Wendy's Reviews > Clay's Ark

Clay's Ark by Octavia E. Butler
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's review
Jan 22, 2012

it was ok
bookshelves: society-culture, psychology, philosophy, series, science-fiction
Read on January 22, 2012

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 Seed to Harvest collection.

Clay's Ark carries the similar theme of a community of humans, mutated both physically and psychologically, who must fight against outward and inward forces to maintain their humanity -- a theme that dominates just about every book I've read from this author. Beyond that and the name, there is very little that relates it to the Patternists created by Mary in Mind of My Mind or the superhumans created by Doro, beginning in Wild Seed. In fact, Clay Dana's involvement is not mentioned until more than half way through the book.

I took a quick peek at the first few pages of Patternmaster and I see the results of Clay's Ark may play a part in that story, but for now, it is an odd addition to the series that perhaps was not intended to be part of the series at all (considering it was created several years after Patternmaster.)
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05/05/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-8 of 8) (8 new)

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Alexa I think your review exactly describes why the publishers were so wrong to re-package these novels according to internal chronology in Seed to Harvest. They really only make sense as a whole when read as she wrote them, where Patternmaster came first and everything else flows from what she set up there.

Wendy Agreed. They are all connected, so I don't mind them being packaged together, but, as you say, they should have just been put together as she wrote them to follow her train of thought, rather than a forced chronology.

message 3: by Tracie (new)

Tracie Agreed. It was interesting because the first time I read the books, I read them in the order they were written. Then I read them through again in Seed to Harvest. It's a different read and different feel from that vantage point.

Wendy I read Mind of My Mind first, then picked up the collection. I loved Wildseed though. Such an incredible love story.

message 5: by Nathan (new) - added it

Nathan I absolutely agree with Alexa. Reading them in publication order works so much better, both in terms of Butler's growth as a writer (starting off the chronological collection with the strongest of the novels is not a wise move) and in terms of the unfolding of the world she's created. When you start with Patternmaster, you're thrust into a crazy SF story, and then each further installment reveals more about how it came to be: Mind of My Mind shows the genesis of the pattern, Survivor is a tangent that gives us a human perspective, Wild Seed is a prequel that gives greater context for Doro's great work (and also is, thematically, a better sister novel to Kindred, which was released right before it), and finally Clay's Ark which fills in the great turning point in the future history Butler has crafted. There's not a great narrative flow either way you read the series, but its strengths are much more evident when read in publication order, I think. The Seed to Harvest collection is nearly as bad as the awful chronological Narnia collections.

Wendy Although I didn't enjoy this book, I enjoyed elements of it, as I do with everything Butler writes. I regret reading this 'series' out of the written order, but I never regret reading anything by her, whether or not I like it. Her imagination is just so incredible.

Lauren I really wish I'd read these books in original publishing order as well. Great review!

Wendy Thank you!

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