Summary: Two long lived people interact, love and fight over generations.
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 is all consensual (of a sort), but it is also treated with far less important than what Christian theology treats sex.
Wild Seed by Octavia Butler (Patternist Series #1) Paperback, Kindle Edition, Audible.com Audiobook – Audiobook is discounted to $3.99 with purchase of Kindle Book – The Kindle Edition is part of the KindleUnlimited program.