Review: Wild Seed by Octavia Butler and a
Title: Wild Seed
Author: Butler, Octavia
Length: 320 pages
Genre: Fiction, Fantasy
Publisher / Year: Open Road Media / Originally published in 1980
Source: Amazon Kindle store
Why I Read It: For the More Diverse Universe week.
Date Read: 14/09/12
Doro is a being who steals the skin of others as he kills them, living in their body. He is immortal and has been working with his seed villages to breed a people with special abilities who might some day become better companions for him. Anyanwu also has special talents, and while younger also appears to be immortal. She can heal herself and others and is a shapeshifter. When the two meet, Doro first wants to use her to strengthen his stock – but Anyanwu cares deeply about her community and family and doesn’t take kindly to being used.
Through these two main characters, Butler examines many issues surrounding race, gender, and sexuality. She tackles issues like race, sexuality, and gender through the fluid gender of the two main characters, who can take on the appearance or body of anyone. Doro, for example, switches easily between the bodies of others no matter their skin colour – Anyanwu can shapeshift or change her appearance at will but prefers to stay as she is as much as possible, showing a sense of pride over who she is and how she was raised. Through these, we see how different the characters are treated based on what they look like, examining racial prejudices. Her adherence to cultural traditions with which she was raised showed a way of remembering roots despite migrations, so common in our world today.
Butler is a superb writer, the dialogue, the descriptions, the events, all were well written. The first book I read by Butler, Fledgling, examined interesting aspects of sexuality and sex as the main character seems much younger than she is. In this book Butler again examines taboo and difficult topics regarding sex via the incest Doro practices in his seed villages. Through these Butler forces the mind to understand how norms differ throughout societies and cultures, but also just makes the reader on their toes. She is certainly not willing to avoid difficult topics.
Really interesting and fascinating read, I look forward to reading more Butler in the months ahead. She’s an author that keeps me thinking and explores really interesting topics in engaging ways. Her explorations of gender and race especially will keep me coming back for more.