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Wild Seed by Octavia E. Butler
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Wild Seed (1980)

by Octavia E. Butler

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1,487414,997 (4.13)73
  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 40 (next | show all)
This book is one of the best stumbled upon moments in years. I was reading a book review by Orson Scott Card and he was waxing lyrical about Octavia Butler in general and this book in particular. Wild Seed is science fantasy as opposed to science fiction as a lot of the fantastical elements are scientifically improbable, though biology plays an important part in the story also. The story is about two immortals, a man and a woman; while they are both immortals the nature of their immortality is very different. The man jumps from body to body, evicting and killing off the body's original owner by the act of possession, the woman has the ability to control and manipulate every molecule of her body and is able to shape shift and heal herself at will. They are essentially mutants with “psi” powers, and much of the story concerns their lifelong project of raising and protecting psi powered other mutants.

There is a lot of subtext in this novel. The theme of slavery and freedom is prevalent in this book, and there are some thoughtful rumination about morality, racism and the human condition. The prose style is similar to the aforementioned Orson Scott Card in clarity; the difference is that Octavia Butler's prose is more lyrical and evocative. Anne McCaffrey would probably be a closer comparison.

Her character development skills verges on the magical. It seems like she can create believable characters in just a few sentences, almost as soon as she names them. The villain of the piece Doro is a terrible monstrous tyrant, yet like real people he has other facets, a caring side, and a tragic back story. Given his back story, his loneliness and callousness is understandable, even if the latter is not justified. The female protagonist with the lovely name of Anyanwu has an almost equally tragic back story but she has a strong moral center and is the foundation of the story.

When I see people write "this is a beautiful book" in reviews I tend to roll my eyes, dismissing such statements as people being overly impressed by some purple prose nonsense. But you know what? This is a beautiful book. ( )
  apatt | Dec 26, 2015 |
‘Wild Seed’ is the first book in the famous ‘Patternist’ series (though it was not written first). It is also the first book by Butler that I’ve read but will definitely not be the last: this was a book that kept me reading far too late into the night because I just could not put it down.

The book starts off in 1690, in Africa, and ends in 1840s in the United States. It follows the immortal man/spirit Doro – born in Africa in the days of ancient Egypt, and Anyanwu, an African woman with astonishing powers that set her apart from everyone around her. She can heal, she can shapeshift, and when she first meets Doro, she has already been alive for over 300 years.

Doro brings Anyanwu to America, and she becomes part of his “people”: an extensive group of individuals who are ruled by, and selectively bred by Doro to enhance their various special abilities.

With that as its starting point, ‘Wild Seed’ becomes a haunting, rich, and compelling story of Anyanwu’s struggle to survive in the new world under Doro’s rule, exploring themes like good and evil, slavery and oppression, race and eugenics, family and friendship, love and the essence of life itself: what makes life worth living? what is a good life? what is worth living for? what is worth dying for?

Butler’s cast of characters add to the richness of the book: they are all complex and conflicted, and even characters that pass by only briefly in the story are so well-written that they stay with you afterwards. And Anyanwu is one of the most interesting and likable literary characters I’ve encountered. She is a good, but flawed, person, fighting tooth and nail to stay true to herself and her own convictions, and to keep her freedom and self-determination – even under excruciatingly difficult circumstances.

‘Wild Seed’ is compelling, unique science fiction, and it’s a book that lingers in the mind long after you finish reading it. ( )
  MariaHaskins | Dec 10, 2015 |
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 |
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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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