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Wild Seed

(Patternmaster #1)

4.21  ·  Rating details ·  19,704 ratings  ·  1,832 reviews
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 is a shapeshifter who can absorb bullets and heal with a kiss and savage anyone who threatens her. She fears no one until she meets Doro. Together they weave a pattern of destiny (from Africa to the New World) unimaginable to mortals.
Paperback, 306 pages
Published April 1st 2001 by Warner Books (first published 1980)
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Laura I am in a bookclub and we just read Wild Seed #1, so I am now reading them in chronological order, but I really wish I could go back and read them in …moreI am in a bookclub and we just read Wild Seed #1, so I am now reading them in chronological order, but I really wish I could go back and read them in the published order. I think it is probably a personal preference, but as I was reading Wild Seed (before I knew anything about the series), I guessed it was a prequel and when I found out it was, I wished I had read it as such. (less)
Cynthia I'm surprised at Meg suggesting that this is a quick read. It's 300 somewhat dense pages given the leve of detail Butler presents. From a teacher's po…moreI'm surprised at Meg suggesting that this is a quick read. It's 300 somewhat dense pages given the leve of detail Butler presents. From a teacher's point of view, that's a lot to cover. Also, I agree with Rachel. There is quite a bit of disturbing content. If anyone is the victim of a range of kinds of abuse, this can be a difficult novel because it just does not stop. While this isn't from Anyanwu's point of view, we experience her situation most intimately and it's difficult to feel the intensity of the experiences she grapples with and suffers through. Can it be taught? Yes, but the set-up and discussions would need to be handled very adroitly and sensitively; teachers should monitor students' reactions closely and be ready to take this section by section to discuss interpretation and choices in plot and character to diffuse some of the potency of the narrative; and simultaneous coverage of the historical context of the plot would also help the reader better understand the writer's choices regarding the use of violence and the repetition of death so that these are not seen as merely gratuitous but as emblematic of the times these characters experience.(less)

Community Reviews

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Dec 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
“Recently, however, I began to suspect that calling myself a science fiction critic without having read anything by Octavia Butler bordered on the fraudulent.”
“Books to Look For” - Orson Scott Card

I have to thank OSC for the above-mentioned article (from 1990) which piqued my interest for reading Octavia Butler.

It is strange that I first read Wild Seed in January 2012, I loved it and it made me a lifelong fan of Octavia Butler, but since then I have not read any of the sequels. I have, however
Jun 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
Dear Goodreads friends,

If you like to read science fiction / fantasy you should get to know Octavia Butler.



Butler’s 1980 novel Wild Seed is the first chronological book in her Patternmaster series. This details the beginnings of the sub-race of humans that will, in Patternmaster, be set in the far future. Butler begins her narrative in 1390, in West Africa, where her protagonist Anyanwu meets a strange young man named Doro.

So begins a centuries old relationship, often rocky, between two
J.L.   Sutton
Dec 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
“In my years, I have seen that people must be their own gods and make their own good fortune. The bad will come or not come anyway.”

Anyanwu | Wild seed, Illustration, I love books

Absolutely fantastic! Wild Seed (Patternmaster #1) is my latest dip into Octavia Butler's work, and I continue be amazed by Butler's vision and talent. After her community is wiped out by slavers, Anyanwu, an immortal shape shifter and healer, travels to colonial America with another immortal named Doro. Their aims and origins are very different. Anyanwu wants to
I really don't know where to start with this review. Wild Seed is unlike anything I have ever read before but yet it was still very accessible and easy to read. I would say this book is a combination of urban fantasy, horror, historical fiction and fantasy. Butler addresses slavery, gender roles, racial issues, sexuality, and class issues so subtlety you can miss the commentary if you want to and she does this all through the lens of a fantasy world involving supernatural beings that are seeming ...more
Christopher Paolini
Oct 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
As close to a perfect book as I can imagine. There’s almost nothing that one could do to improve Butler’s prose, pacing, or characterization. She never gives you an excuse to not turn the page . . . which is why I read Wild Seed in a single sitting. The moral issues Butler addresses make for fascinating drama.
[Name Redacted]
Butler's sci-fi classic has so much to recommend it. She is a very talented writer, and she creates a mythology and cosmology which are, if not unique, then arguably the best-developed of their kind. "Wild Seed" is beautiful and lyrical and powerful, but the rampant misandry and peculiar romanticization of pre-colonial Africa mar it -- infect it like a virus.

There is neither subtlety nor nuance in Butler's representation of the two sexes. No woman is ever a criminal or a monster or a villain --
Tomoe Hotaru
blog | goodreads

Most of us don't believe in gods and spirits and devils who must be pleased or feared. We have Doro, and he's enough.
What can I say about Wild Seed that could come anywhere close to doing it justice? This is the story of how Doro met Anyanwu, the only living soul on Earth who could possibly match his will; test his patience, endure his passive cruelty, and time and again defy him in ways even she could not possibly understand.

And forever is a long time to endure one another w
Ashley Nuckles
Mar 08, 2018 rated it it was ok
School book this semester & was not a fan. It gave me the creeps
A great book, I can’t believe that I just discovered Octavia Butler this year. She has been one the gems that I have encountered while reading through the NPR list of classic science fiction and fantasy. This novel could easily be a stand-alone novel, but I was intrigued when I realized it was the first in a series—I will be very interested to see where Butler takes the story from here.

Although this is another book about extraordinarily long life, Butler examines it from a very different view po

As Woolf once said Middlemarch is one of the few English books written for grown-ups, so too is this one of the few pieces of science fiction written for the real world, not marketing and academia. Of course, so chock full is this work with critical engagement and unflinching history that the cries of 'polemic' and 'bias' would not be an unlikely reaction. If that doesn't work, 'prosaic' could always be used as a strong condemnation via completely arbitrary standards of institutionalized re
Wild Seed: Two African immortals battle for supremacy in early America
Originally posted at Fantasy Literature
Wild Seed (1980) was written last in Octavia Butler’s 5-book PATTERNIST series, but comes first in chronology. The next books by internal chronology are Mind of My Mind (1977), Clay’s Ark (1984), and Patternmaster (1976). Butler was later unsatisfied with Survivor (1978) and elected to not have it reprinted, so I will focus on the main 4 volumes. Wild Seed is an origin story set well befo
Peter Tillman
A+, her best (per me). Immortal body-shifter vs. shape-changer. Awesome book, based on West African legends and folktales, with a dose of Hollywood flash (she grew up in SoCal). This would be a great graphic novel. Or Marvel comic!

There's a long-term exhibit of her papers up at the Huntington. Almost worth braving the horrors of LA traffic. She gave them her stuff: Great leading photo!

Died way too young. RIP.

Notes for 2018 reread, in progress:
Currently re
David Katzman
Jul 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A unique fantasy novel that centers around supernatural/superhuman characters from Africa. The story begins in the time of slavery, when slaves were captured and brought to America. I found it to be a very unique and refreshing premise, compared to the common tropes of fantasy, be they paranormal or Tolkeinian.

The two central characters (and antagonists) were interesting personalities. One seems to represent the Earth Mother--the power of healing and nature and animals. The other seems to repres
Zen Cho
Jun 05, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sff, by-poc
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Shannon (Giraffe Days)
My first foray into the unique world of Octavia Butler's imagination does not disappoint. Terrify, yes, and fascinate in an almost grotesque way, but it's oh so worth it. It is also a good example of speculative fiction and what you can do with it.

For over three thousand years Doro has wandered the Earth, gathering together those born special, with latent potential or abilities, usually mental, that can endanger themselves or others. Born human, Doro died during his own "transition" as a boy, ye
4.5 stars. How do I even begin to review this? I'm going to have to think on this for a few days. If you have Kindle Unlimited, do yourself a favor and read/listen to this book. If you don't, just buy it. Doro, a man who steals the bodies of others and uses the until he must find another or he feels he deserves the body of another person, finds Anyanwu in the African forests living alone on the fringes of a village as a old medicine woman. While searching for one of his lost groups of people, pe ...more
Anyanwu remains my most beloved literary character ever.I CAN NOT wait until this becomes a TV show🥰
Octavia Butler enchanted me again with this hundreds of years tale of a shapeshifter and a bodysnatcher. At first I thought this was SF, but then it became fantasy. Not that I mind since it was so engrossing. Strong characters and stories that invoked emotions, from wonder, sadness, anger, frustration and a little bit of hope. Same formula with her Parable novels, this one also has a great, tenacious female main character, who still had lots of love to share despite living in a cruel world with ...more
Oct 05, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: maybe
I’m not sure what Butler intended readers take away from this novel but I found it demeaning toward women and largely abhorrent.

The story focuses on two “people.” Doro is an evil shade thousands of years old who survives by jumping from body to body, killing the host, and absorbing the new body’s energy to survive until jumping to the next host at few week intervals. He has thus killed some hundred thousand people when this book begins.

His entertainment over the millennia is rounding up people w
Dec 07, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: patternmaster
This review is going to be hard, because Octavia Butler has a big reputation in the sci-fi world, and given that fact I had started this book in the series. But unfortunately this book was a huge disappointment, also I don't get as to how can I call this book sci-fi because although there were many people in this book with X-Men like abilities, but without a coherent story I just did not get the point of throwing them together.

The book has basically has two main characters with some side charact
Rona Fernandez
May 10, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: fantasy and sci-fi fans, women of color, history buffs
Shelves: favorites
This is one of my favorite books ever, for its superb blending of atmosphere/landscape, characterization, politics, history, race/gender/sexuality, politics, and plot. Ms. Butler (may she rest in peace) created some of the most memorable characters in my mind in Doro and, of course, Anyanwu/Emma. I could read this book over and over. Just doing a text analysis of the opening 7 paragraphs is such an education to an aspiring novelist like me. Didn't like 'Mind of My Mind' as much, but wonder if an ...more
Dawn C
When you sob to an Octavia E. Butler story you know it was good.
Woot! This took us forever, haha! As I mentioned before, hubby and I have been listening to the Audible version of this book in the car since long before the pandemic started. So it is a little difficult for me to look back on the whole book and speak about it cohesively.

We have been listening to this series in the order that they were published. I would actually recommend chronological order, but my husband disagrees with me on that. Anyways, this one is chronologically the first one and it gi
Apr 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sff-group-shelf
Nearly forgot to rate the first book in the series.
I read it after book 4 and 2, so it worked as a great prequel to the final social system that developed on earth in book 4, and it had the advantage that I didn't have to waste killing-thoughts about one of the protagonists, since I already learned their fate.

In this book we follow the several thousand year old Doro on his quest to breed a new human race. His determination and his complete dismissal of humans as individuals with their own right
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Octavia E. Butler's women are incredibly strong characters. One of her themes is that people are either masters or slaves but occasionally there is a person who refuses to be either and that person becomes persecuted for their refusal to be labeled. The main protagonist of Wild Seed is one of those persons. She is a mutant who has lived 300 years, both feared and respected in her African tribe yet always living on the outside for her protection. She meets another non-human that is much older and ...more
Dec 25, 2009 rated it really liked it
This book wasn't as good a match for my mood as N.K. Jemisin's The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, but it didn't suffer for being read immediately after it. It's an interesting concept: a being that might as well be a god, moving from body to body, amoral and utterly self-serving, trying to breed others like him so he won't be alone, and a being who is also immortal, or close to it, nurturing families so she won't be alone. The two of them are entirely different: Anwanyu loves the people she finds an ...more
I haven't figured out what to say about the book so I'll just say that the audio was well done. He had to account for Doro changing bodies and characters that were going up and down the age spectrum. He also had to do a number of accents since the book went from Nigeria to New Amsterdam to New York to New Orleans. ...more
Bre (Loc'd Booktician)
Dec 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
Ya know just wow!!! I am still frustrated and this story will stick with me forever
Aug 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: The X-Men, immortal shapeshifters who love immortal murderous bad boys who are totally not vampires
If you've ever wondered what the X-Men written by Octavia Butler would look like, this is that book.

There are no epic super-powered battles, of course, and the word "mutant" (nor any other four-colored neologism for superbeings) is never used. But Wild Seed is basically about two people born with superhuman powers (including immortality) being born centuries ago, discovering each other, and then trying to guide other "gifted" beings (most of them being their descendants) along very different pat
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Octavia Estelle Butler was an American science fiction writer, one of the best-known among the few African-American women in the field. She won both Hugo and Nebula awards. In 1995, she became the first science fiction writer to receive the MacArthur Foundation "Genius" Grant.

After her father died, Butler was raised by her widowed mother. Extremely shy as a child, Octavia found an outlet at the li

Other books in the series

Patternmaster (4 books)
  • Mind of My Mind (Patternmaster, #2)
  • Clay's Ark (Patternmaster, #3)
  • Patternmaster (Patternmaster, #4)

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