Wild Seed

Wild Seed

by Octavia E. Butler

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Overview

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 has also died many times. She can absorb bullets and make medicine with a kiss, give birth to tribes, nurture and heal, and savage anyone who threatens those she loves. She fears no one--until she meets Doro. From African jungles to the colonies of America, Doro and Anyanwu weave together a pattern of destiny that not even immortals can imagine.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780385151603
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 07/01/1980
Series: Patternist Series , #4
Pages: 256

About the Author

OCTAVIA E. BUTLER was a renowned African-American writer who received a MacArthur "Genius" Grant and PEN West Lifetime Achievement Award for her body of work. She was the author of several award-winning novels including Parable of the Talents, which won the Nebula for Best Novel. Acclaimed for her lean prose, strong protagonists, and social observations in stories that range from the distant past to the far future, sales of her books have increased enormously since her death as the issues she addressed in her Afrofuturistic, feminist novels and short fiction have only become more relevant. She passed away on February 24, 2006.

Read an Excerpt

Wild Seed


By Octavia E. Butler

Warner Aspect

Octavia Butler
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-446-60672-3


Chapter One

Doro discovered the woman by accident when he went to see what was left of one of his seed villages. The village was a comfortable mud-walled place surrounded by grasslands and scattered trees. But Doro realized even before he reached it that its people were gone. Slavers had been to it before him. With their guns and their greed, they had undone in a few hours the work of a thousand years. Those villagers they had not herded away, they had slaughtered. Doro found human bones, hair, bits of desiccated flesh missed by scavengers. He stood over a very small skeleton-the bones of a child-and wondered where the survivors had been taken. Which country or New World colony? How far would he have to travel to find the remnants of what had been a healthy, vigorous people?

Finally, he stumbled away from the ruins bitterly angry, not knowing or caring where he went. It was a matter of pride with him that he protected his own. Not the individuals, perhaps, but the groups. They gave him their loyalty, their obedience, and he protected them.

He had failed.

He wandered southwest toward the forest, leaving as he had Arrived-alone, unarmed, without supplies, accepting the savanna and later the forest as easily as he accepted any terrain. He was killed several times-by disease, by animals, by hostile people. This was a harsh land. Yet he continued to move southwest, unthinkingly veering away from the section of the coast where his ship awaited him. After a while, he realized it was no longer his anger at the loss of his seed village that drove him. It was something new-an impulse, a feeling, a kind of mental undertow pulling at him. He could have resisted it easily, but he did not. He felt there was something for him farther on, a little farther, just ahead. He trusted such feelings.

He had not been this far west for several hundred years, thus he could be certain that whatever, whoever he found would be new to him-new and potentially valuable. He moved on eagerly.

The feeling became sharper and finer, resolving itself into a kind of signal he would normally have expected to receive only from people he knew-people like his lost villagers whom he should be tracking now before they were forced to mix their seed with foreigners and breed away all the special qualities he valued in them. But he continued on southwest, closing slowly on his quarry.

Anyanwu's ears and eyes were far sharper than those of other people. She had increased their sensitivity deliberately after the first time men came stalking her, their machetes ready, their intentions clear. She had had to kill seven times on that terrible day-seven frightened men who could have been spared-and she had nearly died herself, all because she let people come upon her unnoticed. Never again.

Now, for instance, she was very much aware of the lone intruder who prowled the bush near her. He kept himself hidden, moved toward her like smoke, but she heard him, followed him with her ears.

Giving no outward sign, she went on tending her garden. As long as she knew where the intruder was, she had no fear of him. Perhaps he would lose his courage and go away. Meanwhile, there were weeds among her coco yams and her herbs. The herbs were not the traditional ones grown or gathered by her people. Only she grew them as medicines for healing, used them when people brought their sick to her. Often she needed no medicines, but she kept that to herself. She served her people by giving them relief from pain and sickness. Also, she enriched them by allowing them to spread word of her abilities to neighboring people. She was an oracle. A woman through whom a god spoke. Strangers paid heavily for her services. They paid her people, then they paid her. That was as it should have been. Her people could see that they benefited from her presence, and that they had reason to fear her abilities. Thus was she protected from them-and they from her-most of the time. But now and then one of them overcame his fear and found reason to try to end her long life.

The intruder was moving close, still not allowing her to see him. No person of honest intentions would approach so stealthily. Who was he then? A thief? A murderer? Someone who blamed her for the death of a kinsman or some other misfortune? During her various youths, she had been blamed several times for causing misfortune. She had been fed poison in the test for witchcraft. Each time, she had taken the test willingly, knowing that she had bewitched no one-and knowing that no ordinary man with his scanty knowledge of poisons could harm her. She knew more about poisons, had ingested more poisons in her long life than any of her people could imagine. Each time she passed the test, her accusers had been ridiculed and fined for their false charges. In each of her lives as she grew older, people ceased to accuse her-though not all ceased to believe she was a witch. Some sought to take matters into their own hands and kill her regardless of the tests.

The intruder finally moved onto the narrow path to approach her openly-now that he had had enough of spying on her. She looked up as though becoming aware of him for the first time.

He was a stranger, a fine man taller than most and broader at the shoulders. His skin was as dark as her own, and his face was broad and handsome, the mouth slightly smiling. He was young-not yet thirty, she thought. Surely too young to be any threat to her. Yet something about him worried her. His sudden openness after so much stealth, perhaps. Who was he? What did he want?

When he was near enough, he spoke to her, and his words made her frown in confusion. They were foreign words, completely incomprehensible to her, but there was a strange familiarity to them-as though she should have understood. She stood up, concealing uncharacteristic nervousness. "Who are you?" she asked.

He lifted his head slightly as she spoke, seemed to listen.

"How can we speak?" she asked. "You must be from very far away if your speech is so different."

"Very far," he said in her own language. His words were clear to her now, though he had an accent that reminded her of the way people spoke long ago when she was truly young. She did not like it. Everything about him made her uneasy.

"So you can speak," she said.

"I am remembering. It has been a long time since I spoke your language." He came closer, peering at her. Finally, he smiled and shook his head. "You are something more than an old woman," he said. "Perhaps you are not an old woman at all."

She drew back in confusion. How could he know anything of what she was? How could he even guess with nothing more than her appearance and a few words as evidence? "I am old," she said, masking her fear with anger. "I could be your mother's mother!" She could have been an ancestor of his mother's mother. But she kept that to herself. "Who are you?" she demanded.

"I could be your mother's father," he said.

She took another step backward, somehow controlling her growing fear. This man was not what he seemed to be. His words should have come to her as mocking nonsense, but instead, they seemed to reveal as much and as little as her own.

"Be still," he told her. "I mean you no harm."

"Who are you?" she repeated

"Doro."

"Doro?" She said the strange word twice more. "Is that a name?"

"It is my name. Among my people, it means the east-the direction from which the sun comes."

She put one hand to her face. "This is a trick," she said. "Someone is laughing."

"You know better. When were you last frightened by a trick?"

Not for more years than she could remember; he was right. But the names ... The coincidence was like a sign. "Do you know who I am?" she asked. "Did you come here knowing, or ...?"

"I came here because of you. I knew nothing about you except that you were unusual and you were here. Awareness of you has pulled me a great distance out of my way."

"Awareness?"

"I had a feeling.... People as different as you attract me somehow, call me, even over great distances."

"I did not call you."

"You exist and you are different. That was enough to attract me. Now tell me who you are."

"You must be the only man in this country who has not heard of me. I am Anyanwu."

He repeated her name and glanced upward, understanding. Sun, her name meant. Anyanwu: the sun. He nodded. "Our peoples missed each other by many years and a great distance, Anyanwu, and yet somehow they named us well."

"As though we were intended to meet. Doro, who are your people?"

"They were called Kush in my time. Their land is far to the east of here. I was born to them, but they have not been my people for many years. I have not seen them for perhaps twelve times as long as you have been alive. When I was thirteen years old, I was separated from them. Now my people are those who give me their loyalty."

"And now you think you know my age," she said. "That is something my own people do not know."

"No doubt you have moved from town to town to help them forget." He looked around, saw a fallen tree nearby. He went to sit on it. Anyanwu followed almost against her will. As much as this man confused and frightened her, he also intrigued her. It had been so long since something had happened to her that had not happened before-many times before. He spoke again.

"I do nothing to conceal my age," he said, "yet some of my people have found it more comfortable to forget-since they can neither kill me nor become what I am."

She went closer to him and peered down at him. He was clearly proclaiming himself like her-long-lived and powerful. In all her years, she had not known even one other person like herself. She had long ago given up, accepted her solitude. But now ...

"Go on talking," she said. "You have much to tell me."

He had been watching her, looking at her eyes with a curiosity that most people tried to hide from her. People said her eyes were like babies' eyes-the whites too white, the browns too deep and clear. No adult, and certainly no old woman should have such eyes, they said. And they avoided her gaze. Doro's eyes were very ordinary, but he could stare at her as children stared. He had no fear, and probably no shame.

He startled her by taking her hand and pulling her down beside him on the tree trunk. She could have broken his grip easily, but she did not. "I've come a long way today," he told her. "This body needs rest if it is to continue to serve me."

She thought about that. This body needs rest. What a strange way he had of speaking.

"I came to this territory last about three hundred years ago," he said. "I was looking for a group of my people who had strayed, but they were killed before I found them. Your people were not here then, and you had not been born. I know that because your difference did not call me. I think you are the fruit of my people's passing by yours, though."

"Do you mean that your people may be my kinsmen?"

"Yes." He was examining her face very carefully, perhaps seeking some resemblance. He would not find it. The face she was wearing was not her true face.

"Your people have crossed the Niger"-he hesitated, frowning, then gave the river its proper name-"the Orumili. When I saw them last, they lived on the other side in Benin."

"We crossed long ago," she said. "Children born in that time have grown old and died. We were Ado and Idu, subject to Benin before the crossing. Then we fought with Benin and crossed the river to Onitsha to become free people, our own masters."

"What happened to the Oze people who were here before you?"

"Some ran away. Others became our slaves."

"So you were driven from Benin, then you drove others from here-or enslaved them."

Anyanwu looked away, spoke woodenly. "It is better to be a master than to be a slave." Her husband at the time of the migration had said that. He had seen himself becoming a great man-master of a large household with many wives, children, and slaves. Anyanwu, on the other hand, had been a slave twice in her life and had escaped only by changing her identity completely and finding a husband in a different town. She knew some people were masters and some were slaves. That was the way it had always been. But her own experience had taught her to hate slavery. She had even found it difficult to be a good wife in her most recent years because of the way a woman must bow her head and be subject to her husband. It was better to be as she was-a priestess who spoke with the voice of a god and was feared and obeyed. But what was that? She had become a kind of master herself. "Sometimes, one must become a master to avoid becoming a slave," she said softly.

"Yes," he agreed.

She deliberately turned her attention to the new things he had given her to think about. Her age, for instance. He was right. She was about three hundred years old-something none of her people would have believed. And he had said something else-something that brought alive one of her oldest memories. There had been whispers when she was a girl that her father could not beget children, that she was the daughter not only of another man, but of a visiting stranger. She had asked her mother about this, and for the first and only time in her life, her mother had struck her. From then on, she had accepted the story as true. But she had never been able to learn anything about the stranger. She would not have cared-her mother's husband claimed her as his daughter and he was a good man-but she had always wondered whether the stranger's people were more like her.

"Are they all dead?" she asked Doro. "These ... kinsmen of mine?"

"Yes."

"Then they were not like me."

"They might have been after many more generations. You are not only their child. Your Onitsha kinsmen must have been unusual in their own right."

Anyanwu nodded slowly. She could think of several unusual things about her mother. The woman had stature and influence in spite of the gossip about her. Her husband was a member of a highly respected clan, well known for its magical abilities, but in his household, it was Anyanwu's mother who made magic. She had highly accurate prophetic dreams. She made medicine to cure disease and to protect the people from evil. At market, no woman was a better trader. She seemed to know just how to bargain-as though she could read the thoughts in the other women's minds. She became very wealthy.

It was said that Anyanwu's clan, the clan of her mother's husband, had members who could change their shapes, take animal forms at will, but Anyanwu had seen no such strangeness in them. It was her mother in whom she found strangeness, closeness, empathy that went beyond what could be expected between mother and daughter.

Continues...


Excerpted from Wild Seed by Octavia E. Butler Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Wild Seed 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 36 reviews.
AuthorMomCC More than 1 year ago
This was the most imaginative book I've read in a while. When I was explaining some parts to my sister, I really began to realize the depth of Ms. Butler's world. It was our world, but these character existed on a level that most people would never encounter. The main character Anyanwu is so strong and wise and yet a bit naive when it comes to Doro. Butler balances these two characters against each other so well that you can sense the chemistry between them as you read. I was very impressed with the story and the writing. I borrowed it from the library and when I finished, I went and bought myself a copy and recommend it to anyone who reads.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Amazing story. I felt like my mind was exploding as I was reading. So many thoughts and questions were running through my mind. Octavia Butler was a genuis and way ahead of her time. I cant wait to read the rest of the series.
divas_lioness More than 1 year ago
This was my first read by Octavia Butler, but won’t be my last.  This book was a little different for me, but I’m glad I read it.  I really enjoyed the storyline and how it developed.  The character interaction and development was incredible.  All I can say is “Doro is a complicated being”.  I look forward to reading her other books.  I wish she was still around for me to tell her how great it was. Tasha, Divas of the Serengeti Book Club
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Octavia Butler is one of the most amazing authors. This book proved to be amazing as well. Captivating from the first paragraph, Wildseed was full of well developed characters, adventures, history, and wonderful writing. The story sticks in your mind long after it's finished. I'll be reading the sequel, Mind Of My Mind, soon.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The author has an incredible imagination. I do not read horrors, which this isn't yet is, but could not put this down, nor could I put the sequals down. Butler's books are due to be classics if they aren't already.
allief More than 1 year ago
About a three-hundred year old African woman named Anyanwu who is found and made to leave her land by a man as powerful as herself. He convinces her by telling her that they are destined to be together and threatening her children. He takes her to a new world very different from her own and she learns his ways. Overtime, she discovers that the only way to survive and save future generations of unborn children is to escape the man who like herself, will never die.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Generally, I do not enjoy science fiction; whether movies or books I usually am not into the genre. However, I thoroughly enjoyed Butler's Wild Seed. The book has something for everyone. . . African American history students, feminists, I-just-need-something-to-read-between-classes-after-school-on-weekends-at-the-beach. . . Highly recommended read!
ragwaine on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I read these books out of order but they're still really good, with -Mind of My Mind- being the weakest in my opinion (although I haven't read -Survivor- yet). As far as I know, (internal) chronologically this is the first book.Great characters, dialogue and writing, and as another reviewer mentioned not Star Treky at all. I like the setting a lot (colonial America) and major idea (breeding humans with psychic talents to create a more powerful race of humans). The only bad thing I could say is that the love/hate relationship between Doro and Anyanwu gets a bit repetitive.
crazybatcow on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
You can tell the quality difference in writers by how well they handle potentially lecture-y subjects such as slavery, women's rights, gender equality, racial equality and power inequity. Butler tells a story here that includes all these subjects, explores them, makes us frustrated with them, and yet never makes us feel like we're attending some sort of educational retreat, or listening to a sermon.The story is good versus evil, nature versus nurture, male versus female... it's engaging and worrying and you just want to grab Anyanwu and Doro and smack their heads together... I had wondered, as the end drew close, how Butler was going to be able to wrap up a story that involved immortals - and I think she did an excellent job of doing so - the conclusion was logical.I'm not saying the story didn't slow down a bit in the middle while Butler tried to emphasize Doro's "evilness" - but it was only a short blip before the story carried on. I've not read any other books from this "series" but plan to do so now.
Valjeanne on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is one of the most incredible books I've ever read. Octavia's prose is sparse, yet at the same rich and vibrant. Her characters leap off the page. I've read Wild Seed at least five times -- and plan to again.
thesmellofbooks on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A truly painful book.
jlparent on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Technically book 4 in the Patternist series, it's actually the first in terms of time within the novels. We meet the two major characters, the immortal (male) Doro and the immortal (female) Anayawu. They form a very complex bond, made of love/hate, commonality, and need. They are opposites inmany ways, with Doro being more consistently the 'heavy' (by which I mean he is controlling, murderous if need be, and a user. Anayawu is a healer who can change her shape and and is a mother, showing her nurturing tendencies often (but don't be fooled - she can get pretty pissed off herself). It's an intriguing look at emotional and physical slavery, gender roles, and race.
laileana on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This novel features the most interesting character I have ever read about. Anyanwu is a native African woman who has lived 300 years when the novel opens. She still appears to be in her early 20's which is where she apparently stopped aging. However, she can take any shape she likes-panther, dog, male, old woman, white man. She is ageless, timeless and a healer of immense and unbelievable skill. She can literally kill-or heal-with a kiss. In the novel she meets a probable ancestor of hers-Doro-a monster who is somewhat like a vampire. Doro does not kill by drinking blood, he kills by stealing bodies-which he later discards-dead-like so much trash. Anyanwu joins Doro in America in hopes of having children she will not have watch grow old and die. Then as she realizes the horror of him she flees-and hides. She lives for years as a dolphin and even bears dolphin children. She lives as a white man in the old salve owning South and fathers daughters on a wife......
goddesspt2 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
While Wild Seed was the fourth book published in Butler¿s Patternist series, it is the first book chronologically. The story opens on the continent of Africa in the 17th century and travels to the New World (New York and New Orleans) while following the relationship between two immortals. Anyawu is a healer and shapeshifter and Doro is a telepath who transfers his consciousness into different hosts, killing each host in the process. Anyawu and Doro are at odds throughout the story as Anyawu disagrees with Doro¿s murderous transferences and his selective breeding programme. Doro spends his time searching for individuals with special abilities and setting up communities where he can interbreed them to develop a species of super-human abilities.What I love about this book is the tension that Butler creates between the two antagonists. The bond between these two is initially established because they are the only immortals but there is a love/hate relationship as their ideas of family, ethics, and morality are diametrically opposed to each other.Butler explores several controversial issues including slavery as Anyawu is continually forced to bend to Doro¿s will because he holds the fate of her progeny over her head. This emotional slavery is juxtapositioned against the American slave trade going on around them. Other issues that Butler tackles are those of gender, race, and reproductive issues. The book¿s title, Wild Seed is how Doro perceives Anyawu ¿ someone that he cannot quite control.
Radaghast on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Wild Seed is a very well constructed novel. It tells the tail of two immortals, one with a hideous power that kills and one with a beautiful power that heals. It is about good and evil, but on a deeper level, that questions our assumptions about both. Wild Seed incorporates many elements of African culture as well, and does so in a way that seems perfectly natural. This isn't a science fiction book centered around African culture. It's science fiction first, that happens to take place in Africa and antebellum America. The characterization is Butler at her best. This was the book's greatest strength and its greatest weakness. Because the book takes place over decades, the plot is somewhat lacking. It's hard to have a real cohesive story over that period. Instead, the plot is the relationship between these two characters and how each change over time. Normally, I would not care for a book with no central story, but Butler's writing makes each of these characters as interesting as a fast-paced plot. The book did start to drag toward the end, and the ending, while satisfying, didn't really explain much about how these characters came to be as they are. I was really hoping for a revelation about Duro. Butler did a wonderful job though, and this book will not disappoint.
ovistine on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'm reading these out of order deliberately this time (so as to save my favorite, "Mind of My Mind", for last), and it's been several years since I've read this one, maybe as many as ten years. On a second, very fresh reading, it's quite beautiful -- the story of a man who's immortal because he can't help but kill, and a woman who's immortal because she heals herself and others. Though they're rivals and lovers and enemies, sometimes all at once, sometimes one at a time, they're each other's only peers, and that creates a bond that's written so well I can barely scratch the surface in a short review. It's companionship and frustration and love and commitment and anger and fear and rage, and so real that it outshines any love story I've ever read, even though sometimes you have so little sympathy for one of the characters that it's hard to believe you could ever forgive them. It's a great, great book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Octavia Butler is an under appreciated author by many Sci-fi readers. Her books are great!
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