“Mind of My Mind” by Octavia Butler

“Mind of My Mind” is the second book in Octavia Butler’s Patternist series (chronologically, at any rate).  It works as a standalone, so don’t sweat it if you pick this one up first.

In Wild Seed, we were introduced to Doro, a mutant immortal who survives by jumping from body to body.  He was born in ancient Egypt, and ever since he realized what he was, he’s been bringing people together to try to genetically engineer a race of beings like himself.  Normally he doesn’t succeed, and his descendents just end up going crazy.  Generally people come into their psy powers around the age of 17 or 18, but that’s not necessarily a good thing.  It sucks to have telepathy if you can’t control what emotions you pick up, and so many of Doro’s breed end up killing themselves because they can’t handle all of the negative feelings that surround them.  It’s a pretty grim reality, and Doro doesn’t have any feelings of guilt about it.

“Mind of My Mind” is the story of Mary, one of Doro’s children.  When she reaches her transition, she becomes Doro’s first success.  Rather than going crazy, she ends up building a mental web of telepaths, with herself at the center.  Mary is the complete version of what Doro should have been, and as such, Doro feels as if Mary’s existence is a threat to his own power that he has accumulated through the generations.

One of the things that I found fascinating in this book was the way that Octavia Butler focused on the points of view of each of the original characters caught up in Mary’s pattern.  We get to see and understand a little bit about each of them and how their feelings evolve over time as they adapt to being a part of something larger than themselves and beyond their control.

I’ve read two of Octavia Butler’s novels before, Wild Seed and Kindred.  Both of them focused a lot on the concept of slavery.  “Mind of My Mind” did use power as a central theme, but this time the focus was on the proper use of power, and the fact that it can be used for good as well as for evil.  On one hand we see Doro, who uses his power without compassion solely to pursue his own ends.  His progeny are essentially his slaves, and if he doesn’t use them for breeding, he uses them as new host bodies.  On the other hand, we have Mary, who is more of a mother figure, despite the fact that she is telepathically linked to her Patternists in a position of power.  She brings people into her web because it helps them to deal with their own emotions and abilities, giving them a more peaceful existence.  And of course, Octavia Butler manages to smack you over the head with the implications of both Doro and Mary’s existences.  That’s one of the things that I love about Octavia Butler.  Even after three books, she’s still continuing to shock me.

I’d recommend Octavia Butler to anyone looking for sci-fi that explores racial and gender themes.  The Patternist series provides a fascinating glimpse into a society of telepaths, and “Mind of My Mind” is a gripping and fast-paced continuation.  I had planned on posting this review during the “A More Diverse Universe” event, but the week just slipped by before I could get to it.

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Categories: Fiction, Sci Fi | Tags: , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

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12 thoughts on ““Mind of My Mind” by Octavia Butler

  1. another 3.5 star entry in this series. read back-to-back with Wild Seed , doro and anwanyu have mellowed out to the point of being almost different characters…and yet, the main character here isn’t completely understood without their background influence. it’s an interesting story, but it still feels like a sketch, an idea, something pushing ever towards the next installment, rather than be a complete, finished stand-alone book.

    • I was a bit disappointed with Anyanwu in this one… She seemed so much stronger in “Wild Seed.” I do think it’s interesting though that “Wild Seed” was the last book that was written, so it isn’t necessarily meant to be read in order.

  2. Thanks for that review. I haven’t tried this Butler book yet, but it is definitely on my TBR list. Lilith’s Brood trilogy was some of the best SF I have ever read.

    • I haven’t read the Lilith’s Brood trilogy yet, but I saw it at the bookstore and it looked excellent. I want to read everything she’s ever written. Thus far I’m of the impression that she’s brilliant.

  3. Another good author. Ugh…so many to read. But I will keep an eye for her books that next time I’m in a used bookstore. She sounds like an intriguing storyteller. Thanks! I hope the job is going well 🙂

    • It’s going extremely well so far, but it’s also very busy. So much to learn! I haven’t touched my blog in three days, which is a rarity, but I’m hoping that I’ll be less tired soon. 🙂

  4. L

    wonderful review of an author I have been meaning to read, and I may start with this one. I really am interested in “sci-fi that explores racial and gender themes;” which is part of my attraction to LeGuin. thanks for the recommendation

    • I love LeGuin. I just picked up a couple of her books, and I’m hoping to read them soon. Sherri Tepper is another good one, but she tends to be a wee bit preachy.

  5. Each and every one of her books sounds great. I’ll definitely start with Kindred but wouldn’t mind reading this either. It’s not often one feels smacked on the head by an author. I’m very very curious to read her, if only I had the time. I’ve started to many books and need to finish them all before I start another one.

    • I’ve pretty much decided that I have to read everything she’s ever written, because she’s quickly become one of my favorite authors. I’m working my way through the Patternist series right now (and I have the other two books in the series that are easy to come by on my shelf already). You should definitely give Kindred a shot if you ever have the time; it’s my favorite overall even though the other ones are stronger on the SF front.

  6. I have yet to read one of Butler’s books – I’d rather read about slavery as a non-fiction theme. This book sounds a little different. I might like it.Thanks for posting!

    • This book is much different from the previous two that I read, and I felt like she was more concerned with a story rather than a point. This one’s more of a traditional sci-fi, although her themes are unusual to the genre. She’s such a fantastic writer though, and even her books about slavery feel fresh and original because of the angles that she approaches it from (time travel and telepaths ftw).

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