Thursday, April 17, 2014

A dangerous practice these days -- taking in strays

Before too much more time passes between my having finished the book and this review, I've decided I need to write about Clay's Ark. Like it's getting a bit embarrassing now.

Clay's Ark is the third book in the Seed to Harvest series, but I only know that because the book told me. Otherwise I am going to have to trust that the final book in this series will explain what this one is doing here. It doesn't have the same characters. The plot is similar in a general sense. There is a single guy making his own family with people with extrasensory powers.

In Wild Seed and Mind of My Mind, Doro was bringing together people who had these abilities, telepaths and the like, and was selectively breeding them to make more powerful people. (Note: Doro was sort of a dick. I guess being immortal/playing God will do that to you.) The first story took place in the 18th century, the next in 1970s.

In Clay's Ark we're sometime in a dystopian future. It's sort of Mad Max-esque. The cities seem safe enough. I guess. You just hear about them. But the open road is a free-for-all. Car families roam  the roads killing and kidnapping people stupid enough to travel. But there's apparently something...maybe not more dangerous, but certainly not something I'd want to go up against lurking out there.

The story switches back and forth between the present with doctor Blake and his twin daughters Keira and Rane, who are all stupid enough to travel, and the past with former astronaut and geologists Eli who returned to Earth after coming in contact with...something out there. Something that killed the rest of his crew and something that's changing him.

It's not an alien-being a la...well...Alien where it's going to bust through your chest cavity. Instead it's like a disease that connects with the hosts genetics and changes them. They become stronger, faster, more in tune with each other. And most importantly a compulsion to pass the disease on.

Eli, like Doro, wants to create a community of people like him. Unlike Doro, Eli makes his community instead of finding people who already have these extraordinary abilities. Eli wants to hold on to his humanity as much as possible, as much as the organism will let him. Of course, what does that mean for Blake, Rane, and Keira?

Butler books tend to be difficult to summarize, let alone summarize without spoiling anything. I don't want to say too much more but I'll tell you this book is much more of a thriller than her other books. She cuts the tension of the present with the past chapters that explain how Eli and his community came to be.

I will also say so far this is my least favorite of the Seed to Harvest series. Maybe because it doesn't seem to be part of the same series at all. It deals with similar themes but then again, a lot of her work deals with similar themes of power and humanity and free will so right now I don't see how this fits. But the story is still good. It still tackles difficult topics and for once a couple of the characters seem to show real emotion, which is something that tends to be lacking in her books.

I'd say "I'm thinking of taking a break from this series" except, I've obviously taken a break. I've read 3 non-Butler books since reading Clay's Ark so I suppose it's really a matter of when I'll make it back to the series. I will finish it and hopefully it will explain how Clay's Ark fits into the grander series.

Title quote from page 529, location 9238

Butler, Octavia E. Clay's Ark, part of the Seed to Harvest collection. Grand Central Publishing, 2007. Originally published 1980. Kindle edition.