This is the first of Butler I read and I thought the writing was excellent and thoughtful. The only problem I have is the order...the four novels of the series are arranged chronologicaly. I think it actually makes more sense to read them in order of publication date. In this case the prequels explain things already hinted at in previous books that should have been read first.
This is an omnibus of four of the five novels of the Patternist series, Wild Seed, Mind of My Mind, Clay's Ark and Patternmaster. For some reason unknown to me, the third book in the series, Survivor, is not included in this omnibus.
The first novel, Wild Seed, was by far my favorite. It is the story of Doro, a man with a special power that allows his spirit to jump from body to body, leaving the discarded bodies dead. He quickly discovers that it gives him more pleasure to occupy the body of a person who also has some sort of special power, be it telekinesis, telepathy, shapeshifting, or the power to heal self or others. He starts collecting these people and breeding them, creating offspring with greater and greater powers for his personal use. Eventually he comes across a woman who is as long-lived as he and more powerful than any he has come across before. He realizes that she is more useful to him alive as breeding stock than the short-term pleasure he could get from her by occupying her body, and realizes that she already has many children who could also be useful to him. But she won't submit easily. She only agrees to do his will if he agrees not to harm her children. But Doro is not to be trusted and conflict ensues. This breathtaking story spans several centuries. I was blown away by the writing style, I felt the author was speaking directly to me. By the end of the novel I found Doro's single-mindedness a little disturbing, but otherwise this was an awesome novel.
The second novel, Mind of My Mind, picks up a few hundred years after the first leaves off. Doro's creations have gotten stronger--strong enough to begin challenging him. This book was still quite good but somehow not quite as good as the first one. I was left at the end wanting to know what could possibly happen next, but that will be left to the imagination.
The third novel, Survivor, is not included in this omnibus and I have not read it.
The fourth novel, Clay's Ark, is completely different from the first two. One of the minor characters from the second novel is briefly mentioned in the third novel, but otherwise it is completely unconnected (perhaps explained by the missing third novel). This could easily have been a stand alone novel and I quite liked it. This is set in the dystopian near future. The first starship (named Clay's Ark) ever to carry humans to another planet has just returned to Earth, but it is bringing with it a highly infectious microorganism that changes the very essence of those it infects. Infected people are compelled to spread the disease to as many as possible and to reproduce as quickly as they can. The first infected people try desperately to retain their humanity--they live in the middle of a desolate desert and kidnap and infect only enough people to quiet their compulsions in an attempt to protect the rest of the world from their disease. This works for several years until one of the people they capture and infect escapes and heads straight for LA. A very chilling story and my second favorite in this omnibus.
The last novel, Patternmaster, was definitely my least favorite. This is set even father in the future when most of the people on the planet are either powerful descendants of Doro or are infected with the Clayark disease from the previous novel. These two factions are at constant odds and each would like nothing better than to wipe the other out. The descendants of Doro, with all of their amazing mental powers, have lost almost all of their mechanical ability. The future has developed into what is almost a typical fantasy world. Everything is low tech and "magic" is common. Outside city walls are evil creatures, the Clayarks, that want to kill everybody. The story involves the interaction of some very powerful brothers vying for leadership positions in this setting. Somehow I just didn't find it to be very interesting. It's ok and this is a very short novel so if you've read the first three novels I definitely recommend finishing this one too, but I wouldn't necessarily recommend picking up a copy of Patternmaster on its own.
Over all I definitely enjoyed this omnibus. I loved the first story and really enjoyed the fourth. The second was good and the fifth was ok. I really wonder, though, what happened to the third story?