Wild Seed, by Octavia E. Butler
Doro has lived on the earth for thousands of years, jumping from one body to another and feasting off the energy of others to gain strength. With his power to take life with a touch he has been forcing individuals with extraordinary powers to breed in pursuit of individuals who can serve him in various ways. He has been doing this both in Africa and the New World but his African population has been wiped out by slavers.
Traveling to find a new spot in Africa to start over he meets Anyanwu, a woman hundreds of years old. She’s a woman who heals while living in small African communities and has watched generations of children live out their lives. While Doro has met children of his own breeding work he has never met someone with such power who is not the result of his own work. He refers to her as a wild seed.
Anyanwu can taste the blood of a sick person and absorb all the information she needs about healing and give her patient immunity. She can also absorb information about the complete body of animals whose flesh she eats and transform herself into that animal.
Doro convinces Anyanwu to go with him to the new world. Taking the body of a slaver, Doro boards a vessel bound for the newly named English city of New York. The ship is crewed by Doro’s own children, including Isaac, who can move the boat without wind and can lift things with his mind.
As they travel and settle together Anyanwu gains more insights into the empty evil that fills Doro, who takes life to keep others under his control. She is both sexually attracted to him and repulsed by him at the same time. He settles her in a Dutch village in upstate New York where she learns the language and the ways of the New World. Doro leaves for long periods of time and decides that having Isaac, his favorite son, and Anyanwu marry would bring him a perfect child.
Living through revolution and the creation of the United States, Anyanwu finally escapes to the south where she and others run a farm in peace until Doro, in several different bodies, begins to visit. It’s here that the two face a confrontation as Doro realizes Anyanwu’s importance to him while she realizes that death would be more peaceful than watching him continue to destroy lives.
Wild Seed is the fourth book in the Patternist series but is the first book in chronological order. It sets the stages for an ongoing study of race, gender, human life, and the use of power. As with other Butler books, the times and locations were closely studied to create as authentic an atmosphere as possible. These books were Butler’s initial writings until taking on the Xenogenesis trilogy in 1984. They’re sexual, mystical, and intellectual at the highest literary levels.
The first four chronological books can be purchases separately in paperback, audiobook, or Kindle, or as a single volume called Seed to Harvest in both paperback and Kindle formats. A fifth volume, Survivors, was withdrawn by Butler and is no longer in print.