A. E. Reads: Patternmaster [Book Review]

Today is my final review in Ocativa Butler’s The Patternist series.

Patternmaster, published in 1976 by Octavia Butler, was the first book to be published in the series but is actually the last book chronologically and therefore is the last book I read. I read the series chronologically, so I read Wild Seed first, then followed by Mind of my Mind, Clay’s Ark and finished with Patternmaster. I think that’s important to mention because of course reading books in different orders gives readers different experiences, despite reading the same words.

So to start with my review, Octavia Butler has kept with the continuing theme of slavery in this series. The Patternists make slaves out of “mutes,” humans without telepathic powers and other telepaths who are considered weaker.

The main character Teray is a case of a good guy trapped in the wrong story. He’s noble, honorable, respectable, and a generally good guy, stuck in a world of slavery and dominance and abuse. He wants to be free and raise a family in a world where it’s NOT about who’s more powerful than who.

So for that reason, Patternmaster is a rather hard read (and by hard I mean that its hard to enjoy), because I think Teray’s personality isn’t suited for the world he lives in. Because of his generally passive nature and not wanting to hurt or inconvenience anyone, he doesn’t take risks or make decisions that can better himself if it means he’s hurting someone else.

The world of Patternmaster is a ruthless one. They’re at war, and they kill without question and they don’t shy from hurting their own people, including mutes who they are supposed to be protecting. There’s a lot of threats of death and demands for submission. Teray is nearly killed on multiple occasions.

The real problem I had with the story is Teray, the central character. His motivation is too weak. All he wants is his freedom. But that’s not necessarily enough to carry a story. Also he is very passive. Situations and plots happen to him rather than him doing anything. He doesn’t try to escape or do his own plan until other characters bring plans to him.

Even the ending, which I won’t spoil, but it’s wrapped up because other people tell Teray what to do and what happens. Teray doesn’t seek out and find information on his own, but its all told and given to him. Teray is too passive and gentle and nice, which I think would be okay in either another story or if he wasn’t the main character.

So I didn’t enjoy Patternmaster that much. However I have to say again that by reading the series chronologically rather than in published order gave me a different experience. First, I’ll say I didn’t realize I was reading the series in that way, I didn’t know until I started doing small research to write my reviews.

That all said, after I read Mind of my Mind, I was expecting the next story about Mary and the other Patternists taking over the world. But I was disappointed with Clay’s Ark, which had “turned” from telepaths to aliens in a way I had no idea why.

And then again with Patternmaster, I ended up disappointed. I know my disappointment comes from expecting a story that I didn’t receive, and I think reading the series in publication order would have at least changed that much of my experience.

What’s unchanged is my reasons for why I enjoy or did not enjoy the stories. Wild Seed and Mind of my Mind are my two favorites. I think the story is great and I love the characters. I feel the opposite for both Clay’s Ark and Patternmaster.

This is not to say the stories aren’t well-written, because they are. Octavia Butler was a master at the craft, she knew exactly what she was doing and the story she was writing. I’m okay that I wasn’t totally on board but I still love her and I still wish I had gotten a chance to meet her. I think if anyone is new to Octavia Butler or is considering reading the Patternist Series, I recommend it. I think if reading by chronological order vs. publication order should be left up to the reader. When I reread the series, I’ll still read it in chronological order.

So that’s the end of my review series of Octavia Butler’s The Patternist. What I’m reviewing next is a wonderful novella called The Deep by Rivers Solomon, so that’ll be out another time.

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