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Wild Seed | [Octavia E. Butler]

Wild Seed

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

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.

©2001 Octavia E. Butler; (P)2009 Audible, Inc.

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.1 (284 )
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  •  
    Annette 12-23-09
    Annette 12-23-09

    I'm trying to wean myself and learn to function without earbuds for more than ten minutes at a time. It hasn't been easy. I lose balance...

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "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.

    16 of 16 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Shaundra TUCSON, AZ, United States 12-28-10
    Shaundra TUCSON, AZ, United States 12-28-10

    Diva

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    "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 :).

    12 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    R. Harris SAN ANGELO, TX, United States 07-10-12
    R. Harris SAN ANGELO, TX, United States 07-10-12 Member Since 2010

    Teaching Life

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    "Exotic, Unpredictable, Unsettling!"
    Would you consider the audio edition of Wild Seed to be better than the print version?

    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.


    What other book might you compare Wild Seed to and why?

    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?


    Which scene was your favorite?

    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.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    What if you had TRUE power over LIFE and DEATH, and could live forever? Could you stay sane - could you love?


    Any additional comments?

    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!

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    crazybatcow East Coast, Canada 02-20-12
    crazybatcow East Coast, Canada 02-20-12 Member Since 2007

    I like Jack Reacher style characters regardless of setting. Put them in outer space, in modern America, in a military setting, on an alien planet... no worries. Book has non moralistic vigilante-justice? Sign me up! (oh, I read urban fantasy, soft and hard sci-fi, trashy vampire and zombie novels too)

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    "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.

    10 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cori United States 10-29-10
    Cori United States 10-29-10
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    "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.

    6 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Adam Shields 10-26-14 Member Since 2003

    Book blogger at Bookwi.se

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    "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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Candis 10-24-14
    Candis 10-24-14
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    "Nice audio recording, strange but good story."
    Would you consider the audio edition of Wild Seed to be better than the print version?

    Yes, this audio recording is very good. The narrator does a good job using different voices for characters. It's a deep voice like James Earl Jones, only sounds like a white person. He puts emotions into characters with their voices at appropriate times. I can listen to this story or read it, but it is better when I am listening to this recording. He did such a good job.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Wild Seed?

    In the story Anyanwu and Doro meet in the forest and then trek from Africa to the United States (new world) for a new life. Anyanwu marries his son Issac and bears children with him and Doro. Doro doesn't have his own body. This last detail is the most memorable because he cannot die.


    What does Dion Graham bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    He brings great voices to each and every character! I would give him an A!


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    This book made me understand that the concept of slavery is the same be it a different time period or setting. The story is African American Science Fiction and Anyanwu is made to marry Issac against her will. I'm saying emotions, troubles, conflict, all seem to be the same no matter what the setting be, time or place.


    Any additional comments?

    I had to read this for my African American Literature course.
    Ironically, my teacher said there are not a lot of African Americans who are into African American literature.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer PATERSON, NJ, United States 07-03-14
    Amazon Customer PATERSON, NJ, United States 07-03-14 Member Since 2010

    Scent

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Very different book than what I'm used to"

    This is a very different book then what I'm used to listening to. I thought the main male character had way to much powder. I wish it would have shown him needing the main female character a lot more. I will look for more by this author.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tan RAHWAY, NJ, United States 06-04-11
    Tan RAHWAY, NJ, United States 06-04-11 Member Since 2011
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    "Terrific Piece of Work!"

    I miss Octavia Butler. The book left me wanting more. The narrator was wonderfully vivid--what a piece of artwork!

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Barbara Jersey City, NJ, USA 06-15-10
    Barbara Jersey City, NJ, USA 06-15-10
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Wild Seed - By Octavia Butler"

    What a story! She wrote the stuff great movies are made of. This is the first book that helps you understand what type of subject matter her future books would be about.

    5 of 7 people found this review helpful
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