Fiction Reviews

Mind of My Mind

(1977 / 2020) Octavia Butler, Headline, £9.99, pbk, 237pp, ISBN 978-1-472-28100-5


Mind of my Mind is the second book in Octavia Butler’s Patternist sequence, and charts the rise of the Patternists, from a disparate bunch of fiercely independent telepaths to a linked, country-spanning community.

Butler’s a multi-award-winning, highly influential novelist whose reputation has soared since her untimely death at 58 in 2006.  The Patternist novels represent her early work and take a look at what a new, dominant form of super-humanity might look like for the rest of us.

The answer is slavery and casual disregard.  For the Patternists, ordinary humans are ‘mutes’, to be manipulated and exploited.  Patternists, too, live and rule by survival of the fittest.

Mary is the strongest.  She’s the daughter of Doro, a virtually immortal spirit being who kills at whim and inhabits the bodies of his victims, and Anyanwu (now confusing renamed from her Wild Seed incarnation as Emma).  Emma doesn’t age either, and is a healer and shapeshifter to boot, and Doro’s plan is that their offspring might rule the world.  After generations of flawed experiments, Mary finally begins to pull the threads together.

Many of Doro and Emma’s descendants are telepaths and it is that ability that Mary uses to draw them into a linked pattern of influence, under her tight control.  They resist, at least initially, but as her confidence grows so does her hold and eventually the Patternists emerge as a powerful, coordinated force, taking over communities and expanding their reach.

But Doro is a problem for them – although he has immense power he isn’t a telepath himself – he feels excluded by Mary and the Pattern she has created and wants to limit her influence. The stand off between them is inevitable but the outcome less so – can Doro prevail, as he always has? And what will the Pattern become?

This novel is tense and imaginative, though its issues and dynamics will be very familiar to anyone with even a passing understanding of the X-Men comics and movies.  Power, dominance and oppression are key themes. Is this the future of the human race?  Or its endgame?  Recommended.

Mark Bilsborough


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