Monday, 6 October 2014

Wild Seed / Octavia Butler

4 out of 5 stars
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 her. She fears no one until she meets Doro. Together they weave a pattern of destiny (from Africa to the New World) unimaginable to mortals.

A great book, I can’t believe that I just discovered Octavia Butler this year. She has been one the gems that I have encountered while reading through the NPR list of classic science fiction and fantasy. This novel could easily be a stand-alone novel, but I was intrigued when I realized it was the first in a series—I will be very interested to see where Butler takes the story from here.

Although this is another book about extraordinarily long life, Butler examines it from a very different view point. Two very long-lived beings encounter one another and despite a relationship that is uneven in power, their lives remain entwined. There is as interesting exploration of the nature of slavery and the uneven power situation (examined much more directly in Butler’s novel, Kindred). But what really spoke to me was the contrasting way that Doro and Anyanwu deal with people around them.

Now, I have found over the years that I enjoy my relatives immensely. I like spending time with them, talking to them regularly, and planning events to share with them. Anyanwu was my kind of immortal. She collected family around herself, surrounding herself with children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc., building a community of relatives all around her and enjoying their company. Completely different from Doro, who was also surrounded by descendants, but looked at them more as a farmer would regard his livestock—breeding them in an attempt to create people with special abilities including extra-long life. One doing it out of love, the other out of utility.

I’m only guessing, but I think that Anne Rice must have read this book—it reminds me strongly of her book The Witching Hour, where the family of Mayfair women are haunted by a malevolent spirit which nudges them towards the sexual liaisons that would be required to produce the qualities it required in their children in every bit as calculating a way as Doro manipulates his progeny.

This is the 151st book that I have read from the NPR list. 

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