Collected for the first time are all four of Octavia E. Butler’s Patternist novels: Wild Seed, Mind of My Mind, Clay’s Ark, and Patternmaster. Now you get to see this whole unique world from its beginnings, hundreds of years ago, to its conclusion hundreds and thousands of years in the future. Seed to Harvest will delight and terrify you in a way only Butler can.
Our main character and quasi hero is Doro, who is more like a god or perhaps a devil in a way, instead of a human. He has a special power: he’s immortal, only to continue living forever he has to consume other people’s souls and become that person, inhabiting that body. He has been doing this for a thousand years, and lives his life as he does until one day he meets a woman, Anyanwu, in Africa, in the seventeenth century. She is a shapeshifter and has unique powers of her own, such as the ability to heal by a kiss, and with an incredible strength, she can defend herself against anything. Wild Seed is their story, as they meet and get to know each other, fall in love, and travel to New Amsterdam, where they will start their own family of gifted children. Along the way they find other characters with special abilities, which Doro believes is somehow linked to his history and his own powers. But Doro is also creating this family for his own personal survival, so he will have more victims to keep him alive and immortal. Wild Seed ends with the family now quite large, and Anyanwu unable to live with Doro anymore, leaving him.
Mind of My Mind is close to the present day, Anyanwu has changed her name to Emma, wanting to separate herself from her past, but unable to. Doro now lives in Forsyth, California, where his family continues to grow with new individuals and their unique powers. It is here that the Pattern begins to emerge of this large family that is all interrelated, and that is in constant struggle with the paternal master, Doro. The book ends with the final death of Doro, who is sealed in his current body, cremated and no longer able to take another, ending the line. But the Pattern is not finished.
Clay’s Ark is set in the twenty-third century and it is here that the spaceship, known as Clay’s Ark, returns to Earth with an alien and a sickness that begins to infect everyone. But at the same time a new race is formed out of the sickness, out of those on the spaceship, who become known as “Clayarcs.” And as time passes, they establish themselves as a formidable force on the planet.
Patternmaster is the mighty conclusion to the long series, where the Patternists and Clayarcs fight against each other in a distant future time where evolution has made them look barely human. This is a hostile and tough world, where only one race can triumph, the question is which one will it be?
While Seed to Harvest can be boiled down to a simple summary, Butler has weaved many emotions and issues that are ever present in the current world, on the subject of race and evolution, on what it means to be human. The book merely continues to prove that Octavia E. Butler was one of the best science fiction writers of her time.
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Originally written on April 14th, 2007 ©Alex C. Telander.