I am a huge fan of Octavia Butler. Her work has been transformative in my life. I first discovered her short stories, fell in love with the Xenogenesis Trilogy and then scooped up more. While I loved her other books, Wild Seed was much harder for me and I think a lot of that lies in the order for the series.
Doro knows no higher authority than himself. An ancient spirit with boundless powers, he possesses humans, killing without remorse as he jumps from body to body to sustain his own life. With a lonely eternity ahead of him, Doro breeds supernaturally gifted humans into empires that obey his every desire. He fears no one — until he meets Anyanwu. Anyanwu is an entity like Doro and yet different. She can heal with a bite and transform her own body, mending injuries and reversing aging. She uses her powers to cure her neighbors and birth entire tribes, surrounding herself with kindred who both fear and respect her.
No one poses a true threat to Anyanwu — until she meets Doro. The moment Doro meets Anyanwu, he covets her; and from the villages of 17th-century Nigeria to 19th-century United States, their courtship becomes a power struggle that echoes through generations, irrevocably changing what it means to be human.
(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
I have been taking advantage of the new cover editions of Octavia Butler’s work for a while now. Wild Seed is the latest in Grand Central Publishing’s reissues and I was so excited to dive into another of Butler’s series. Even though Wild Seed is the first in the series, it’s actually a prequel. The publication order for the Pattermaster series is a little convoluted. Wild Seed is actually the second to last book that was written (Patternmaster, Mind of My Mind, Survivor, Wild Seed, Clay’s Ark). Publication versus chronological order is a topic of contention for many longer series and it’s one, largely, of personal preference.
Having read Wild Seed, for me I am going to read them in publication order. And that’s where my frustration originated. I wanted to feel a deep connection to the main characters, Doro and Anyanwu, but I felt like Wild Seed was one large prologue section. In many ways, it is. It was written somewhat like that. So I think it’s important for new readers, coming into the series, to remind themselves of this. This series is one of the earliest began for Butler and so it’s been a wonderful experience to see her growth as a writer.
Doro & Anyanwu
Wild Seed is about power dynamics between two almost untouchable beings. Featuring two different approaches, Doro and Anyanwu navigate the world making and breaking connections. There’s something about practically immortal beings that is intriguing. An almost apathetic feeling towards the events of the world, towards people, because you know you will outlast them. Relationships, love, and family that pass through your lives. Wild Seed reacts to both Doro and Anyanwu’s processing of their lives, identity, and future.
But readers can immediately pick up on the differences in character between Anyanwu and Doro. The ways they approach their actions, their guilt, and their morality. They seem almost matched in some senses and opposites in others. A push and pull of feeling a deep sense of shared loneliness, while also directly opposing each other in violent ways. Wild Seed lies somewhere between fantastical powers with scientific precision.
A true speculative fiction hybrid.
Ultimately, I was searching for more character growth in both Anyanwu and Doro. I wanted them to move towards a sense of resolution or opposition. And that’s where what I was saying about this being a prologue comes into play. Wild Seed is the exposition, the opening act, the background for these epic beings. That’s why I think it’s so important to see this more as a prologue and less as the beginning of a series.
Would I continue the series? Yes. I am fascinated by Butler’s writing. Knowing more of what I’m in store for, and the order I want to read it, I am interested to see where these characters go. I am so glad that Grand Central Publishing is reissuing these books from the iconic Octavia Butler. I cannot wait to see what more they have in store for the series.