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Wild Seed by Octavia E Butler (books, 2015, 5)

Halfway through the year and only five books in? This is shocking behaviour!

I’m glad I read this, and I sort of enjoyed it, but I wasn’t entirely happy with it.

There are two main characters, both of whom appear to be functionally immortal, though with different mechanisms for keeping them alive. The shapeshifting, self-healing (and healer of others) Anyanwu is an African woman in the seventeenth century when we meet her. She is already two or three hundred years old.

The male immortal, Doro, is even older. For perhaps thousands of years he has survived by stealing bodies. His consciousness hops from his current one to another when the latter threatens him, or just when he chooses it. The personality of his destination body is of course destroyed in the hop, and the body he leaves also dies. Anyanwu is attracted to his power and the fact that they are apparently the only such long-lived people on Earth, but is repelled by the mechanism of his survival.

As she is by his long-term (really long-term) project to try to breed people with special abilities — many of the subjects of which are, or may be, distant descendants of her, or of his original people (most of whom he killed in panic when he first “died” and found himself in a new body).

I was annoyed at Anyanwu as a character at times, by the way she didn’t resist Doro when he had her do things she didn’t want to do. But he is an expert manipulator and is willing to threaten her kids to bend her to his will. And I guess that cleverly evokes the reality of women’s situation often in history, and certainly at that time.

This is the start of the Seed to Harvest series, and I’m keen to see where it goes.