(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The patternist novels feature many established science-fiction topics: psionic powers, genetics and mutations, extraterrestrial travel, extraterrestrial species, actual history refurnished with science-fictional characters and effects, and postcatastrophe future history wherein the future is made to be significantly like the past by being more elementary and even medieval in surviving technology—perhaps a better setting for Octavia Butler’s exploration of her characters. Each novel is different in mood. Survivor, with its subtext of reverence for harmonious existence with nature, is reminiscent of Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Word for World Is Forest (1972). Clay’s Ark’s action and setting of violence along southwestern U.S. country roads and highways recalls the film Road Warrior (1981). Patternmaster and Mind of My Mind are in the tradition of works Butler admires: Theodore Sturgeon’s More than Human (1953) and John Brunner’s The Whole Man (1964). Patternmaster and Mind of My Mind, however, are anchored in the luminous originality of Wild Seed, the style and setting of which echo the oral narrative discourse of Nigerian West African storytelling and the horrific historicity of the centuries of the African slave trade, the middle passage, and the captivity of the African slave populations in the Americas.

Part of the genius of Wild Seed is...

(The entire section is 543 words.)