Today, the name “Octavia Butler” is used in the same way as the names of all the great classic sci-fi authors. When she was younger, few people thought she would become famous. Butler was a quiet, bullied child who had mild dyslexia. She spent a lot of time in the library, reading fairy tales and science fiction books and becoming a big fan. Yet from these humble beginnings, a literary mind full of piercing insight and unique perspectives on the human condition grew out of the writer’s mind.
The best science fiction of the twentieth century comes from Octavia Butler. Whether you’re looking for startlingly accurate commentary on modern society, fascinating aliens with complex social structures, or just a chance to expand your mind, Butler has it all. Our complete list of the best Octavia Butler books is below. You can pick your favorite, or start at the top and work your way down. You won’t regret reading any of these classic books. Let’s start now!
The Patternist Series
Despite being the first book in the series in terms of time, Wild Seed was actually the fourth book to be released. Its sharp commentary and detailed worldbuilding make it the perfect way to start the Patternist series. Doro is a person who moves through life by taking over other people’s bodies and killing them when he’s done with them. Anyanwu is an immortal shapeshifter who can heal people, and she can change her shape at will. The two could not be more different, but they are both the only other immortals they know. What happens after they meet is a long story about Doro’s twisted quest to make a new kind of human with better powers, and Anyanwu’s struggle to live under his rule. It will stay with you long after you finish the book.
Mind of My Mind
Mary’s story is told in Mind of My Mind, which comes back to Doro’s world more than 100 years later. born from Doro’s experiments, this is the only life Mary has ever known. But the telepathic abilities she’s been bred to have are a threat to Doro’s power when he realizes they could rival his own. With Mary’s ability to connect other telepaths, will the people under Doro’s rule be able to stand up to the tyrant who is holding them back?
Once again, we move forward in Clary’s Ark. This time, we move forward not just in time but also in our attention. Patternist books 1 and 2 focus on Doro and his quest to build a race of humans with special abilities. Clay’s Ark looks at the same world from a different angle. During this episode, we follow Blake Maslin and his two teen daughters as they go through a very scary situation Blake and his daughters were kidnapped by a group of humans who have been infected with a virus that both makes them stronger and makes them want to spread it to other people. They have two choices: risk a near-impossible escape, or accept their fate. What will happen to everyone else?
Patternmaster is the stunning ending to the series. It brings together the two groups of characters from the previous books, who are now at war. With their minds linked together, the Patternists, who come from Doro’s experiments, can heal or destroy with the power of their minds. They can do this in the far future, where they live. The Clayarks are mutants, born from the virus in the previous book. They fight against the Patternists for survival, freedom, and control, but the Patternists win. This thrilling story is about power struggles, but at its heart, it’s about what it means to be a person.
Note: There used to be another book in the Patternist series called Survivor, but it has been out of print because Butler didn’t like it very much. To respect her wishes, we won’t write a description in her roundup. However, we did want to mention it for the sake of completeness.
The Xenogenesis Series
.Dawn is the first character in this high-stakes, post-apocalyptic sci-fi show. Lilith, who is called Dawn, has been put in charge of overseeing the start of a new world for humans. After surviving a nuclear war, Lilith and the rest of the humans were rescued by a group of aliens. They took care of them and put them in a new status. Now that the planet has been healed, it’s time for our species to return to this new home. However, in Butler’s style, things aren’t always what they seem, and the aliens’ kindness comes at a price.
Adulthood Rites picks up a few decades after the first book. It tells the story of Lilith’s son, Akin. It’s an effort to rid the world of its self-destructive habits. Akin is part of a group of alien-human hybrids. He can be human, but Akin has many special abilities that make him unique. He is supposed to be the future of the human race, but we don’t know much about him yet. But not everything goes as planned, and before Akin can achieve anyone else’s goals, he has to figure out how to deal with his mixed-heritage identity.
Imago wraps up this amazing series with another look at hybrid humans and aliens. Until Jodahs came of age and began to change into an ooloi, which is a sexless subspecies of the alien race. With interspecies breeding now common, this did not seem like a big deal. A human mother gave birth to Jodahs, the first person born to a human. Now, she is at the center of everything. His abilities could be the key to saving the rest of humanity, or they could bring about the end of the world as we know it.
The Parable Series
Parable of the Sower
When Butler wrote the Parable of the Sower, he predicted that climate change, corporate greed, and systemic inequality would almost bring society to an end in the 2020s. Lauren, a teenager who lives in the shadows of this fallen world, has hyperempathy: the ability to feel any emotion or pain she sees. She has to deal with this. Earthseed is a new belief system that she comes up with because of her condition and the destruction of her family’s once-protected home. It might be the only way for humanity to survive.
Parable of the Talents
If you thought the Parable of the Sower was scary accurate, wait until you read its sequel, the Parable of the Talents. It’s even more scary. From two points of view, this sequel follows followers of Lauren’s Earthseed faith as they watch the country fall under the influence of hyper-Christian zealots. One of them, President Trump, was elected under the slogan “Make America Great Again” (yes, that’s what he said when he became president). When you read on, you’ll learn about slavery and how humans are trying to get out of this world for a better one.
Butler had planned to write a third book in the Parable series that would have focused on the colony’s survival in their new world. However, writer’s block and the desire to work on something less depressing meant that the book sadly never came out.