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Wild Seed by Octavia E. Butler

Wild Seed (original 1980; edition 1999)

by Octavia E. Butler

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1,395385,444 (4.15)70
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 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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» See also 70 mentions

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Showing 1-5 of 37 (next | show all)
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 |
It’s well-written and it’s fascinating and I’d recommend it to anyone I think might find it a good read, but it definitely wasn’t for me. (I could very much do without Doro’s pov. I’d probably have struggled less if I hadn’t had to read Doro’s pov.) ( )
  lynnoconnacht | Oct 7, 2013 |
The book begins when the protagonist, Anyanwu, is already 350 years old. She serves as healer to her people and some see her as a God or a witch. Anyanwu can shift into any animal or person she wants. She even has the ability to shift her gender and become a man in every sense of the word. What motivates her the most, are her children and her descendants. This is what Doro, the antagonist, uses to force her to leave Africa for the new world. Like Anyanwu, Doro has great power but he is far older. He has sustained himself for the last 3,500 years by feeding on people, through stealing their bodies whenever he feels hunger, or to exert control over their person. When angered he has great difficulty controlling his ability to kill. Doro at times kills indiscriminately because he places no value on those who are mortal. He will also kill anyone he perceives as one day having the ability to challenge or control him. He rules his followers through fear, and yet we are told repeatedly how much they love and respect him.

Doro collects people who are different and then breeds them in order to increase the power of their descendants. He wants Anyanwu for her special abilities and she leaves her home believing that she is protecting her children and will become his wife. When Anyanwu arrives in America, she learns that he never had any intention of making her his wife, and instead marries her off to his favorite son Issac. Throughout the entirety of their marriage, Doro forces her to not only have sex with him but other men and bare the children of these unions. Issac, Anyanwu's husband is also taken from their home, to occasionally father children with other women. Doro constantly threatens Anyanwu and yet he has the nerve to be angry that she does not love him. From start to finish, their interactions are filled with deceit, sexual violence, emotional abuse and an extreme imbalance in power. What is disturbing is that there is no discussion of the role of gender in their interactions and instead it seems to be about their differing magical abilities.

When Anyanwu finally makes a bid for freedom after Issac dies, she manages to live for 100 years as a dolphin but when she sets up her own community, Doro quickly finds her and forces himself back into her life, though he begins to feel conflicted about what he is doing to her. Once again, in order to protect her children, she concedes to his will. Essentially, the question is can Anyanwu ever find a way to escape from Doro?

I was not a fan of this book and though it was a scant two hundred and nineteen pages long, I think it would have worked better as a novella than a book. Butler seemed to just drag the story along and add characters which she didn't bother to give real attention to before killing them off. She was able to do this because instead of actually telling a story, Butler simple revealed the life of her protagonist.

From the beginning of the book, Doro was the antagonist, but we didn't get a real sense of what his real motivations behind breeding people was. In the end, I surmised that Butler wanted the reader to believe that Doro didn't want to be alone and could not accept that everyone who entered his life eventually died, but his behaviour was just so cold and callous, it made me seriously doubt that the true motivation could really have been to find a companion. When you have an antagonist without any real motivation it leaves the story without a real goal.

read more ( )
  FangsfortheFantasy | Sep 20, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Octavia E. Butlerprimary authorall 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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