Saturday, January 7, 2006
This season's great read:Octavia Butler's Wild Seed
This last holiday season left me with a little extra time for reading, and I sank my teeth into this excellent piece of science fiction (fantasy?) that comes recommended by Orson Scott Card. I found out about this story because Card quotes large portions of her introductory material in one of his books on writing. I was intrigued enough by his quotation to seek out the source material, and I was not disappointed. Just for your enjoyment, click here to read the first page.
Octavia Butler's Wild Seed is one of the best I have ever read in the genre. It is a character-driven story, centering around two unusual people and their interactions through a long slice of history. The story begins in the late 1600's and finishes just before the dawning of the 2oth century. Both Doro and Anyanwu are one of a kind people with strange powers. Neither has ever met another with exactly the same powers as they do, but both share one trait: their "differences" render them immune from natural death.
Doro, the protagonist, is some sort of spirit-creature who leaps from body to body, killing the original host in the process and inhabiting the body until it falls apart. This happens whether he wants it to or not (if someone were to sneak up behind him and kill him, his spirit would leap to the nearest person and take them over, killing them in the process). He can also do this at will, something he does with cold regularity. We come to meet Doro thousands of years after he has discovered and accepted his lot. Doro is an unstoppable killer.
Anyanwu, the antagonist, is a shape-changing creature with the ability to control every aspect of her body. She can take the shape of any person or animal, heal herself of any disease, render herself immune to poison, and heal herself almost instantly of any injury. More than this, she is capable of producing antibodies and complex compounds after touching others who are injured. Anyanwu is a talented healer.
The plot of the book centers around these two strange figures, their interactions with each other, and their interactions with various short-lived people around them. At its core, it is a story of the redeeming of a darkened, cold hearted killer by slow patience, submission and resistance, and undeserved love.
A very enjoyable read, raising interesting questions in my mind about how the mind, body, and spirit interrelate in the human person. Highly recommended for those seeking interesting characters, thoughtful reflection, and provocative insight into the mutability of the heart.