Wild Seed : Patternist

  • by Octavia E. Butler
  • Narrated by Dion Graham
  • Series: Patternist
  • 11 hrs and 16 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Doro is an entity who changes bodies like clothes, killing his hosts by reflexor 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. Together they weave a pattern of destiny unimaginable to mortals.

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Audible Editor Reviews

When you first meet Doro, you'd think he was an ordinary man, the same as you or I. But Doro has a unique gift: he can survive the death of his body by transferring his essence into the body of another. Unfortunately for those he takes over, there's only room for one consciousness in the human brain, and so when Doro takes control, the previous owner is evicted. He's survived this way for thousands of years, hopping from body to body, and leaving a trail of the dead in his wake, for his gift does not allow him to inhabit bodies for long, necessitating the frequent claiming of new victims.
Wild Seed begins in 1690 in Africa, when Doro discovers another immortal by the name of Anyanwu, though Anyanwu is not the monster Doro is. While his powers are tied inextricably to death, Anyanwu's are tied to life; instead of stealing new bodies, she is able to manipulate her body to heal any wound, make herself appear forever young, or even shapechange into different creatures altogether. When Doro first meets Anyanwu, she appears to be an old woman serving as shaman to the village. But when he discovers her true nature, he embarks upon a quest to find others like her — "wild seed" — and selectively breeds them in order to foster the development of these seemingly magical talents. This multigenerational genetic engineering project takes the pair from their starting place in Africa in to the American colonies and beyond.
To describe the plot as above surely doesn't do justice to Wild Seed, which is easily one of the finest science fiction novels ever written; but more than that, it is a great work of literature, period, that explores deep philosophical issues and vividly explores the extraordinary long lives of two fascinatingly-drawn characters.
For a book as brilliant as this, it would be easy for a narrator to just convey the text and get out of its way, but Dion Graham somehow manages to add yet another layer to an already rich and complex narrative by giving voice to it with such emotion and gravitas. Graham provides a variety of character voices to the extent that he seems to be a vocal chameleon; the character of Doro alone requires him to change his voice into a number of different accents, all of which Graham ably handles. But perhaps what makes this performance truly stand out is the intensity of Graham's narration in between dialogue, which really drives home the power of Butler's prose.
As both a novel and an audiobook, Wild Seed stands as a sterling example of science fiction, literature, and performance art. Utterly compelling, and completely unforgettable. —John Joseph Adams

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Fairy Tale... even if it's not

There's a little smack of oddness to it i can't put my finger on, and i was afraid the accent would kill me - but no. it was nice. And original. which you don't get much these days. Reminded me a little bit of Niel Gaimon's Anansi boys only much darker and a different point of view. Again, not one of my all time best hits, but a good solid creative story with a little something for everyone. And that ain't bad.
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- Annette

Two long lived people interact, love and fight

Wild Seed is now the fourth book and the start of the second series I have read by Octavia Butler. She is a good writer and creates interesting (and wildly different) settings and characters.

But Butler is also hard to read at times. Not particularly unusually among fantasy and science fiction authors, she uses her settings to create alternative social structures and explore issues of ethics and morality.

Butler is known for her feminist writing. While not all men are evil, all of the books I have read from her so far have explored the ideas of male oppression of women.

Wild Seed is about two long lived people. Doro has the power to move from one body to another, living forever, but needing to ‘feed’ on those around him both to stay alive and because of an innate need. Because of his long life (he has been alive for over 4000 years), he has created breeding programs to breed special powers into his ‘children’. These settlements, first in Africa and then later in the Americas, are scattered, but allow him to live as a God. Worshiped by his children, who will willingly give up their bodies for their God.

Doro meets Anyanwu in the mid 17th century in Africa. She is already several centuries old. She has the ability to change herself and heal her body and to some extent heal others. When Doro finds her, she has already outlived 10 husbands and has dozens of children. After spending time with Doro she in her own way also creates a community around her. But one that where she can protect and heal those that need her.

When Doro finds her, he does not realize the extent of her powers, but tries to draw her into his plans. He uses her love of her children and all people to try to force her to do his bidding.

Set over several hundred years, Doro and Anyanwu are lovers, friends, enemies and opponents. He is cruel, living a life that is only about himself. She is kind (although not perfect) and tries whenever possible to bring about healing and wholeness. He becomes a less cartoonish villain toward the end, but if there is a weakness it is in the characterization of Doro as villain.

This was a hard book to really enjoy. Butler can write and she creates compelling rich characters. But it took me quite a while to make my way the whole way through it because it can be so heavy. Heavy subjects are important, but also need to be balanced with lighter subjects. So I need to wait a few weeks before reading another Butler book.

I should note a content warning on this book. Because a significant theme is the breeding of humans, there is a lot of sex in the book. Most of it is off screen, and it all consensual (of a sort), but it is also treated with far less important than what Christian theology treats sex.
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- Adam Shields

Book Details

  • Release Date: 07-16-2009
  • Publisher: Audible Studios