The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The five novels of the Patternist series were not written and published in the order of their fictional chronology. Chronologically, the tale begins with Wild Seed, which covers the period from 1700 b.c.e. to c.e. 1830. It presents Doro, the oldest known of all the patternist paranormal humans. Born a Nubian in the upper Nile region of Africa around 1700 b.c.e., he died at the age of thirteen in a transition, the equivalent of a vastly accelerated adolescence. He can live only by taking the body of another nearby living human, which, used up, is left dead, to be replaced by yet another living human. Doro’s mind and spirit displace those of the body’s owner. He must kill to survive and has done so thousands of times. Doro’s taste for the bodies of other humans with paranormal abilities (limited to forms of telepathy and psychokinesis; Butler eschews precognitive powers) drives him to hunt them, relocate them in isolated villages, and breed them through many centuries.

Around 1690, his homing sense for paranormal humans takes him to the extraordinary Anyanwu in the Ibo/ Nigerian region of West Africa. At this time, Anyanwu is already three hundred years old because she is a shape-shifter and a healer. She can take many forms, including that of an eagle, a panther, a dolphin, and a wolflike dog. She has enormous physical strength and does not age.

From 1690 in West Africa, through the “middle passage” period of the slave trade, to the early nineteenth century in America, Doro and Anyanwu engage in a struggle of love, hate, and, finally, truce. During these years, Anyanwu has children by members of Doro’s breed population of paranormal humans, often with Doro inhabiting the breed father’s body. She eventually establishes herself as a white male Maryland plantation owner to give a home to what has become her own extended family of paranormal people. Prior to the Civil War, Anyanwu moves her people out of the war’s path to California, where she soon takes the name Emma. It is by this persona that she will be known in her role as a secondary...

(The entire section is 889 words.)