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Wild Seed by Octavia E. Butler

Wild Seed (1980)

by Octavia E. Butler

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,432405,255 (4.13)72
  1. 20
    Clay's Ark by Octavia E. Butler (aaronius)
    aaronius: If you liked Wild Seed but don't necessary want to jump into other novels in the series, this is a short but great alternative by the same author with equally interesting characters and themes.
  2. 21
    More Than Human by Theodore Sturgeon (thesmellofbooks)
  3. 00
    The Silent City by Élisabeth Vonarburg (Sarasamsara)
    Sarasamsara: Wild Seed takes place in the past while The Silent City explores a post-apocalyptic future. Thematically, however, they are eerily similar. Vonarburg and Butler share similar sensibilities.
  4. 00
    Bones Become Flowers by Jess Mowry (thesmellofbooks)

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Showing 1-5 of 39 (next | show all)
Anyanwu and Doro are two immortal beings. Doro is more of a spirit than a man. He lives through millennial by possessing other’s bodies, killing the original owners in the process. Anyanwu is a shape shifter who can constantly rejuvenate her body so that she stays young forever. Doro kills, Anyanwu heals. They are as opposite as they can be, and yet each is the only immortal the other knows. Wild Seed begins with the two coming into contact for the first time, when Doro happens upon the African village where Anyanwu’s living in the late 1600s and shows the relationship between them up until the late 1800s.

Wild Seed is easy to read, but there’s a lot going on underneath the surface. There’s so many different topics at play here – race, slavery, gender, sexuality. Basically, if it’s a topic relating to power structures, Wild Seed deals with it. It doesn’t deal much with LGBTQ themes, but I’m still listing it under the tag since Anyanwu has a wife at one point (happens between chapters) and could probably be considered bisexual.

Wild Seed deals with the difficulties of being immortal and the inherent loneliness of watching everyone you know die. This is the focal point of the relationship between Anyanwu and Doro. Anyanwu may not be able to condone what Doro does, but he’s the only person who will remain constant as the families she builds for herself die around her.

I hate Doro, but I think you’re supposed to hate him. He’s spent his extraordinary long life on a eugenics project, creating a race of people with special powers. He’s controlling and manipulative and thinks nothing of killing others. He wants people to be under his control, to respect and obey him in all things. But Anyanwu cannot respect him, and she does not always obey him. She’s wild seed – a talented person born outside his breeding programs.

I’m really not sure what to think about the relationship between Anyanwu and Doro. I really hope the ending wasn’t supposed to be an instance of the woman “changing” her man with her feminine influences, but I’m not sure. Anyanwu was also so passive. I really wanted to see her stand up to Doro and to oppose the things he did that she hated. But it feels more like she accepts powerlessness.

A large part of why I have these feelings is that I don’t think Wild Seed had a real conclusion. The book just sort of ends. There problems with Doro’s actions haven’t been dealt with. Maybe it’s because this is a first book in a series? I’d want to keep reading to find out what happens to Anyanwu, but I’ve heard she’s not the protagonist of the next one.

Do I recommend Wild Seed? Definitely. I can see why it’s considered a science fiction classic, one that I think I’d need to reread to appreciate more fully.

Originally posted on The Illustrated Page. ( )
  pwaites | Oct 12, 2015 |

A curious book about power and abuse of power. I think.

( )
  StigE | Sep 15, 2015 |
The first chronological story within the "Patternist Series," Octavia Butler's "Wild Seed" is one of the best science fiction novels within the past 30 years.

It is an excellent read that explores two immortals: Doro, a "male" who has the power to steal bodies, and Anyanwu, a "female" shapeshifter with the power to assume any form she so pleases. After Doro convinces Anyanwu to leave her home continent Africa, they embark on a journey to the North American continent. The former seeks to find the "perfect" seed (an allegory on eugenics) while the latter wants children who cannot die (as she outlasts her offspring). Neither of the two can die by conventional means, thus making them uniquely tormented beings in their own right.

Octavia Butler, as usual, explores social hierarchies such as race and gender through a science fiction lens. Doro is the embodiment of masculinity: powerful, controlling, abusive, and charming. Anywanu is the embodiment of femininity: strong, maternal, and empathetic. She also explores world building through slavery, as Doro seeks to create the "perfect breed" of mutated humans with paranormal abilities (not unlike X-Men in Marvel comics fame). However, he attempts to create the "perfect" being through manipulating, abusing, and murdering his offspring. He also lashes out against Anywanu, who tries to endure and escape his abuse on multiple occasions throughout the book.

Ultimately, the ending will probably not leave the reader satisfied, but the story is not meant to do such a thing. There is no resolution that sees "good triumph over evil" so often that we see in popular fiction. Instead, it is a harrowing tale of what happens when people (human or superhuman) are enslaved, either as chattel or through personal relationships (particularly abusive ones). "Wild Seed" Definitely a must read if you're familiar with the Patternist Series or Octavia Butler's other work in general. ( )
  DavidAPino | Jul 24, 2015 |
Excellent if challenging read. I found the prose slightly stilted initially, but as I soon got sucked in, although the book felt a lot like backstory / history - a recounting rather than a storytelling. I'll be intrigued to try other books by Butler and see if the style differs.

The book explores the fiery relationship between two immortals, one with the ability to 'steal' bodies, the other a shapeshifter, both hoping to find others 'like them' to share more than a few years with. Butler throws gender, race and sexual orientation in the air, because her 2 leads can both be anything they choose. There's lots to like: people of colour, fluid gender and a strong central female character.

But the central theme is control. Doro's attitude is proprietary; he engages in eugenics and he doesn't hesitate to kill those who he no longer considers useful to his gene pool. Independent Anyanwu correctly accuses him of being no better than a slaver; he doesn't value human life or recognise that his people have any rights. His own desires are the only thing that matter.

Because Anyanwu identifies as female (although she can and does take male shape and even fathers children) and Doro generally appears male, this makes much of the tale read as a study of a strong, stubborn woman fighting to retain her identity and principles in the face of an oppressive man who holds all the cards - he can kill instantly without even a touch, and has no qualms about threatening her children to force her to his will.

Technically, then, this is a book about abuse (and reads equally as a portrayal of slavery/emancipation and domestic abuse). Anyanwu's ferocity and independence obscures it to a degree: she refuses to be a victim, and her submission to Doro feels like a temporary accommodation, but I found it difficult to overlook, and it frequently made for an uncomfortable read as well as making me quite ambivalent about the ending.

There are other issues, not least the treatment of the disabled (arguably period appropriate in the broader strokes, but the conflation of mental powers / mental instability / (attempted) rape also bothered me), but overall this was a good challenging read and I do want to explore the Patternist books further. ( )
  imyril | Jan 31, 2015 |
A better-than-average premise that's not well realized at all. The author's sense of pacing is quite bad (it's too slow), she has a tendency to redundancy, and there's essentially no resolution. I started skipping ahead at page 60. The basic idea: Two immortals battle with each other (mostly psychologically) over the centuries. Goodness, what a better writer could have done with this premise! ( )
  Carnophile | Aug 18, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Octavia E. Butlerprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Barlowe, WayneCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Flynn, DannyCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Palencar, John JudeCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0446606723, Mass Market Paperback)

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 has also died many times. She can absorb bullets and make medicine with a kiss, give birth to tribes, nurture and heal, and savage anyone who threatens those she loves. She fears no one--until she meets Doro. From African jungles to the colonies of America, Doro and Anyanwu weave together a pattern of destiny that not even immortals can imagine.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:55 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

An entity who changes bodies like clothes, killing his hosts by reflex, Doro fears no one until he meets Anyanwu, who can absorb bullets and make medicine with a kiss, give birth to tribes, and savage anyone who threatens those she loves.

» see all 4 descriptions

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