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Clay's Ark

(Patternmaster #3)

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  6,111 ratings  ·  543 reviews
An innocent familiy, carjacked on a desolate highway, is abducted to a bizarre new world. A world being born in the Californian desert.

They discover Earth has been invaded by an alien microorganism. The deadly entity attacks like a virus, but survivors of the disease genetically bond with it, developing amazing powers, near-immortality, unnatural desires - and a need to sp
Mass Market Paperback, 213 pages
Published December 1996 by Warner Books (first published March 1984)
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  • Clay's Ark by Octavia E. Butler
    Clay's Ark

    Release date: Sep 01, 2020
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    Equal Opportunity Reader It helps if you've read them all--makes the story a bit more accessible--but with the exception of the second in the series, Mind of My Mind, all of t…moreIt helps if you've read them all--makes the story a bit more accessible--but with the exception of the second in the series, Mind of My Mind, all of the books in the series can be read alone and understood.(less)

    Community Reviews

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    Average rating 3.83  · 
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     ·  6,111 ratings  ·  543 reviews

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    Start your review of Clay's Ark (Patternmaster, #3)
    This was the most disturbing book by Octavia E. Butler that I have read yet, further inspiring my desire to have a conversation with her to find out just how that brain worked. Her concepts are fascinating, even when as disturbing as this one.

    Perhaps it was the violence against young children that has me troubled. The ending, certainly, is not for the faint of heart. However, I did not dislike this book because of this. My dislike comes, perhaps from a bias regarding its place as part of the See
    May 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
    I enjoyed the purity of this science fiction tale on the theme of alien possession. In this short novel of less than 200 pages, we are subjected to an intense story of survival of a single family with the fate of the human race at stake. The terrible choices they must make put it over the line into the territory of psychological horror. What makes this book stand out is its use of the story as a doorway to larger themes of what it means to be human and to be part of a community.

    Written in 1984,
    Clay's Ark: An alien disease transforms a portion of humanity
    Originally published at Fantasy Literature
    Clay’s Ark (1984) was written last in Octavia Butler’s 4-book PATTERNIST series, but comes third in chronology. It takes place after Wild Seed (1980) and Mind of My Mind (1977), in the post-apocalyptic California desert. Society has collapsed into armed enclaves, marauding ‘car families’, organ hunters, and isolated towns. It’s along the lines of Mad Max, with fuel sources depleted and social i
    Dawn C
    Dec 02, 2019 rated it liked it
    Alright. This is the third or fourth Patternmaster book I’m reading (depending on which order you read), and by now they all seem to be the same plot but with different characters. A group of people or individuals have to have sex to survive. This one went from Butler’s usual dub-con and sexual coersion straight into incestuous rape attempt, and I think I’ve had my share of that theme now. Every conversation is about rape, wondering about rape, fearing rape, asking about rape, being empowered th ...more
    Aug 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
    Shelves: sci-fi
    “He had started what could become an epidemic. Now, if he were going to be able to live with himself at all, he had to contain it.”

    That sounds like a good tagline for an ad poster for this book. However, as it was published in 1984 I doubt such a poster exists…

    Octavia Butler is one of my all-time favorite authors, my reviews of her books tend to be somewhat fanboyish, short on objectivity, and of course completely unprofessional (this not being my profession). Still, I find it quite pleasant to
    Dec 02, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
    Where Butler gets it right—always gets it right—is in the fascinating premises she builds her novels on. Where she occasionally gets it wrong is in the development.

    Butler published Patternmaster in 1974, and then spent the next eight years filling in the history of the far-future world she had created. This produced Wild Seed, which became one of her best novels, but it also produced Survivor, which she later disowned, and Clay's Ark.

    Clay's Ark has the usual Butlerian sexual, racial and xenophob
    Sep 20, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
    This could easily be read as a brief standalone novel. Rather than fly, a wealthy family from a rich area takes a drive on the violent, dangerous roads between enclaves and gets kidnapped. Butler's series theme of genetics this time concerns an alien microbe that mutates human hosts. Fascinating always.
    Oct 10, 2020 rated it liked it
    This again was quite an interesting read. Contains content that could make readers uncomfortable.

    But again, Butler stuns with her clear, precise take on a topic that is very much explored.
    Oct 09, 2012 rated it it was ok
    At first I expected Clay's Ark to have more ... human interest? for me than Mind of My Mind.

    Both novels concern a sort of new development for humanity -- Mind of My Mind has people with psychic abilities who are gaining power by working as a group, and Clay's Ark has an isolated set of people infected by an alien disease which changes them completely. All of the major characters in Mind of My Mind were part of the in-group of psychics; there was no real voice for the ordinary humans whom the psy
    Rachel (Kalanadi)
    Nasty, short, brutish. The weakest and most unpleasant I've read by Butler so far, particularly in that the intensely uncomfortable elements (graphic violence, rape, infectious Stockholm Syndrome) do not seem worth it for the plot.
    Paul Eckert
    Jun 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
    Shelves: favorites
    This is the third book I've read in the Patternist series, going in the order they are collected in Seed To Harvest. I previously read Wild Seed and Mind of My Mind, and those two books were directly related, with a few of the same characters 200 years down the road. However, I didn't notice any direct links between Clay's Ark and Mind of My Mind, but maybe I missed something.

    Anyway, here's the plot in a nutshell: an astronaut has crash landed on Earth, carrying with him a contagious disease-or
    Enjoyable, but certainly not the best of the Patternist series. The characters are thin even for Butler, and I never could fully suspend my disbelief in their motivations and subsequent actions. Without giving too much away, the only character I did have any affection/empathy for (I'll let you guess) ended up dying gruesomely haha. Oh well!

    However, Butler does a tremendous job of describing the insidious and terrifying symptoms of the Clay's Ark disease, i.e. the physical changes, the urges, nee
    Leslie Reese
    Mar 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
    This book was riveting although I can't explain why! Maybe it is the combination of concepts such as hunger, survival, and difference; or the fact that there is no relief from the tension of the story's events.

    Clay's Ark was a space mission contaminated by an extraterrestrial organism whose sole survivor, Eli, is returned to earth where he infects others, and fathers a colony of this new, highly sensient, highly sexual, and physically strong breed. The earth in the western U.S. seems bleak and
    Oct 26, 2019 rated it it was ok
    Shelves: sci-fi, fantasy
    I never thought I'd give 2 stars to a book by Butler, but here we are. As always, her ideas fascinate me, but I didn't like the execution here; I felt that it lacked subtlety and that bothered me because I've come to expect much better from her.
    Kurt Reichenbaugh
    Aug 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
    Shelves: sci-fi
    I really liked this dystopian novel of an America in the early 2020s. A spaceship, Clay's Ark, returns to Earth and crashes in the the desert somewhere between California and Arizona, leaving its only survivor alive and infected with an alien virus to spread among the savages who live there. Society has basically descended into the "wallies" aka those with property and wealth, and the tribal have-nots outside of the sheltered cities. I wasn't prepared for the violence that occurs in the book, bu ...more
    Feb 25, 2020 rated it liked it
    Shelves: sci-fi
    Quite a disturbing book. Maybe even more disturbing than the first two books of the series.

    I don’t mind reading about the disturbing scenes, though. The lower rating is because I’m not sure how this related to the first two books of the Patternist series. It’s like this is a totally independent story with some similar elements that are present, at least, in Wildseed and Mind of My Mind. Also, I wish the backstory of how Eli tries to develop his community could have been explored and elaborated f
    Apr 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
    3.5 stars.

    This book definitely makes a lot more sense and gives a feeling of continuation if it is read AFTER the fourth and final book of the Patternmaster series. Herein the development of the other social group from "Patternmaster" is explained and it is very loosely connected to one of the characters from "Mind of your Mind".

    But be warned. This book is probably the most disturbing and brutal of Butler's works. And Butler being Butler this means a lot! There is rape, mutiliation and horrible
    Justin Pickett
    Jul 28, 2019 rated it liked it
    Shelves: fiction
    Clay's Ark is too confined. Octavia E. Butler mostly restricts the setting to a small homestead, imprisons the main characters, and cramps the story. I kept waiting for things to break loose, for the scope to broaden, for the characters and story to develop. It never really happened. The book also got fairly gruesome and disgusting toward the end. Another thing that irritated me was the very weak connection between this book and the two previous entries in the Patternmaster series. On the other ...more
    Apr 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
    I've never read a book that was so different from the other books in its series! The connection with the first two books wasn't made until the last four or five chapters, and I think that's pretty neat. I actually forgot that I was reading Patternmaster for most of the book and kept having to remind myself that I was still in the same series.

    Besides that, great story, exceptional character development (naturally), and Octavia's signature emotionally intelligent writing style. Highly recommend.
    Aug 12, 2010 rated it really liked it
    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
    Jan 03, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
    I didn't realize as I was reading this that it's part of a series, but I gather it has little or nothing to do with the other three vols and certainly I was at no time made aware that it was other than a standalone. Moreover, the (1984) blurb makes no mention of this status; I wonder if it's a case of the novel being retrofitted into the series?

    Whatever . . .

    Around about now (although Butler was casting forward some decades from her own time), human civilization has degenerated grossly, with vas

    3 stars

    The sole survivor of a scouting trip returning from a far star, Eli, host to a powerful and contagious alien symbiont, tries to satisfy its demands without infecting the rest of the Earth.

    It's finally clear to me that this is a 'series' in the sense of shared universe, not a continuing plot line. (I guess I might have been served better by a little research, rather than plunging in blindly. It seems Ms. Butler started with the fifth book and added the others somew
    NGC 5128
    I feel so mentally and emotionally spent reading this book in one sitting after randomly picking it up. Holy shit. Holyshitholyshit. My first Octavia Butler book and I've learned a few things: nothing is easy, everything is morally gray, and prepare for the writing to grab you by the shoulders and shake you. My experience reading this was akin to watching a train wreck in slow motion, and not only was I unable to look away, but I pulled up a couch, got some popcorn, and watched with eyes wide op ...more
    Jan 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
    just the other day i was cruising down a lonely texas road, the low sun making waves and shadows long and mysterious in places. i thought of fast moving beasts - hybrids, part human, part extra-stellar. i checked my doors to see if they were in the locked position, and eyeballed my chihuahua in the rear-view. and though i love my dog, i knew the beings would go for him first, doubly useful as bait. did i make this up, did i read about this recently? and that is the thing i love about octavia but ...more
    Spider the Doof Warrior
    Oct 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
    Many bad decisions were made in this book. So many. You can't just use a mind controlling organism group. Butler sucked me in with this normal, average father and twin daughters, one of which with Leukemia is just crossing a desert, minding their own business until they meet skinny, creepy people.

    The skinny, creepy people turn out to have a disease. You get flashbacks to how that spread which are a bit confusing.

    Then you follow this father and his daughters through their horrible plight which
    Katarina Gligorijević
    Jan 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
    Shelves: 2015
    How have this amazing woman's books never been adapted to the screen? It's some of the most visceral, evocative, intensely emotionally affecting sci-fi I've ever read (I'm not a huge sci-fi fan, to be honest, but this is just great writing). These stories are already so well visualized, it's actually shocking to me that it hasn't happened. Is it just because Hollywood is that racist and sexist? Is it that hard to pitch a sci-fi story in which the lead is a woman of colour? Either way, this book ...more
    Francesca Calarco
    Oct 09, 2019 rated it liked it
    This may very well be the scariest Octavia Butler book I have read yet, both in terms of sheer brutality and psychological horror. Thematically speaking, if Wild Seed details the mythological origins of Doro’s advanced race, and Mind of My Mind unravels the beginnings of Genesis (sprinkled with hints of rebellion from the Gospels) with Mary’s new Patternist community, then Clay's Ark devolves into the collateral damage of a fully realized Sodom and Gomorrah.

    While occurring within the universe o
    Jan 26, 2018 rated it liked it
    I really need to start learning context around books, especially in series, before I start reading.

    Clay's Ark is chronologically third in the series but was apparently published later to provide some background on one of the groups in Patternmaster that hadn't been introduced in the previous two books. Without that context, the connection to Mind of My Mind was unclear until more than halfway through the book, and then is only a brief mention of a relatively minor character from Mind of My Mind
    Mar 01, 2018 rated it liked it
    This one didn't feel at all like a part of this series, it lacked all reference to previous characters and events, and from what I saw, included nothing that would connect the story itself to the first two; while I think that strange, it is not, necessarily, a deal breaker, and I am also hopeful that the final book can tie them all together.

    This one actually seemed a lot more like a zombie story; a virus hits that spreads impulsively and affects nearly everything in the host, but it was maybe mo
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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.

    Other books in the series

    Patternmaster (4 books)
    • Wild Seed (Patternmaster, #1)
    • Mind of My Mind (Patternmaster, #2)
    • Patternmaster (Patternmaster, #4)

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