Octavia E. Butler: Clay's Ark



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Bad situation once told from the other perspective one can see how the bad guys are not eally bad at all but just other people with another perspective Indeed this element is eally strong in Clay s Ark Whatever awards Ms Butler eceived in her lifetime she surely deserved them and then some Her writing is a great example of how science fiction is the genre that is often best suited to handle the big uestions about human nature and where it might be headed I enjoyed the purity of this science fiction tale on the theme of alien possession In this short novel of less than 200 pages we are subjected to an intense story of survival of a single family with the fate of the human ace at stake The terrible choices they must make put it over the line into the territory of psychological horror What makes this book stand out is its use of the story as a doorway to larger themes of what it means to be human and to be part of He had started what could become an epidemic Now if he were going to be able to live with himself at all he had to contain it That sounds like a good tagline for an ad poster for this book However as it was published in 1984 I doubt such a poster existsOctavia Butler is one of my all time favorite authors my eviews of her books tend to be somewhat fanboyish short on objectivity and of course completely unprofessional this not being my profession Still I find it uite pleasant to enthuse about her to anyone who would listen and also those who would not Clay s Ark is ostensibly part of Ms Butler s Patternmaster Series However it eads entirely like a standalone I have ead the two previous volumes Wild Seed and Mind of My Mind and I cannot find any connection to this book I have heard that there is a connection somewhere on one page but it must have slipped under my adar Perhaps it is better this way so that anyone can just pick up and ead this book without worrying about transpires in previous volumes Clay s Ark is set in a near future dystopia where people live walled up communities called enclaves to protect themselves from marauding outlaws Eli Doyle is a former astronaut the lone surviving crew member of the Clay s Ark spaceship which crash landed in a Mojave desert The entire crew of this ship has been infected by an alien virus sized microbe that give them enhanced strength and agility in exchange for considerable loss of humanity and agency The microbe creates a compulsion for the host to spread its disease Doyle does not emember why he is the only surviving crew member he does not want to spread the disease he knows it will spell the end of the human ace as we know it but he has to the microbe will not be deniedThe theme of parasitic symbiosis is one which Butler has eturned to a few times in her body of work particularly Bloodchild and Lilith s Brood In all these works she explores the human condition that we take for granted and the effect of the loss or involuntary modification of humanity Clay s Ark presents the eader with the moral dilemma of the people who have contracted the Clay s Ark disease They do their best to isolate themselves from the human population in order to avoid creating an unstoppable global epidemic and mutations yet the microbe compels them to find new carriers for the disease two conflicting goals with a foreseeable outcome In this novel the good guys are bad guys who want to be good Clay s Ark like all Octavia Butler books that I have ead is very well written with complex characters cool SFnal concepts and ideas worth pondering all wrapped up in a fast paced and compelling narrative At first I expected Clay s Ark to have human interest for me than Mind of My MindBoth novels concern a sort of new deve. Es in the desert so as not to contaminate other humans To esist the compulsion to infect others is mental agony nut to succumb is to

Lopment for humanity Mind of My Mind has people with psychic abilities who are gaining power by working as a group and Clay s Ark has an isolated set of people infected by an alien disease which changes them completely All of the major characters in Mind of My Mind were part of the in group of psychics the This was the most disturbing book by Octavia E Butler that I have ead yet further inspiring my desire to have a conversation with her to find out just how that brain worked Her concepts are fascinating even when as disturbing as this onePerhaps it was the violence against young children that has me troubled The ending certainly is not for the faint of heart However I did not dislike this book because of this My dislike comes perhaps from a bias egarding its place as part of the Seed to Harvest collectionClay s Ark carries the similar theme of a community of humans mutated both physically and psychologically who must fight against outward and inward forces to maintain their humanity a theme that dominates just about every book I ve ead from this author Beyond that and the name there is very little that elates it to the Patternists created by Mary in Mind of My Mind or the superhumans created by Doro beginning in Wild Seed In fact Clay Dana s involvement is not mentioned until than half way through the book I took a uick peek at the first few pages of Patternmaster and I see the esults of Clay s Ark may play a part in that story but for now it is an odd addition to the series that perhaps was not intended to be part of the series at all considering it was created several years after Patternmaster Alright This is the third or fourth Patternmaster book I m eading depending on which order you ead and by now they all seem to be the same plot but with different characters A group of people or individuals have to have sex to survive This one went from Butler s usual dub con and sexual coersion straight into incestuous ape attempt and I think I ve had my share of that theme now Every conversation is about ape wondering about ape fearing ape asking about ape being empowered through ape being killed by ape all the sorts I ever didn t want to imagine I need a break okay This could easily be ead as a brief standalone novel Rather than fly a wealthy family from a ich area takes a drive on the violent dangerous oads between enclaves and gets kidnapped Butler s series theme of genetics this time concerns an alien microbe that mutates human hosts Fascinating storyas always Enjoyable but certainly not the best of the Patternist series The characters are thin even for Butler and I never could fully suspend my disbelief in their motivations and subseuent actions Without giving too much away the only character I did have any affectionempathy for I ll let you guess ended up dying gruesomely haha Oh wellHowever Butler does a tremendous job of describing the insidious and terrifying symptoms of the Clay s Ark disease ie the physical changes the urges need to infect etc She s just so good at providing believable visceral descriptions of what people are experiencing it s a strength across all of her books so far as I can tell And to some degree this phenomenological approach does make up for the thin characterizations at the story s best points I was turning pages just to ead about the disease The book still suffers from some explain y hand wavy writing which is unfortunate and possibly attributable to the fact that Butler wrote Clay s Ark as a kind of background postscript to the Patternist seriesAnyway not a bad book and this is the closest we ll ever get to the book that I always wanted from Butler Scratching Where It Itches A Day in the Life of a Clayar. Elinuish humanity and free will Desperate they kidnap a doctor and his two daughters as they cross the wasteland and endanger the world.

Free ebook Clay's Ark by Octavia E. Butler – cafe1919.org

Clay s Ark An alien disease transforms a portion of humanityOriginally published at Fantasy LiteratureClay s Ark 1984 was written last in Octavia Butler s 4 book PATTERNIST series but comes third in chronology It takes place after Wild Seed 1980 and Mind of My Mind 1977 in the post apocalyptic California desert Society has collapsed into armed enclaves marauding car families organ hunters and isolated towns It s along the lines of Mad Max with fuel sources depleted and social infrastructure nonexistent violent death lurking at any moment and little oom for anything than survivalThis world is gradually evealed via two storylines one set in the past and the other in the present The past story arc is centered on an astronaut named Eli the only survivor of a spaceship called Clay s Ark that went on an exploratory mission to Proxima Centauri The mission encountered an alien microbe that affected and transformed their DNA for it s Where Butler gets it ight always gets it ight is in the fascinating premises she builds her novels on Where she occasionally gets it wrong is in the developmentButler published Patternmaster in 1974 and then spent the next eight years filling in the history of the far future world she had created This produced Wild Seed which became one of her best novels but it also produced Survivor which she later disowned and Clay s ArkClay s Ark has the usual Butlerian sexual acial and xenophobic tensions and is fairly gripping as far as the pacing goes Unfortunately it never ises above its status as a preuel there is no clear eason why this story needed to be told out of all the stories Butler could have written except that the Clayarks of Patternmaster needed to be explained And as Hollywood has proved on multiple occasions an explanation does not a good story make This is the third book I ve ead in the Patternist series going in the order they are collected in Seed To Harvest I previously ead Wild Seed and Mind of My Mind and those two books were directly elated with a few of the same characters 200 years down the oad However I didn t notice any direct links between Clay s Ark and Mind of My Mind but maybe I missed something Anyway here s the plot in a nutshell an astronaut has crash landed on Earth carrying with him a contagious disease organism from another galaxy The organism assumes control over a human s body and makes it act in accordance with staying alive and spreading the disease to others It s like an evolutionary survival instinct except now humans are just a host for the eal survivors Don t want to give much about the story away even if it wouldn t spoil the enjoyment of the ead The story is told in chapters that alternate between the past when the astronaut first crash landed on Earth to the present when a father and his daughters are kidnapped by a strange cult The setting is in the USA around the year 2060 I think and now the country is divided into safe enclave communities and everything else which is uled by gangs and thieves Just as with the first two Patternist stories I ead Clay s Ark incorporates many of the same themes gender ace evolution survival breeding programs and morality As I ve come to expect Butler never gives an easy answer to any of these ideas and instead poses situations in which morality seems like a luxury in the face of survival She masterfully creates situations in which there seems to be no ight answer and the eader cannot oot for one decision or the other but instead wait to see how everything unfolds The characters were sympathetic and flawed and her choice of characters were uite interesting What I love about Butler s stories is that even the people who seem to be perpetrating In a violent near future Asa Elias Doyle and her companions encounter an alien life form so heinous and destructive they exile themselv.

Octavia Estelle Butler was an American science fiction writer one of the best known among the few African American women in the field She won both Hugo and Nebula awards In 1995 she became the first science fiction writer to receive the MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant