It was recently announced that Dawn, the first book in Octavia Bulter’s Xeogenenis series, is slated to be turned into a TV series. Now for those of you who know anything about her, that is pretty dope news! And not just for geeks like myself.
Octavia, was an amazing writer who had the uncanny skill of covering a wide range of futuristic, high concept, heavy, dark, epic, metaphysical and complex themes, while doing so in a way that was unbelievably entertaining. Another of her strength’s was the ability to tell stories that wove character’s of all races together without it coming off as forced or contrived. Everyone is who and where they are because that’s who and where they’re supposed to be. It’s for these and many other reasons that she’s won the prestigious Nebula and Hugo awards twice, as well as a the McArthur Fellowship.
I’ve been a fan for two decades now and read most of her books, but the one that initially introduced me to her unique world was Wild Seed. That introduction though, had nothing to do with word of mouth, or my own research. It was purely random. As in, one day in the library, the cover caught my eye, random. For starters, it was kinda rare to see a black face on a book cover in the 90’s, well minus the Romance section. But what also caught my eye was the fact that this woman did not appear to be human, not fully human anyway.
I picked it up, staring at it for longer then I’ll admit here…it was a striking image and I was captivated! I immediately recognized distinctly African features, and a gaze with the kind of quite confidence and an inner strength that I had come to know in my own interactions (I would later find both observations to be true). This woman, whoever she was, emanated an intense beauty and I had to know more.
I was also intrigued by the fusion of a number of animals into what could only be described as her headdress. Was she some kind of shapeshifter? Was this a reboot of the tired old voodoo, totem thing? I had to know. And with cover art like that, this book had to be good. It just had to be. I didn’t even bother reading the inside jacket, I was checking this bad boy out.
This random act turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I flew through the book in two days and later went on to read most of her other works. A big part of why I began dabbling with writing has to be credited to her. Her ability to create unique and fascinating worlds that are still believable was uncanny, and this is coming from a cynic who despises most Hollywood tales.
Lets get on with the review. As the clear protagonist of this story, Anyanwu reminded me of so many African woman I’ve known, who somehow balance the characteristics of unbowed strength and cultural submission. My grandmother, my mother and so many others.
But unlike the women I know, there was something amazingly unique about Anyanwu. She was unlike anyone else in her village, in a part of Igboland that would later become part of Nigeria. Although she appeared to be old and decrepit, that guise was a complete deception. There was a significant amount of power that emanated from her, but only to the few who could sense it.
Doro was one such person. In fact, he was one of only a few who could, and it was that power that drew him halfway across the African continent to the edge of a clearing on a small coco yam farm. Where he found himself stalking Anyanwu from the concealment of the bush–or so he thought. Doro had been alive for 3000 years, long enough to know that his eyes alone could not be relied on to access who or what he was observing.
She’d heard him clumsily stumbling through the forest for some time now–her enhanced hearing helping her track his exact location. This man had to be a stranger. Her reputation preceded her in this area and as such, she was worshipped by some, but feared by many. This man was either very bold, or a fool and she hadn’t survived for three centuries by being the later.