonder if any of the Patternist series books are as good as 'Wild Seed'.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Dawn C

    When you sob to an Octavia E. Butler story you know it was good.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Charlotte

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. "You are all I have, perhaps all I would ever have." She shook her head slowly. "And you are an obscenity." So What's It About? Wild Seed tells the story of Anyanwu, an Igbo woman who has lived for hundreds of years through her regenerative powers and her ability to shapeshift into any living form. She catches the attention of Doro, another shapeshifter who is thousands of years old in comparison to her hundreds, and who survives by killing and inhabiting the bodies of those he kills. Doro is obse "You are all I have, perhaps all I would ever have." She shook her head slowly. "And you are an obscenity." So What's It About? Wild Seed tells the story of Anyanwu, an Igbo woman who has lived for hundreds of years through her regenerative powers and her ability to shapeshift into any living form. She catches the attention of Doro, another shapeshifter who is thousands of years old in comparison to her hundreds, and who survives by killing and inhabiting the bodies of those he kills. Doro is obsessed with a breeding project intended to create more humans with abilities like his, and he coerces Anyanwu - who he views as "wild seed" that is perfect for breeding in his program- into joining one of his American colonies by threatening her beloved descendants. This begins a centuries-long power struggle between the two. What Did I Think? Octavia Butler's books are spare, deliberate and relentless, and Wild Seed is no exception to this. It engages with questions of exploitation, control, and autonomy with fierce clarity. On one level, the central conflict between Anyanwu and Doro can be seen as a feminist struggle between Butler's interpretations of patriarchal and matriarchal power and society-building: Doro dehumanizes the occupants of his seed villages and thinks nothing of killing them or destroying their lives. When their powers cause them endless agony he views it as an inconvenience, worrying only about the pursuit of his own goals.  Anyanwu builds flourishing communities based on compassion and the fundamental value of all human lives. It is a matter of control opposed to cooperation; destruction opposed to nurturance. Written in a time where complex and autonomous black heroines were almost a non-entity in speculative fiction, Wild Seed celebrates Anyanwu's resilience and struggle for agency, as well as her warmth, capacity for love and strong sense of morality. In addition, she gradually becomes comfortable enough to explore her ability to change genders/reproductive organs and cherish both male and female lovers. It is also a thoroughly Afrocentric novel where Anyanwu struggles to retain her Igbo values in the American colonies, and where immense emphasis is put upon her kinship networks.  Anyanwu's coerced journey from her African home to the New World can be viewed as a kind of slave narrative, where her ability to reproduce is exploited for Doro's gain and she fights back and struggles with her own agency. There is also the matter of the secret plantation haven she creates to hide from Doro in the depths of the antebellum South:   'She owned no slaves. She had brought some of the people who worked for her and recruited the others among freedmen, but those she bought, she freed. They always stayed to work for her, feeling more comfortable with her and each other than they had ever been elsewhere. That always surprised the new ones. They were not used to being comfortable with other people. They were misfits, malcontents, troublemakers- though they did not make trouble for Anyanwu. They treated her as mother, older sister, teacher, and when she invited it, lover. Somehow, even this this last intimacy did nothing to diminish her authority. They knew her power. She was who she was, no matter what role she chose." Doro's side of the story, with his relentless, ruthless  drive to create a new type of human like himself, has a great deal to say about eugenics. Specifically, his cruelty demonstrates Butler's concerns about the dehumanization, devaluation of human life and abuse of power that she could not see becoming disentangled from enugenics and its goals. Doro's creation and control of "seed villages" can also be understood as a colonial project, with him as the embodiment of a colonizer in his exploitation and violence. As the book takes place in America from 1641 to 1841, there is also a great deal of commentary upon the nature of slavery. Doro works with European slavers in Africa to select and buy promising "stock" for his seed villages, and he maintains absolute control over the lives of his people, breeding them to perpetuate his own cruel goals and deciding how they live and when they live and die. The matter of his relationship with Anyanwu is at its heart one of control: he seeks to dominate her through coercion, isolation and the use of her family and community as leverage: "Doro followed, thinking that he had better get her with a new child as quickly as he could. Her independence would vanish without a struggle. She would do whatever he asked then to keep her child safe...once she was isolated in America with an infant to care for, she would learn submissiveness." Despite all of this, there remains a strange kind of connection and sense of kinship between them because of their shared status as immortal shapeshifters. It is with this in mind that we come to the ending. I don't know quite what to think of the ending, to be honest. I think it can be interpreted two ways. The first is this: Anyanwu continues to fight against Doro's power and leads her own prosperous community, and Doro begins to respect her autonomy a bit more. He "continue[s]"  to do loathsome things" but "no longer [does] them to her," and this is as good as love for him. She is driven to the point of suicide by continual losses but changes her mind and decides that there is hope when Doro finally admits that he needs her. They come to a strange kind of compromise. The second interpretation is this: Anyanwu has struggled for centuries against Doro's abuse, and finally loses the will to fight as she has fought before, concluding that suicide is her only escape. Doro inflicts his manipulation upon her again, and she concedes to his desire that she live: "She had submitted and submitted and submitted to keep him from killing her even though she had long ago ceased to believe what Isaac had told her - that her longevity made her the right mate for Doro...she had formed the habit of submission...habits were difficult to break." Even if we accept the more optimistic possibility, it is still a deeply precarious resolution. Doro is not redeemed, and the changes that he has made in concession to Anyanwu at the end are not extensive: fundamentally, she "uncomfortably" settles into a life of protecting her community from Doro while maintaining a romantic relationship with him. I struggle with ambiguity in my book endings - it's difficult for me to sit with a lack of resolution. But why would I ever expect simplicity or an easy way out from Octavia Butler?

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kristenelle

    Woot! This took us forever, haha! As I mentioned before, hubby and I have been listening to the Audible version of this book in the car since long before the pandemic started. So it is a little difficult for me to look back on the whole book and speak about it cohesively. We have been listening to this series in the order that they were published. I would actually recommend chronological order, but my husband disagrees with me on that. Anyways, this one is chronologically the first one and it gi Woot! This took us forever, haha! As I mentioned before, hubby and I have been listening to the Audible version of this book in the car since long before the pandemic started. So it is a little difficult for me to look back on the whole book and speak about it cohesively. We have been listening to this series in the order that they were published. I would actually recommend chronological order, but my husband disagrees with me on that. Anyways, this one is chronologically the first one and it gives a lot of background for the rest of the series. I love Octavia Butler. As per usual she is tackling themes of slavery, empathy, and the complex relationships between oppressor and oppressed. I love how she shows that you can feel confusion and even love for an oppressor. Also as usual, you are left asking questions and trying to figure out what you would do if you were in the story. It isn't obvious. It is confusing and impossible. There are great characters, challenging situations, creative world building. Read it! Plus, it is being developed for a TV series with Nnedi Okorafor writing if I remember correctly! I almost forgot, I'm going to start including trigger warnings for books in my reviews, particularly for sexual violence as I'm helping to create a list of SFF books free from sexual violence. So.... Trigger warning: rape, sexual assault of a minor, forced breeding, slavery, etc.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Marvin

    Octavia E. Butler's women are incredibly strong characters. One of her themes is that people are either masters or slaves but occasionally there is a person who refuses to be either and that person becomes persecuted for their refusal to be labeled. The main protagonist of Wild Seed is one of those persons. She is a mutant who has lived 300 years, both feared and respected in her African tribe yet always living on the outside for her protection. She meets another non-human that is much older and Octavia E. Butler's women are incredibly strong characters. One of her themes is that people are either masters or slaves but occasionally there is a person who refuses to be either and that person becomes persecuted for their refusal to be labeled. The main protagonist of Wild Seed is one of those persons. She is a mutant who has lived 300 years, both feared and respected in her African tribe yet always living on the outside for her protection. She meets another non-human that is much older and powerful. He wishes to hold her captive, breeding her for his own family. But he had never met anyone as independent as her. The novel moves from Africa to colonial New York as the power struggle between them intensifies. It is a very original story by one of the most original science fiction writers.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Gabi

    Nearly forgot to rate the first book in the series. I read it after book 4 and 2, so it worked as a great prequel to the final social system that developed on earth in book 4, and it had the advantage that I didn't have to waste killing-thoughts about one of the protagonists, since I already learned their fate. In this book we follow the several thousand year old Doro on his quest to breed a new human race. His determination and his complete dismissal of humans as individuals with their own right Nearly forgot to rate the first book in the series. I read it after book 4 and 2, so it worked as a great prequel to the final social system that developed on earth in book 4, and it had the advantage that I didn't have to waste killing-thoughts about one of the protagonists, since I already learned their fate. In this book we follow the several thousand year old Doro on his quest to breed a new human race. His determination and his complete dismissal of humans as individuals with their own rights makes him to one of my most detested characters ever. He is the perfect slave master who encounters for the first time his equal. Anyanwu refuses to bow to his power. Their opposition is the driving force of the story and it is quite fascinating to witness their attraction and repulsion as they realise they can not live together, yet they can not live apart.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Silvana

    Octavia Butler enchanted me again with this hundreds of years tale of a shapeshifter and a bodysnatcher. At first I thought this was SF, but then it became fantasy. Not that I mind since it was so engrossing. Strong characters and stories that invoked emotions, from wonder, sadness, anger, frustration and a little bit of hope. Same formula with her Parable novels, this one also has a great, tenacious female main character, who still had lots of love to share despite living in a cruel world with Octavia Butler enchanted me again with this hundreds of years tale of a shapeshifter and a bodysnatcher. At first I thought this was SF, but then it became fantasy. Not that I mind since it was so engrossing. Strong characters and stories that invoked emotions, from wonder, sadness, anger, frustration and a little bit of hope. Same formula with her Parable novels, this one also has a great, tenacious female main character, who still had lots of love to share despite living in a cruel world with horrible men.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Nicky

    This book wasn't as good a match for my mood as N.K. Jemisin's The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, but it didn't suffer for being read immediately after it. It's an interesting concept: a being that might as well be a god, moving from body to body, amoral and utterly self-serving, trying to breed others like him so he won't be alone, and a being who is also immortal, or close to it, nurturing families so she won't be alone. The two of them are entirely different: Anwanyu loves the people she finds an This book wasn't as good a match for my mood as N.K. Jemisin's The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, but it didn't suffer for being read immediately after it. It's an interesting concept: a being that might as well be a god, moving from body to body, amoral and utterly self-serving, trying to breed others like him so he won't be alone, and a being who is also immortal, or close to it, nurturing families so she won't be alone. The two of them are entirely different: Anwanyu loves the people she finds and treats them well, no matter what, and she has children and cares for them not as means to an end, but as ends in themselves. Doro is merciless, regarding people only as long as they serve his purpose. We're clearly meant to sympathise with Anwanyu, as she's the closest to what we can understand, but Doro has his moments too, at least for me. His loneliness is something I can understand. The different abilities, and the difficulty in producing them, in people surviving them, and how many ways they can go wrong, rings true to me. It's discomforting to read about people being bred like cattle, without real dignity, but sometimes you kind of share in Doro's frustration that it isn't turning out the way it should. Because of the immortal nature of the two characters, they're the only ones that exist throughout the novel, but there are one or two others worth sympathising with, mostly (for me) Isaac and Thomas, despite how short-lived Thomas is. The style of the writing is deceptively simple, but there's a lot to think about. It isn't mindless brain candy, despite being easy to read. The most unsatisfying thing about it is the ending. I'm aware this is the first book in its timeline, not the only book, but the end is an uncomfortable compromise that leaves Anwanyu still not quite doing what she feels is right, which is a disappointment.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    I haven't figured out what to say about the book so I'll just say that the audio was well done. He had to account for Doro changing bodies and characters that were going up and down the age spectrum. He also had to do a number of accents since the book went from Nigeria to New Amsterdam to New York to New Orleans. I haven't figured out what to say about the book so I'll just say that the audio was well done. He had to account for Doro changing bodies and characters that were going up and down the age spectrum. He also had to do a number of accents since the book went from Nigeria to New Amsterdam to New York to New Orleans.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Bre (Loc'd Booktician)

    Ya know just wow!!! I am still frustrated and this story will stick with me forever

  30. 4 out of 5

    David

    If you've ever wondered what the X-Men written by Octavia Butler would look like, this is that book. There are no epic super-powered battles, of course, and the word "mutant" (nor any other four-colored neologism for superbeings) is never used. But Wild Seed is basically about two people born with superhuman powers (including immortality) being born centuries ago, discovering each other, and then trying to guide other "gifted" beings (most of them being their descendants) along very different pat If you've ever wondered what the X-Men written by Octavia Butler would look like, this is that book. There are no epic super-powered battles, of course, and the word "mutant" (nor any other four-colored neologism for superbeings) is never used. But Wild Seed is basically about two people born with superhuman powers (including immortality) being born centuries ago, discovering each other, and then trying to guide other "gifted" beings (most of them being their descendants) along very different paths, down through the generations. Which sounds an awful lot like the plot of a lot of X-Men stories, doesn't it? Butler's "Mr. Sinister" is Doro, a being born thousands of years ago, to the ancient Nubians. He has the power of body transference; whenever his host body dies (or when he wills it), he can move his consciousness to a new body, killing the former owner in the process. This makes him immortal and practically unkillable - his current body can be killed, but he'll just take over the killer's body. He started his own breeding program centuries ago, and now he has "colonies" of minions and descendants all over the world. Anyanwu is a shapeshifter. She can transform her own body, including healing it of wounds and diseases, and she can turn into anything she's seen (or tasted). This makes her immortal as well, but she's been living a more or less sedate existence in her African village amongst her descendants. When Doro discovers her, he decides they'd make lovely children together. Unfortunately, Doro is a narcissistic psychopath who views everyone, including his own children, as tools to be used or discarded when dangerous or no longer useful. So while Anyanwu is initially thrilled, fearful, and then resigned about being taken by Doro, their relationship will turn into a centuries-long battle of wills in which Doro seeks to dominate her and Anyanwu continually finds ways to survive and resist him even when submitting. Octavia Butler's prose is so smooth and straightforward, packing a ton of plot, characterization, and emotion into every sentence without a lot of flowery language. Wild Seed skillfully weaves racism into the narrative (Doro and Anyanwu both being immortal superbeings who also happen to be African, winding up in 19th century America) without making it a soapbox about racism, as so many modern novels do with their much more clumsy allegories. (Arguably, one could also say this about the X-Men.) That said, the book wasn't quite perfect. I found Anyanwu a little frustrating. She is a healer and that is her role throughout the book, including her desire to "heal" Doro. There seems to be a bit of the old "I can make the sexy Bad Boy good with the power of my love" trope here. Butler does it with far more nuance and plausibility than in a YA novel, and I actually like the fact that someone who's proven himself to be as despicable and borderline-sociopathic as Doro, for millenia, actually has somewhat-reasonable justifications for his actions (albeit it's the vampire justification - "it's what I am and if I don't do it I die") and a hope of redemption. But I still found Anyanwu going back to him annoying, maybe because I am used to X-Men comics where the underdog would figure out a way to beat the more powerful villain with her powers instead of submitting and reforming him. Though in fairness, that's been the plot of a few Magneto storylines, hasn't it? Anyway, this was a good book, and it's the first in a series, so I am curious to see where Doro and Anyanwu go from here.

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