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When you first meet Doro, you'd think he was an ordinary man, the same as you or I. But Doro has a unique gift: he can survive the death of his body by transferring his essence into the body of another. Unfortunately for those he takes over, there's only room for one consciousness in the human brain, and so when Doro takes control, the previous owner is evicted. He's survived this way for thousands of years, hopping from body to body, and leaving a trail of the dead in his wake, for his gift does not allow him to inhabit bodies for long, necessitating the frequent claiming of new victims.
Wild Seed begins in 1690 in Africa, when Doro discovers another immortal by the name of Anyanwu, though Anyanwu is not the monster Doro is. While his powers are tied inextricably to death, Anyanwu's are tied to life; instead of stealing new bodies, she is able to manipulate her body to heal any wound, make herself appear forever young, or even shapechange into different creatures altogether. When Doro first meets Anyanwu, she appears to be an old woman serving as shaman to the village. But when he discovers her true nature, he embarks upon a quest to find others like her — "wild seed" — and selectively breeds them in order to foster the development of these seemingly magical talents. This multigenerational genetic engineering project takes the pair from their starting place in Africa in to the American colonies and beyond.
To describe the plot as above surely doesn't do justice to Wild Seed, which is easily one of the finest science fiction novels ever written; but more than that, it is a great work of literature, period, that explores deep philosophical issues and vividly explores the extraordinary long lives of two fascinatingly-drawn characters.
For a book as brilliant as this, it would be easy for a narrator to just convey the text and get out of its way, but Dion Graham somehow manages to add yet another layer to an already rich and complex narrative by giving voice to it with such emotion and gravitas. Graham provides a variety of character voices to the extent that he seems to be a vocal chameleon; the character of Doro alone requires him to change his voice into a number of different accents, all of which Graham ably handles. But perhaps what makes this performance truly stand out is the intensity of Graham's narration in between dialogue, which really drives home the power of Butler's prose.As both a novel and an audiobook, Wild Seed stands as a sterling example of science fiction, literature, and performance art. Utterly compelling, and completely unforgettable. — John Joseph Adams