Wherein Your Intrepid (cough) Reviewer Returns to Octavia Butler’s Patternist Series and Is Pleasantly Surprised
Not surprised that Mind of My Mind is awesome with its well-executed discussions of race, power struggles, gender, community, and slavery—I have yet to read a bad Octavia Butler book—but surprised that I was able to enjoy it so much.
Doro—a reoccurring lead in the Patternist series and an immortal being that jumps from body to body, devouring the original host—is one of my most-hated fictional villains. I find him physically painful to read because he is the villain that you cannot hope to conquer: immortal, strong, unstoppable. He is a symbol of inescapable slavery and of violent coercion and is a remorseless puppeteer of all who suit his whims. But Mind of My Mind switches perspectives often enough and offers such hope that Doro may one day be beaten that I was able to sit back and enjoy the experience instead of reading with muscles tensed, waiting for it to be over so I could finally get away from him. That Butler was capable of writing a character that effecting is a compliment to her, despite the fact that it has left me with mixed feelings about the Patternist books.
While we get inside the heads of quite a few Patternists (telepaths, created through Doro’s intrusive telepath breeding program), the story revolves around Mary, a recent daughter of Doro. PS Doro bangs all the telepaths in order to create new telepaths and then he bangs all their kids ’cause that is just how he rolls. He warns the children not to call him Daddy because they “won’t like it later.” Despicable mother fucker. Literally. Mary’s powers have enormous potential. No one knows exactly what kind of mutant telepath Doro is hoping to create, but Mary, it seems, might be it.
A vintage cover subtitles Mind of My Mind with “A daughter battles her immortal father for control of the world.” Yup.
The plot whips you along on a handful of highly readable narrative voices, and the speculations about power, the details of telepathic community building, and the strength inherent in community were particularly interesting themes for me in this volume.
Having jumped from Wild Seed directly to Patternmaster (which was the first book in the series to be published but is the last in the story’s chronology) in my own reading, I was also pleased to finally understand what the fuck Patternmaster is about, in context. Now all that remains of the Patternist series are Clay’s Ark and Survivor—though Butler declined to put Survivor back in print when approached and its paperbacks now wait on used book sites for between 70 and 100 dollars. So nevermind, Survivor (though hey, if you ever see used copies buy them all), Clay’s Ark it is. Now that I can (almost) stomach Doro, I look forward to completing the series. Maybe these are books I will re-read after all.
Twelve out of thirteen non-violent telepaths.
Oops. This essay began life as a flash review, but became too long to keep calling it one. Now it languishes somewhere between flash review and vague mid-length review. In case you were wondering why I don’t go into more detail.
Where I got it: Used bookstore in Greenwich, New York