Wild Seed and the events of the second book* Mind of My Mind. But still. The book is right there and you think you'll just read a the prologue or something, get a taste for the next book, when suddenly you're halfway through.
When we last left Doro and Anyanwu (who now goes by Emma, which was a little sad cos she was so set about not changing her name to something the colonists would find easier to pronounce. Why should she change her name? They should just learn how to pronounce her name) Anyanwu had gone to California to a development Doro set up for her. Now it's sometime in the 1970s (I think, it's never said) and Anyanwu/Emma is still around. Cos, you know, immortal. Doro's still trying to breed a race of super people and Emma is helping with their transitions. He's been having trouble with latents, people with uncontrolled telepathic abilities. See, these people not only hear people's thoughts but they feel everything they're going through, and without the ability to block this out they're going crazy. Doro doesn't really care about the pain they're going through, cos he's an asshole, but latents have the possibility of having actives (telepaths that can control their abilities), which he would really like for that super race thing. Of course these latents are so tormented they usually end up abusing the children and killing themselves, so as you can see everything is sunshine and rainbows.
One of his latents has a daughter, Mary, that has the potential to be an especially strong active, one he takes extra interest in. But growing up in a home where her bother is a prostitute and her johns regularly beat the girl as a child can sort of mess you up. But Doro's right, she's powerful. More powerful than any of his other people. More powerful than he could have predicted. And she's pulling together her own network of connected telepaths.
Once again, Butler plays with the themes of control and free will, far more here than she did in Wild Seed. Doro has always controlled people, though he does it through a mixture of fear and love. His people have the ability to oppose him, although that usually results in their death. And they tend to love him. In Mind of My Mind the telepaths control non-telepaths, people they call Mutes, without these people ever realizing it.
"In pets, free will was tolerated only as long as the pet owner found it amusing."
One complaint I read on Goodreads about this book is that the characters are all coldly unsympathetic. And that's not untrue. It's actually sort of a thing with Butler's books, and one that isn't my favorite thing. I mentioned in the Wild Seed post that Butler's characters will never be my favorites, and it's still holding strong. The closest character I came to really liking, Anyanwu, isn't really prominent in this story. She's there, but the focus is really on Mary and Doro.
Overall I liked this one. I can't decide if I like this better or Wild Seed. It's a toss up. Let's see how Clay's Ark goes.
*As I mentioned in the Wild Seed post, the books in my copy of Seed to Harvest (the full Patternist series) go in chronological order, although they weren't written that way. However, I was pretty excited to see that either way Mind of My Mind comes second. Because I get excited about stupid things.
Title quote from page 299, location 5191
Butler, Octavia E. Mind of My Mind, part of the Seed to Harvest collection. Grand Central Publishing, 2007. Originally published 1980. Kindle edition.