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.