My book reviews are written as a discussion of a book, and not as an advertisement. Please be aware that there may be information that some would consider spoilers. Continue on at your own risk!
Clay’s Ark is the third in the Seed to Harvest series by Octavia Butler. I just discovered Ms. Butler’s work at the end of 2012, and have been trying not to rip through all of them back to back. I think you sometimes have to step away and come back to truly appreciate the stories. Her books are easy to pick up, and quick to read, and this one was no exception. Here’s what I thought:
This book is about an astronaut that comes back to Earth with a parasite that makes him stronger, faster, etc. and drives him to infect and mate with others. He infects a family living in a remote part of the desert and they work hard to not unintentionally spread the virus (invasion) outside of their camp. They do have to occasionally kidnap and infect people so they can have partners to mate with and because of the drive to infect others. They find a family of three, a father, two daughters- one with leukemia. After taking them to their ranch the family escapes, and eventually the virus is spread around the world.
I spent the majority of this book trying to figure out how this story fit into the series. I realized that ‘Clay’ from Clay’s Ark was Clay Dana (from the original group in Mind of my Mind), about 3/4ths of the way through the book. It wasn’t until the end that I realized that the people infected with this virus (called ‘Clayarks’) eventually challenge the Pattern people from Mind of My Mind. I’m hoping that book 4- Patternmaster is a showdown between people of inhuman strength (not sure there are any “humans” left)
Plot Score: 4/5
Location, Location, Location
This book takes place on a future Earth. The dad in the family that is kidnapped is a doctor, and he has a bag that you can type in what type of drug you want and get it (amazing!). I was impressed with the technology in the book given when it was written.
Location Score: 4/5
Characters and Relationships
Eli- The source of the virus on earth, he is the lone surviving astronaut. Although he gives into the urge to infect people, he tries hard to hold onto his humanity.
Keira – The lone survivor of the kidnapped family, she seemed willing from the beginning to consider what Eli’s people were telling her. Had it not been for her strong family bond, I don’t think she would have tried to escape.
Blake / Rane- These two weren’t having anything to do with Eli’s people. Even though a part of Rane felt that she could have adapted, their natures did not allow them to willing stay. Their decision is what ultimately spreads the virus to the world.
Jacob- He’s the eldest child of two infected people. He walks on all four, has a lot of strength and intelligence (and other cool super human skills). They do not think of him as human. He can tell who likes him (he knows that Rane does not, but Keira does). We don’t get to see to much of him in this book, but I have a feeling he will have a bigger role in the next novel.
Characters Score: 4/5
Life Lessons (fka Bigger Meaning)
Humans are always wrapped up in appearances. And this is a larger theme to both this work and Xenogenesis series. In both stories, humans are presented with the opportunity to evolve (and get cool powers), yet they hesitate as they don’t want to integrate with something different then themselves. I guess they are right to be a bit hesitant (you don’t want to lose all identity), but it seems some people would be excited by this.
This story also continues the family theme that has been evident in the first two books of this series. It’s hard to force someone to be a family- especially when you start by infecting them.
Bigger Meaning Score: 4/5
Opening Line: The ship had been destroyed five days before.
I’ve been noting the opening lines of the novels, waiting to see one that immediately pulls the reader into the story. This opening line is the best one I’ve come across since I’ve been doing this (OK, I’ve only done it 2-3 times). Just reading this first line makes me wonder what type of ship…and what has gone down in that five days.
I was annoyed by the alternating past / present chapters. Especially when the “present” chapters started with Blake’s perspective on their situation up until their attempted escape, then the “present” chapters went though the same timeline from each daughters experience. I just wanted to get to the point where I could find out if they escaped, and if the virus had gotten out. The “past” chapters were not bad, but I really wanted the “present” story to move.
Style Score: 3/5
-Why are people so afraid of evolution? It seems as if the military would love to get ahold of a virus like this to make their super soldiers.
-I wonder if whatever ‘it’ was that made Doro unhuman, came from the same place as Clay’s Ark virus and the next book with be a re-match. A fight to the death between two extraterrestrial viruses – with humans as the throw away battle ground.
-When I read this, I couldn’t help but think that if zombies passed their virus this easily, humans wouldn’t stand a chance!