The novel by Octavia Butler, Clay’s Ark, originally published in 1984, was written last in the 4-book Patternist series, however it comes third in chronology. The story takes place after Wild Seed (1980) and Mind of My Mind (1977.)
However, as much as I’ve enjoyed Octavia Butler’s other works, Clay’s Ark was honestly such a disappointment to me. Mind of My Mind I loved so much, and mainly I loved the world-building and I looked forward to seeing how the Patternists took over the world, since they can program people. So when Clay’s Ark began with all new characters and a leap forward like seven hundred years, and was now about aliens instead of telepaths, I was very confused.
You see, I read Clay’s Ark first, and then Patternmaster. In fact, I wasn’t aware that Clay’s Ark and Mind of My Mind are prequels, and that Patternmaster came first. That is because I read the Seed to Harvest collection, and that book puts the books in chronological order, rather than order of publication. That’s why the switch of Mind of My Mind to Clay’s Ark made no sense to me. I was under the impression I was about to read a completely different story.
Clay’s Ark wasn’t a happy read for me. All the characters were rather horrible people and most of them died. It seemed like a different story randomly injected in the wrong series. There weren’t even any telepaths in the story. Of course now I’m aware it was a prequel. Still, I think if Clay’s Ark was a part of a different series, I may or may not have liked it. I guess I didn’t like going from telepaths to aliens.
I read this in one night, and stayed up to 4 a.m. to finish it.
But even with that new information, I am honest that I didn’t enjoy Clay’s Ark. The main reason being the characters are too unlikeable and because so many of the characters died. It was a very unhappy book. Nothing really “good” happened and it certainly didn’t have a very happy ending.
It’s true I went into Clay’s Ark thinking I was about to read about how the telepaths took over the world, and because I got something completely different, that probably does play into one of the reasons I was disappointed by the story.
That doesn’t mean it’s not a good enough read. I think if someone likes dystopian novels or alien stories, they’d enjoy it. It’s still worth a read, I think all of my Octavia Butler’s works are worth reading. I wish she had been able to finish telling all the stories that were still inside of her before her passing.
In conclusion, I think you can definitely enjoy Clay’s Ark and it should be read. If you’ve read it, what did you think? Did you like the characters and how it ended? Let me know in the comments.