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
©2001 Octavia E. Butler; (P)2009 Audible, Inc.
An important book and atypical spec fic. It's a character story, so the science fiction ideas can feel pushed into the background and the pace sometimes slow if you're expecting an idea or event story. It's not my favorite flavour of spec fic for that reason, but it's well written and ably told, and easily stands apart from other spec fic works. The narration in the audiobook I listened to was good quality but some of the voices irritated me.
"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.
"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.
"Nice story...wonderful narration!"
I love listening to stories whenever I have to drive a long distance, so this is one of the stories that I listened to on the way back from a really long trip. I have read Octavia Butler's work before, so I wasn't surprised how much I enjoyed it. What did surprise me, is how much I enjoyed listening to in on cd. The narrator of this book brought the scenes and characters to life. It kept me involved and interested. This audible shows how a good book coupled with a great narration gives you something you truly enjoy.
One thing I can say, as I have a 10 year old son. I am glad that he slept 98 percent of the trip as this was NOT a story that a child can listen to. My son isn't an ordinary child of books, as reading far above his age, often reading teen novels, but this was way too graphic for even him. I found myself pausing the book whenever I had to wake him. But do not let it deter you from listening to it!! It is one book that will be hard to pause :).
"Exotic, Unpredictable, Unsettling!"
YES this book must be listened to!! Hearing the different voices and the tension, excitement and deadliness in the voices was exciting! Dion Graham was so amazing, I'll be looking for books narrated by him.
This book cannot be compared to any other I've read or listened to. The characters are Black, the situations and based of African American culture and mysticism. Where else are you going to read/hear this kind of work?
I loved two scenes: When the female lead transformed herself into a Dolphin and described the experience to us - the scene brought a true smile to my face, and when the Male lead finally figured out how much he truly cared. The scene brought tears to my eyes.
What if you had TRUE power over LIFE and DEATH, and could live forever? Could you stay sane - could you love?
I love Octavia Butler...this book only made me hungry for more...I guess I'll have to go back and read/listen to her other books!
"A fantastic concept."
excellent job with narration. can't wait to finish series. Octavia Butler has me hooked for life.
"intense but captivating"
I loved this book, it was very captivating and it kept my attention until the end it was definitely not predictable I will suggest give it a try.
Oh, I couldn't stand Doro, but I like Isaac. Anyanwu's powers are awesome. What is she? How did she come into powers like this? I'll will be buyin the rest of the series.
"Worth a read"
Passionate, surprising and very moving. I am not a science fiction lover and might not have listened to this book had it not been recommended. I found myself moved to tears more than once. It is a very outstanding audiobook. Definitely worth a listen.
"Lots of social "commentary" but no lecturing."
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 closer, 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.
The narrator did a good job. The characters were distinct and the pacing nice.
"Compelling Sci-Fi That Hits On Many Points"
t's hard to pin this book down to just one thing. It's science-fiction mixed with historical fantasy add a little romance and a generous helping of social issues (racism, gender issues, ethical issues). Even describing it like that, I don't think I've capture the essence of this book. This books takes so many conventional ideas and presents them in such an unconventional way as Butler uses words to weave this tale that can really take her readers on an emotional roller coaster. I love a good light, quick, fun speculative read, but there's nothing like speculative fiction that uses the medium to really transcend expectations of the genre. Butler managed that this with book.
Dion Graham was such a powerful, amazing narrator choice for this book. The emotion and voices that he used for the characters captured me as much as the words did themselves. Butler's characters were already so powerful. I love characters that can really shake me to my core. There was nothing simple about any of them. Even the ones you hated had this part of them that you still recognized as human, and Butler was able to convey so much of their humanity in less words than many author's use to get you to care about characters in books twice this size. These characters combined with Graham's narration was fantastic. I'm hoping that he'll be narrating the other books in this series.
Despite all the ugliness in this book, it was counteracted with so much beauty. This was my first read by Octavia Butler, and it took me so long to read her because others had told me she could be a heavy read. And while I expected something amazing, something that would probably affect me on a profound level given how many people I know read her books and praise how she touched on issues, I hadn't expected the incongruous beauty that waited for me or the feelings and thoughts that was this book.
This book had promise. A very interesting idea but never amounted to much. I tried the book years ago and didn't finish it and thought the ebook might give me the impetus to complete the story. It didn't. The ebook suffered from an irritating performance that killed the best experience for me. The reader has a very annoying habit of using exactly the same intonation over and over again, his voice pitching up at the end of every clause. So unchanging is this idiosyncrasy that it destroys the immersion of the story and you are all too aware of the reader's voice.
"Wild Seed fell on stony ground"
I think the book's flaws transcend personal taste, though I can see that other reviewers didn't always even perceive the flaws that so irritated me.
Iain M Banks, Excession, narrated by the excellent Peter Kenny. Already bought and waiting to go.
Every sentence was read with almost identical cadence - it became truly irritating very quickly. Yes, Dion Graham has a very pleasant vocal timbre, but unless he learns to inject variety of emphasis, he's not doing the book a service.
Apathy - The author failed to give me a reason to care for either of the protagonists in the first hour of listening. They were two spoilt immortals engaging in selfish dominance games.
Too much infodumping and didactic exposition. The author has forgotten about showing rather than telling.
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