Seed to Harvest consists of four novels (Wild Seed, Mind of my Mind, Clay’s Ark, and The Patternmaster) which all take place in the same universe. Each novel is set in a different time period, so the main focal characters change from novel to novel. It’s hard to talk about any of the books after Wild Seed without revealing spoilers, but there are some great concepts and dilemmas presented in them that I want to discuss a little. I’ll mainly focus on the first two novels and keep spoilers to a minimum, for those who hadn’t read this book yet, which I highly recommend you do.
What’s really wonderful about these stories is that each one portrays a different thought – provoking dilemma. The first of the novels “Wild Seed” focuses on Doro and Anyanwu, two very different immortals learning how to co-exist together. While these two immortals are man and female (theoretically) and they go through an erratic on and off relationship, I hesitant to call this a love story. I find it more about kinship and acceptance of each other’s beliefs and personalities. You see, Doro and Anyanwu are about as polar opposites as they come as regards of traditions and morality. They also differ in how they maintain their immortality; Anyanwu is an ageless shape shifter, while Doro is a spirit that travels from body to body, destroying the original host’s mind. It’s funny how these two beings contrast with each other. Anyanwu embraces her humanity and strong ethics but is detached from her offsprings, while Doro, who had become indifferent to the value of human life is closely attached to his descendants, but only because they’re his value breeding stock. And when he meets Anyanwu, he only sees someone who would be a great breeder for his children, but she considers the whole thing sickening and immoral. However, Doro isn’t a person you can simply turn down and still live. Anyanwu and Doro are easily the most interesting characters in the whole series and reading how these strong wills collide against each other is engrossing.
“Mind of my Mind”, comes closest to being a sequel in this collection. This book focuses on Doro’s offspring, who are psychic “Actives” and the story’s themes examine morality and the extent of human control. In fact those two ideas are prevalent throughout all the novels within “Seed to Harvest”. In this instance, these “Actives” use their mental powers in order to survive their isolation and sometimes self-exile from the rest of the human race. Some of them need to isolate themselves because they can’t control the endless waves of thoughts from the populace penetrating through their brains. For others, their psychic outburst of emotions could kill normal human beings. But ethics really become comprised when Mary, an emerging powerful Active summoned and created a community of Actives together. Each one of these Actives posses the vast mental powers, but lacks the discipline and ethics to use those powers. Now imagine these people by the thousands. If you want to learn how the rest of humanity fares against these people, you’ll have to read “Seed to Harvest” to find out.
I do have one complaint about this compilation. “Seed to Harvest”‘s story kind of just stops, having no clear conclusion to the conflict that escalated throughout the novels. I walked away feeling that there should have been at least one more novel to tie off the loose ends. However, Octavia Butler’s tragic premature death forever brought this great series to a standstill and robbed the world of a creative mind.
In the end, that did little to change my pure enjoyment reading Butler’s compilation. If you’re a fan of science fiction and good drama, I strongly recommend the book.