Patternmaster – Octavia Butler

Patternist #5 A talented young telepath finds himself sold off to a powerful lord. While he fights and plans to escape, he falls in with an independent female telepath and they form a bond. People like to say that space opera is derived from westerns. Octavia Butler seems to have set out to prove that on a smaller scale. Patternmaster is transparently the story of a young cowboy (‘civilized’ man) out in the wilds, killing…

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Survivor – Octavia Butler

Patternist #4 A one-way colony ship of religious missionaries lands on an Earth-like planet and find an immediate ally in a local tribe. Alanna, a once-wild young human woman, is captured by an enemy tribe. When she is released she must find a way to sort out prejudices and enmities among the three groups. Octavia Butler is said to have disowned this story, and to have called it her ‘Star Trek’ novel. It’s easy to…

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Clay’s Ark – Octavia Butler

In Clarges, anyone who qualifies can live forever, but Gavin Waylock, falsely accused of crime, has had to live in hiding. Now, he emerges to try again for everlasting life. Wikipedia quotes Floyd C. Gale as saying “frighteningly logical…[t]he sick, inbred society of Vance’s imagination comes fully alive, even though his characters remain mere symbols.” I really can’t say it better than that. Where most Vance work is focused on atmosphere, attitude, and of course…

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Mind of My Mind – Octavia Butler

Patternist #2 The purpose-bred descendant of an immortal sociopath develops an unusual ability that brings her people together. I expected this book to continue the story of the first, but Butler clearly had in mind a much grander scheme for the series. The immortal Doro plays an important part, but his sometime companion Anyanwu is left almost entirely in the background. Instead, the story is told mainly from the point of view of Mary, one…

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Wild Seed – Octavia Butler

Patternist #1 Doro, who has the power to take the bodies of others, meets Anyanwu as he wanders the world gathering stock for his efforts to breed humans with special powers. Both immortal, they each suffer setbacks and disagreements as they forge an uneasy and uneven alliance. I first ran across Octavia Butler’s books in the stacks at Powell’s, a couple of decades ago. I didn’t buy any. I’d heard her name, and the feeling…

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