Wild Seed Mass Market Paperback – 1 Jul 1995
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Essef - Octavia Butler's thrilling paternist novel about a reincarnate and a healer who travel together through exotic lands and centuries of time. One of science fiction's finest writers!
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I have loved the characters. Anjanwu is just awesome, and Doro, even if he's not exactly the most sympathetic character ever (oh well, he's actually NOT synpathetic, at all) is wonderfully portrayed. I loved even him in the end, and I won't say anything more about the final of this wonderful book, because you *must* buy it and read it up to the end. But the character I loved the best was Isaacs. A wonderful, three-dimensional character.
I thank so much Orson Scott Card, who suggested this book in his "How to write science fiction and fantasy" (a book I suggest any aspiring writer to read). Otherwise I would never have bought it, and it would be a shame.
I’m glad I did, as this book kept me engrossed from start to finish. The author takes the central idea, that some people are born with special abilities, and explores it in many different ways. So it remains fascinating all the way through. The story was compelling as well, as the two main characters tried to outwit each other, with frequent verbal confrontations.
I’m not into the fantasy genre, because I often feel cheated by the way conflicts are resolved, where the hero overcomes the enemy simply by summoning up enough strength. But I never felt cheated by the progression of this story.
I’m only learning about how to write, so I can’t judge the technical merits, and I quickly forgot that I was reading it to learn. But as a reader I can say that this book has the following qualities: It keeps the tension going throughout. The writing is clear and straightforward, so that it’s the story, not the writer’s technical brilliance, which is on show. Unlike the other book recommended by Card, this is a great example to learn from.
Perhaps of all Butler's work, this is the novel that so deeply explores the concept of slavery, a theme that runs through nearly all of her work like a dark thread.
The story begins in the late eighteenth century, in Africa, where Anyanwu the shapeshifter has already lived for three hundred years.
It is here she is discovered by Doro, a creature far older than herself, and a human life-force able to move from body to body, killing each one in the process.
For over three thousand years he has been seeking out those humans with special gifts: telepathy, telekinesis, psychometry, the whole panoply of psychic abilities, and bringing them together to breed. They have become both his children and his slaves, in some cases quite literally since Doro has become heavily involved in the slave trade, using it as a cover to bring the residents of his `seed villages' to America.
For Doro, Anyanwu is a very valuable find, mentally stable, unlike many of his people, terrifyingly strong and able to change sex at will, or into a leopard, eagle or dolphin.
Doro promises not to harm any of her people if she will return to America with him. However, as Anyanwu discovers, Doro considers her to be `Wild Seed' and plans to kill her once she has served her usefulness by providing children for his people.
This book certainly deserves its place in Pringle's `100 Best SF Novels' since, like all the best SF novels it employs the conventions of SF to explore the depths of human nature. Butler understands, more than many writers, the capacity for humans not only to enslave others in various ways, but to willingly submit to that slavery in some cases. There are also many deaths in `Wild Seed' and yet, each one is keenly painful to those who have to deal with the grief or other consequences.
Above all, Butler writes characters with all the flaws, warts and all. This makes for a novel not, as one might expect, doomful and depressing, but one that is full of power and fury, mining gold from the depths of the human soul.