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Wild Seed by Octavia E. Butler

Wild Seed (original 1980; edition 1999)

by Octavia E. Butler

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1,413395,351 (4.14)71
Title:Wild Seed
Authors:Octavia E. Butler (Author)
Info:Warner Books (1999), Mass Market Paperback, 279 pages
Collections:Your library, Illinois library

Work details

Wild Seed by Octavia E. Butler (1980)

  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 √Člisabeth 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 38 (next | show all)

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 |
Although this book is a sci-fi classic that effectively explores genetics, race, and gender roles, I didn't quite connect with it on the level that I think I was meant to. The core of the story is the dynamic between two near-immortals who are constantly shifting from lovers to adversaries. But Doro, the antagonist, clearly has all the power in the relationship, and forces Anyanwu to obey his commands and tolerate his own heartless behavior so he can achieve his dream of breeding the perfect colony of super-humans. Anyanwu's only power over him is basically that her abilities would allow her to run away and stay hidden from him, if she chose to do so, which would leave him to live out his long life alone.

I guess I was upset that although the characters haven't changed many of their beliefs or behaviors even after all those years, the ending is mostly happy and redemptive for them, without any suggestion that maybe Doro deserves to be alone after all the shitty things that he did, or that Anyanwu is smart enough to recognize that he probably won't be able to change his behavior, since it's all based on attitudes that he's never questioned or shown remorse for. I wouldn't have such a problem with that if it was depicted as the next stage of an ultimately negative cycle, or if they decided that being with a person they couldn't get along with was better than being alone, but instead it felt like I'm supposed to be happy that Anyanwu was finally able to change Doro and now they can be happy together.

But I don't think I'm giving the good parts of the story enough credit by staying focused on this one aspect I didn't like, so I'd probably still recommend this as an engaging sci-fi story with an otherwise-strong protagonist and some (dated, but) interesting observations about race and gender. ( )
  thatpirategirl | Jan 16, 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.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 4 descriptions

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