Wild Seed (Patternmaster, #1)by Published 01 Dec 1988
|Wild Seed (Patternmaster, #1).pdf|
|Format||Mass Market Paperback|
|Publisher||Grand Central Publishing|
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 those she loves. She fears no one -- until she meets Doro.
From African jungles to the New World, Doro and Anyanwu weave together a pattern of destiny that not even immortals can imagine.
Doro è un uomo nato 4000 anni fa nell'antica Nubia, grazie ad un misterioso processo è diventato un essere capace di trasferire il suo spirito da un essere umano ad un altro diventando praticamente immortale. Nel Seicento Doro è ossessionato dal progetto di creare una razza di esseri immortali tramite accoppiamenti selettivi. In una foresta africana incontra Anyanwu, un'altra immortale con in più il potere di trasformarsi in altre creature e guarire le sue ferite, e cercherà di usarla per il suo programma.
"Wild Seed (Patternmaster, #1)" Reviews
“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.
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.
• 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 (｡•́︿•̀｡)
“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
School book this semester & was not a fan. It gave me the creeps
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.
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, [spoilers removed]
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.
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.