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In 2025, with the world descending into madness and anarchy, one woman begins a fateful journey toward a better future
Lauren Olamina and her family live in one of the only safe neighborhoods remaining on the outskirts of Los Angeles. Behind the walls of their defended enclave, Lauren’s father, a preacher, and a handful of other citizens try to salvage what remains of a culture that has been destroyed by drugs, disease, war, and chronic water shortages. While her father tries to lead people on the righteous path, Lauren struggles with hyperempathy, a condition that makes her extraordinarily sensitive to the pain of others. When fire destroys their compound, Lauren’s family is killed and she is forced out into a world that is fraught with danger. With a handful of other refugees, Lauren must make her way north to safety, along the way conceiving a revolutionary idea that may mean salvation for all mankind. This ebook features an illustrated biography of Octavia E. Butler including rare images from the author’s estate.

Topics: Survival, Feminism, Duology, First in a Series, Series, Epistolary Novels, Speculative Fiction, Los Angeles, California, Futuristic, Dystopia, Apocalypse, Female Protagonist, African American Culture & Characters, Supernatural Powers, Preaching, Hope, and Race Relations

Published: Open Road Media an imprint of Open Road Integrated Media on
ISBN: 9781453263617
List price: $9.99
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I read a lot of apocalyptic future stories when I was younger - it seems to be fully a quarter of the SF genre. Maybe if I'd read this one I wouldn't have stopped reading professional SF for nearly 20 years. It was published around the same time I started to stop going to bookstores.

I keep writing and deleting because everything I think to say is a negative good. Suffice it to say: a great young heroine, a harrowing, engaging story and possibly more close to home for the visible SF reader than it was 18 years ago.

Added later: Reading other reviews of this novel is fascinating. Reviewers giving it a high score almost all seem to want to find something to dislike strongly, whether it is Lauren's narrative voice, the nature of her relationship with Bankole, the centrality of faith to the story or the blistering frankness of the description of awful things (things that happen to real people now and when the book was written.) This is why number rating systems suck, by the way. But it's also an interesting glimpse into what makes the reviewer uncomfortable about the book, what they are least able to articulate.more
The story is set in the not too distant future (2026) with rather frightening scenes of where a society with too many guns and too many drugs could end up. Powerful tenets from Earthseed the Books of the Living begin each chapter. Frightening, gripping, literate, thought provoking this would make an awesome book discussion book.more
Revisiting an old favorite via audio. This is a tale of a near-future dystopia which seemed much less likely when it came out than it does now. It's also an exploration of religion, and how an ordinary young girl can become the head of a new religion called Earthseed. Parts of this seem a bit fuzzy to me now, which is why I'm knocking it down one star from my original review. It's still an edge-of-your-seat ride, with an engrossing plot and interesting characters. Butler was a good writer who died way too young. I wish there were more of her books to look forward to. Here's my favorite verse from Olamina's Earthseed- it's one that resonates with me, so much so that I have it by heart:

"All that you touch
You Change.

All that you Change
Changes you.

The only lasting truth
is Change.

God
is Change."
more
I found this book relentlessly grim, which is saying a lot as I have a pretty high tolerance for these things. I understand what Butler was trying to argue here but that was so dominant it broke the spell of the book for me. Also, the narrator's philosophies were transparent and unconvincing, and yet I felt we were supposed to be won over by them. Not one of my favourite books by Butler!more
I may be in some danger of becoming a ravening Octavia Butler fangirl. There is something about her prose, her characters and her world view that just resonates with me like two singing bowls calling to one another. I love the clarity of her prose, the bone deep pragmatism of her characters, the way that community is always a part of the equation no matter how difficult the situation becomes, oh I could go on ad nauseum. It just works for me.

As other reviewers have said, this is a post global warming California where the US is falling apart under the pressure, and one teenage girl sets out to survive and try to pull something together. Very bad things happen. Beware. If you are easily shocked or horrified this one is going to upset you. Post apocalyptic stories about teenagers not exactly an underserved literary market either. None the less I highly highly recommend it.more
Octavia Butler's vision of a crumbling, near-future California, wracked by global warming and hordes of tweakers, is perfectly believable. Fellow fans of post-apocalyptic fiction will find it greatly satisfying.more
This isn't an easy book to read. I'm not talking about the prose but the subject matter. Set in the near future of 2025, this book hits close to home as far as a lot of real world worries.

It's almost difficult to categorize it as "science fiction" seeing as it doesn't have many of the standard sci-fi conventions. It's probably best to think of it as straight up speculative fiction. It takes the premise of societal collapse due to global warming and the poor economy and goes from there.

At its heart, it's a journey narrative. We start with the protagonist in one place, she's forced to leave, and she ends up in another place. The heart is the experiences she goes through in the meantime, of course.

As mentioned, it's not an easy read. There's gruesome violence, rape, cannibalism, and a lingering sense of hopelessness. If you're looking for a bit of escapism, put this aside. If you're interested in an engrossing, realistic story, then give it a look-through.more
I can't believe how good a writer Octavia Butler is, and how her works remain relatively unknown. This book was much better than I thought, as I had expected the Earthseed aspect to get more emphasis than it actually did. I would describe it as an abbreviated "The Stand". Substitute studly grandpa for grandma. Good post apocalyptic fiction with a bit of survivalist info.more
I am going to start this review off by asking a theoretical question. There is a huge wave coming, it will wash you and everyone you love out to see. What do you do? Do you back up away from the water? Move to higher ground? Build a boat to ride it out? Or do you turn your back on it, play on the beach and pretend that it isn’t coming? Now imagine that it isn’t a wave of water, but a wave of violence, crime and people that will be unstoppable. No wall will hold them back. You may have nowhere ideal to go. But you have access to books, learning materials and you have time to prepare, pack. Octavia Butler speculates that most people would ignore the coming onslaught and attempt to go about their daily business, not prepare and not learn. It is scary to move forward and change behavior and scary to imagine the world as we know it is ending. But change is necessary to survival, according to Butler. This is what Parable is about – change, adaptation and working together in a community to accomplish the change in order to survive. The main character in Parable, a teenage girl named Lauren, is an agent of change. Lauren is unwilling to turn her back on the huge wave she knows is coming; instead she teaches herself through books everything she can learn and she prepares for what she knows and fears is coming. Lauren is inspired from inside herself and is somewhat of a prophet of a new religion and philosophy. Her belief is “God is Change.” And she goes out to preach it. The creation of the religion is a vehicle for Lauren’s story to be told and for hope to be seeded among her followers. Octavia Butler published her book in 1995, so many apocalyptic novels have come after hers have incorporated elements that are present in this book. It is interesting for me that Butler appears to have less acclaim but she is the predecessor of so many well-known novels. There are books that tell the story of the world ending by an apocalyptic event and then there are books that show you what the world would be like during an apocalyptic even – without holding back. Parable of the Sower is the latter. The images of lives being destroyed and violence being wrought on people just for living and just for having something, anything that is wanted by those who do not have anything – these images are described in details. They are not described, I think, for the delight of reading gore, but to serve as a marker of how far society has fallen. And it is a scary world that Butler describes; scary and realistic. Despite that I have absolutely no point of reference for the scenes described in this book, while reading I felt as though it could have been happening right outside my door. There is nothing about this apocalyptic world that is romantic. In Parable, much of society’s downfall appears to have been caused by environmental devastation, which has in turn caused economic and political devastation. Polluted water, toxic chemicals, failed pharmaceutical and science experiments resulting in dangerous addictive drugs. Butler’s book is a scary warning of pushing consumer and corporate demands to the extreme. Reading this book created questions in my mind. Is this book really about an apocalyptic event? It does take place in the US (California) and the society that is disintegrating is American society, but is this an apocalyptic event or the failure of one society? So many apocalyptic books describe world changing events; but in Parable, it is shortages – gas, water, food, governmental collapse (or increasing ineffectualness) but some infrastructure remains. There are police, but they investigate and then charge user fees; there are property taxes and there are colleges; there is electricity and there are entertainment outlets (like televisions, etc.); there are insurance companies and resources --- but everything for an elevated price and most people do not have the ability to pay for these items and services. What happens is that these institutions are not efficient, they are not accessible to most individuals and there is a heavy cost to purchase their services. There are still jobs and corporations and apparently very successful corporations. People without education and without jobs, crowd in to smaller housing and share space. Corporations dominate certain sectors of society and provide protection and infrastructure to those who can afford it. Punitive debt policies and employment policies are in place that hurt individuals but benefit corporations. Isn’t this describing the current state of some countries in this world right now – maybe even in this hemisphere? Where there is no protection for the individual beyond what they can obtain from people in their community and families? Don’t people already go on migrations to new places (bordering countries, mega cities, factory rich regions) with nothing but a small savings and a hope for anything different? I see this book as an envisioning of what if these situations happened in the United States. The scenarios described in Parable, the extreme violence, the extreme fear and the absolute lack of choices are just so out of the realm of anything most people in the US experience while living in the US that it is hard to imagine, understand and relate to images like written in this book that we may read about in the news, blogs or in non-fiction books. Butler brings it home; she recreates it here and it is absolutely terrifying. At one point in the novel, Lauren travels disguised as a man but she travels along side a woman who is described as highly desirable, Zahra. Zahra encounters problem after problem because men will just not leave her alone – and in a threatening way. There is no government, no structure – and no laws to protect the weak. Butler describes horrible crimes that happen to females of all ages and most of them sexual. What point is Butler making about the physicality of being a woman? Is she saying that in the absence of the protection of a societal framework a woman is more at risk, simply because she is a woman? Does this mean Butler believes this threat is inherent? I have a hard time accepting this concept, but I also know I approach this concept of equality and physical integrity from an extremely privileged position. The mass rapes that happen in war torn countries, the use of rape as a weapon of wars, and the kidnapping and use of children soldiers – these horrors that take place and demonstrate this fragile place in society that women and children can occupy. But again, from my extremely privileged position, I have a hard time grasping that in the absence of government and infrastructure, human beings will turn violent and devoid of empathy. The mass chaos Butler describes is only kept out by walls, guns and guards. However, I have mentioned this and been told by some people, very intelligently, that it does not take a majority to create chaos. A minority of criminals and desparados are enough to create the chaos that endangers people, the forces them to withdraw from society and that puts women and children at risk. If the natural condition in a situation devoid of an effective government is chaos and danger, how could society have evolved? Why would we be here? I do think the answer is that people would join together, form a community, work as a group and attempt to protect the community members. And that, is what I think this book is about – community, bonds, joint action and moving forward as a group. The acceptance of change and the trusting of each other.more
This book pulled off a delicate balancing act—while thinking that a couple of the central elements were only mediocre, I enjoyed reading the story. My complaints are two and both are in the area of consistency. The first is the setting of the story: America of about 15 years in our future (35 from when the book was written). Environmental and economic collapse, coupled with rampant drug use and a failure of police forces, has turned entire states into violent ghettos, while others—marginally more stable—institute border patrols to turn back or kill those attempting to enter. Yet, at the same time, we’re told that the federal government is still functioning, that the National Guard is still operational but, for some reason, not really being used even though the rich and powerful are also getting burned out by the mobs. It was a jarring inconsistency.The second was the in the character of the protagonist, Lauren Olamina. Her destitute family had banded together with others like it who wanted a bit of sanity and safety inside a walled community, shooting intruders. Yet, when the community is finally overrun and she must flee, a lifetime of caution and distrust is abandoned as she becomes a Pied Piper, picking up disciples for her nascent religion/utopian community. The lack of continuity linking old Lauren with new Lauren made this book read as two separate stories that felt separated by years rather than days.So, what made this book work? There are two things and, somewhat paradoxically, they are Lauren and Butler’s vision of the future. In just a few pages Lauren goes from being the poor little black girl with a crippling psychosomatic condition to someone who feels real and whose fate concerns us. Her determination not to sink into the depths of barbarism and to establish some kind of foothold for a viable society is in the best traditions of post-apocalyptic fiction but it’s done with more than the usual amount of intimacy and human-ness.And, setting aside the inconsistency mentioned above, Butler’s vision of the future feels scarily possible. Unlike many near-future dystopic visions that predicate some radical shift in society that doesn’t pass the gut check of plausibility, Butler took the trends of the late 1980s and extended them. What if we continued pumping pollutants into the environment, particularly greenhouse gases?...Might we, as some scientists claim, reach a tipping point where the temperature shifts radically and irrevocably? What if we continue to widen the gap between the rich and the poor?...Might we reach a point where we don’t have a sustainable economic base? What if we continue a blind eye toward corruption?...Might we reach a point where our societal protections become unreliable? The cautionary tale that Butler gives us was, for me, equally as fascinating as the spiritual pilgrimage of the protagonist.I’ll read the sequel, The Parable of the Talents, in anticipation that Butler continues to capitalize on the strengths and that the inconsistencies will fade into irrelevance as the story moves into the future.more
Octavia Butler was one of the most extraordinary science fiction writers of the modern age, and one of the least known. Though not as prolific as many of the 20th century sci-fi authors, she did leave a body of work that is consistently excellent; thoughtful and unabashedly political, Butler's novels offer up a rare perspective in the genre: that of the African-American woman. In this particular novel, as in most of her novels, the main character and narrator is a young black woman in a not-so-distant future. This particular future is bleak and terrifying; citizens with jobs in this future America must blockade themselves inside walled neighborhoods and try to fend off the thievery, murder and mayhem committed by the masses of "street poor" -- homeless, jobless, drug-addicted gangs stripped bare of sense and humanity. The very rich abide in well-defended compounds, but those less affluent must hold back the tide as best they can with what little they have. Our narrator, Lauren, is in this latter position -- she and her family are struggling to keep their community together.SPOILER (sort of) ALERT:It should surprise no one, despite the above warning, that Lauren's community cannot last forever, and the second part of the narrative begins on the eve of loss and destruction. The novel then becomes a post-apocalyptic road novel, as Lauren walks the path toward a better place, as well as the path to true adulthood. What colors and structures the novel most is the idea of "Earthseed", the religion that Lauren is constructing and disseminating as she walks her road. The story unfolds in a sequence of journal entries, but each section is headed with a passage from "The Book of the Living", which Lauren is also writing as she travels. The central belief of the religion is that "God is Change" -- and this idea sits uncomfortably with some of the characters, as it may sit uncomfortably with some readers. For myself, I enjoyed the philosophical element that these religious excerpts added to the text, as well as the critiques of corrupted religion that emanate from the frequent religious discussions within the story itself. Though some readers may grow frustrated with this focus, I feel that the beauty of the spiritual and social ideas elevate this beyond the typical post-apocalyptic road narrative and allow the reader to feel more connected to the characters and their future.Though some of the novel's social and racial perspectives are a little dated, many -- I must admit, with some shame -- are just as pertinent today as when the novel was written. So too are the warnings inherent in Butler's vision of a future America, where that oft-discussed gap between the haves and the have-nots has engulfed the entire nation. Many of the details of Butler's world will resonate with painful familiarity. As with many of the genre, this book is not always easy to read, but it is fascinating and, I believe, still incredibly important. The novel ends openly, facing the future and the sequel the Butler eventually did write. I am planning to read the sequel almost as soon as I am finished writing this review. That might tell you something about this novel.more
The most interesting thing about Parable of the Sower is how clear it makes Octavia Butler's central theme of survival through the main character's religious writings of "Earthseed": "All successful life is Adaptable, Opportunistic, Tenacious, Interconnected, and Fecund." In the year 2027: oil is rare, water is expensive, and food a precious commodity. Many are homeless and/or jobless, police are crooked, and pyromaniac druggies roam the streets. Lauren, who has superempathy, grew up one of the lucky ones, relatively safe inside the gated community her father conceived. But after her home is attacked and scavenged--and her family killed-- Lauren joins the hordes who walk north, in search of work and land, while she dreams up "Earthseed". While I respect what Butler was trying to do with Parable of the Sower, I didn't feel like she was particularly successful. The narrative lacks real vitality. Butler takes the narrative at an overly slow clip, particularly in the first half when we already know Lauren will be chased out of her home. The horrors of Butler's pre-apocalyptic world are never described into visceral presence, nor the scope of her vision large enough for the reader to get a sense of how the world got this way (and why it so needs a religion like Earthseed). Earthseed itself never faces any real challenging by either Lauren or the people she ends up preaching it to, rendering it mostly mumbo-jumbo. It's really unclear what use it offers the survivors-- if anything, the plot really preaches the use of guns. To be fair, the other characters don't appear to offer much resistance to anything, being particularly thin, somewhat interchangeable creations that offer no conflict to Lauren's natural leadership-taking. There's really no conflict that drives the plot at all, to be honest, not even within Lauren herself. Her super-empathy plays almost no part, and all this lack of drive in the narrative really shows up as stagnancy in the novel. "Idea"-books are common in science-fiction, but Parable of the Sower lacks the conflicts that really illustrate the worthiness of its idea.more
Really good book. Not so much a christian book as a religous book (developing religion?). Wonderful story and realistic characters.more
Content-rich story of post-apocalyptic America featuring a young African-American woman as the hero. Lauren Oya Olamina is a "hyperempath" who actually shares the pain of others in her own body. When her Los Angeles gated community is destroyed by violent anarchists, Lauren escapes. Dressed as a man,Lauren travels north meeting other refugees who, like her, search for a safe place to live. What sets Parable of the Sower apart is Lauren's philosophical take on the collapse of society: she is inspired to found her own community, named Earthseed, which will not try to recover what was lost, but instead will prepare for a new society among the stars. The novel is studded with pages from Lauren's Earthseed journal: Books of the Living:"Change is the one unavoidable, irresistible, ongoing reality of the universe. To us, that makes it the most powerful reality, and just another word for God.more
Parable of the Sower feels like the ultimate coming of age tale. We watch the main character, her siblings, her neighbors, her acquaintances, and even her entire country come-of-age. Lauren is a 15 year-old daughter of a minister living in a dystopian world. Through her journal the reader is allowed to watch her spiritual questions turn into an awakening as the world around her literally crumbles into the sea. This novel was cautionary (how quickly everything was have can be lost) but never felt preachy. Even though it was essentially a book about the creation of a religion, I never felt that I was being told how to feel/act. Butler (and Lauren, I suppose) does an excellent job of allowing the reader to understand many different viewpoints through Lauren's family and the people she meets. No one seems like "the bad guy" in this novel. Everyone just seems...true.Even the negatives about Parable of the Sower (Lauren's inability to relate to others; Lauren's stubbornness; the sometimes unnerving pacing of the plot; the huge amount of characters) seem real in a way that artist usually choose to ignore in their work. Teenage girls are often introspective and stubborn. Life moves at unsettling paces. And we interact with MANY people every day, each with his/her very own story.more
Octavia Butler covers an amazing range of personalities all thrown into a cataclysmic time in the world. Reading this book felt she was the sower giving the world a parable about all the destructive things we're dealing with right now. She deals with everything straight up, from the way people de-evolve under pressure to how we discover the best within us in the same way. The different levels of prose mixed with metaphysical poetry make this one of the most amazing novels I've ever read.more
I hesitate to call this post-apocalyptic, as the world Lauren knows is still crumbling. Dystopian will work; society is fragmented, neighborhoods protect only their own, mob rule and survival lof the fittest are dominant, there are no jobs and water is more expensive than food. A 15 year old girl who has hyperempathy (she feels the pain of others - literally) is our narrator; she watches everything and everyone around her and she uses that to develop a new faith, Earthseed. The essence of her faith is "God is Change". When her small neighborhood of safety is devastated, she starts north, in search of a new life - and as she travels, others join her. She tells them of Earthseed and gains converts. Eventually they find a place where they decide to try and start the first Earthseed community.Butler's writing is simple yet delivers punches. The society she describes is not unimaginable at all, in fact it's easily imaginable and frighteningly recognizable. Lauren, the central character, is intriguing - she's only 15 but comes across as an old soul - a very old soul. The story is simple, covering several years in an a journal format - but very engaging. I really enjoyed it and will be reading more.more
If I was ranking this purely on the terms set out on GoodReads, that one star meant "didn't like it" this would be a one star rating for me. (Hell, half star on LibraryThing because "hate" is more like it.) But I do recognize this is a well-written book that someone more sympathetic to its message might like a lot more, even love. So I can't see giving it a one, but because I couldn't bear to finish this I can't justify giving this a three either--thus the two and a half stars.This is my first book by Octavia Butler, and unless someone can tell me it's atypical, it will be my last. I think this is just a mismatch between book and reader for reasons of worldview more than anything. I have loved books by authors well to my left or right politically. I think my being able to enjoy stories that go against my philosophy depend on three things. First, quality; second, if there is enough overlap in view to prevent total cognitive dissonance; third the level of didactic polemic. (This really bothers me, a book can be congruent with all my ideals, but if I find it too heavy handed, I can be turned off.)If a story is strong style-wise or has imaginative world-building or characters I care about, then that can overcome a lot. In the case of Butler, I can't fault her storytelling. Well-paced, with a clean, spare style, and well-drawn secondary characters, this is a thoroughly realized and vivid, scary dystopia. The story, covering three and a half years between 2024 and 2027, is told through the diary entries of Lauren, who is fifteen at the start of the story. She suffers--or is gifted (or both) by "hyperempathy." She can feel your pain--literally.Her diary entries are headed by short verses in bold font setting out her religion "Earthseed" whose mantra is "God is Change" and that "The Destiny of Earthseed / Is to take root among the stars." I think that religious angle, concentrated in that first person voice, and that my beliefs seem to be pointed at as the problem with the world is why around 130 pages, I found myself starting to skip passages in irritation, squirming inside as I read like someone listening to a tedious and unconvincing sermon.I've seen this book compared to Atwood's Oryx and Crake. Both involved dystopias caused by global warming and critiques of private enterprise, and I doubt there's much difference politically between Atwood and Butler. Yet I could get through and enjoy Atwood's novel and even found her thought-provoking--despite finding aspects of her dystopia even less credible than Butler's. I think part of that is that the title characters in Atwood aren't all that sympathetic. Not Mary Sue heroes like Lauren I was supposed to root for and I didn't feel preached at. Atwood simply *showed* us her dystopia and her implied critique of private enterprise came from the events of the story--not from lecturing the reader.Although in the end, it's not just I can't believe in this dystopia, I don't find it or its solution thought-provoking or original. The book 1984 asks us to look at the havoc the corruption of language can do; Fahrenheit 451 looks at a world where all books are burned; The Handmaid's Tale a misogynist theocracy; Brave New World the danger of altering human beings themselves. I can't say I find the dangers of global warming as resonant or startling--you hear about the dangers incessantly in universities and the media--and I found the creed of Earthseed trite.If you have more tolerance for the preachiness, are more sympathetic to the belief that privatization is evil and Global Warming the gospel, you might find this far more your cuppa.Butler's gifts as a writer are obvious--if someone could point me to a book of hers less PC Central and/or less preachy in tone, I'd be willing to try another novel by her.more
The title refers to the biblical parable of Saint Luke. The book also has some parallels to The Book of Job. Fifteen year-old Lauren Olamina is living in near-future southern California where society is crumbling and disintegrating day by day. Her father is a preacher and community leader but she can't bring herself to believe what he believes. She writes her thoughts in diaries and slowly a nascent religion comes into being. She calls her book Earthseed: The Books of the Living. Each chapter starts with a verse from Earthseed. It's a stark religion with no empty promises. Stark but beautiful.Lauren is beset with one calamity after another. She has an iron-strong determination to not only survive but create something from a position of powerlessness. Survival takes most of her energy but as time progresses she also takes baby steps in forming Earthseed. She's as tough a protagonist as they come. When most people would have given up in sheer exhaustion she determinedly forges ahead. Butler knows how to write tough women. There is nothing florid or fancy about Butler's writing. It is simple, concise, and clear. It is powerful and unforgettable. It's also a reminder that most societies are balanced on an edge of progression or regression.more
Disturbing look at an all too believable future. One young woman faces the future with the strength of prophecy and watches as the world disintegrates around her. I'm looking forward to reading the Parable of the Talents as soon as I can get my hands on it.more
Written in 1994, this is a book that predicts total breakdown in 2024. Whenever I read these kind of books I set them '30 years from today'. Butler cleverly works with global warming and water shortages, showing what happens to the very poor and those one rung up. We have no idea what the rich are thinking or doing at this time, but we follow the story of Lauren Olamina, originally 15 yo, for 3 years. I found this book lyrical and haunting. I read it in one day and dreamt about it all last night. I loved her concept of Earthseed and God is Change. I found the book and it's harsh message fascinating and want to know what happens next!more
Lauren Oya Olamina is the heroine of the first novel-Parable of the Sower. It takes place in about 25 years in a suburb of Los Angeles. America has become so economically depressed that people who can afford to live in small "walled" communities. Children do not go to school, most adults work from home-it is simply to dangerous to leave the walled communities. Cars are for rich people, the middle class rides bikes everywhere and are lucky to have enough water to bathe once a week. America as we know it is in the middle of an economic depression, compounded by drought and mild famine. Lauren has lived her whole life in her walled community with her father, step-mother and brothers. Laurens father and step mother are both university professors. Laurens father is also a minister to their local community. Laurens mother was a drug addict-a designer drug that heightened intelligence in the users-and she was born addicted. The side effects of the addiction cause Lauren to experience the pain of others she observes. The slang is Sharers. There is some conflict because "sharing" occurs even when the pain is not real and can even cause victims to bleed if they see someone else bleeding.Lauren sees her world crumbling around her and knows she has to make moves to protect her family. She also knows she is not Christian and that she has found a "set of truths" she calls Earthseed. Lauren plans to leave her community and spread the "truth" of Earthseed. Earthseed a different religion-incorporating ideals of buddhism, zen and neo-paganism. When Laurens walled community is destroyed she is forced out into the world more quickly than she planned for and her journey to spread Earthseed begins in earnest.God is Change. Earthseeds destiny is to take root among the stars.more
This novel is scary and hopeful at the same time. I could not put it down and I know I will reread it. Octavia Butler is one of my favorite authors and this has become one of my favorite books. It's not sci-fi along the lines of Kindred or Fledgling. This story seems all too possible.more
Post-apocalyptic literary scenarios have been a dime a dozen since well before Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, and these days it takes something quite remarkable - like Cormack McCarthy's sublime The Road - to raise even a flicker of interest in this genre from all but the dullest sci-fi fanboy. Octavia Butler's essay on the same theme is now getting on for 20 years old, and stands up well - indeed, it so closely anticipates McCarthy's novel that you have to wonder whether he was aware of it. That is not to suggest plagiarism, however, for the similarities are general indeed: an un-described catastrophe has caused the total breakdown of society and forced a family unit on the road, where they fend for themselves against allcomers in vain hope of a promised land. While Butler employs a couple of nice devices - the P.K.Dick-eque hyperempathy condition is a neat literary device - much better in fact than the hokey "Earthseed" concept which gets unwarranted prominence in the story - but Butler doesn't do nearly enough with it to make it worthwhile. In other aspects, the novel is a little flat. There's not a much in the way of a plot arc - it's more linear: things sort of episodically muddle along to a fairly uninvolving conclusion - and nor do the characters get well fleshed out or developed. Like her protagonist Lauren, Butler throws quite a lot of "seed" about which then appears to fall on stony ground: Lauren's father disappears, presumed dead but unresolved - to no effect. Likewise, Lauren's original sweetheart is introduced, developed, and disposed with for no discernible plot-functional reason. My hunch is that Butler was more interested in developing a quasi-religion than writing a science fiction novel, yet 20 years later, the post-apocalyptic road story is the only part that really holds up. But, all the same, it pales in comparison with Cormack McCarthy's bleaker, more eloquent visualisation, and ultimately I couldn't recommend this novel over, or even really as a complement to, The Road.more
This book is riveting. It's the story, told by a hyperempathetic California teenager, of American society in 2024, about ten or fifteen years after ecological collapse. We meet Lauren, the narrator, when she's about fifteen years old. She's a bright, contemplative preacher's daughter, who has decided that she has found her own God: change. The book is sprinkled with discussions of her beliefs, which she's named Earthseed, and free verse from her "Book of the Living". By her eighteenth birthday, terrifying new synthetic drugs and an "eat the rich" mentality have taken hold outside Los Angeles, and the American government has relaxed business laws to the extent that debt slavery has become more common than ever. Lauren is a wise, clever, and sympathetic protagonist, and the world she inhabits is engaging and perhaps a little too plausible. I plowed through this book in just a few hours, always eager to find out what would happen next, who'd make it through to the next chapter, and what was on each new character's mind.(One further note -- I know plenty of folks who require a touch of the fantastic in their reading. If you're one of those people, you may as well know: This is NOT sci-fi. It takes place in the future and there's one mention of an improbably tiny radio. That's all you get.)more
A reread of Parable of the Sower reveals a dark vision of the near future that is eerily reminiscent of the pictures we all saw on TV following Hurricane Katrina, a frighteningly realistic portrayal of poverty and anarchy that is all too easy to imagine following on the heels of global warming’s devastation. The follow-up, Parable of the Talents, is even more grim and harrowing than its predecessor in its depiction of an America plunged into chaos. Butler deftly picks up the threads of the major issues facing us today — climate change, the widening gap between rich and poor, the privatization of education and social services — and follows them to the inevitably disastrous results if these problems aren’t addressed. Most frightening of all is the depiction of an America in the grips of Christian extremists who murder and enslave people and separate children from their parents, just because they do not hold the same beliefs.But Butler’s story is one of hope too: of a prophet leading her people toward a better future, following a spiritual practice that makes more sense to me than most organized religions I know of, and of a goal — to sow the seeds of humanity throughout space — that I have always believed held the key to our survival as a species. God is change, indeed, but instead of fighting it or surrendering to it, just recognize it and use it to make your goals a reality. This message is contained within a work of fiction that paint a frightening picture of the future, but it rings very true to me.more
This book is on my desert island list. Although it is not cheerful it is full of hope and truth and beauty. Despite the 1993 publication date, it looks disturbingly prescient today, 15 years later. Let's hope things things do indeed change, and not in the way Butler describes.more
According to the new religion of Earthseed, God is change, and the only thing that stays the same is change. In the post-apocalyptic world in which Lauren lives, acceptance of change is a valuable virtue and coping method. After her community is destroyed and her family is gone, she travels up north with a group of disciples, in a sense, to find refuge away from all of the destruction. In addition to the standard challenges, Lauren also has hyperempathy - she can feel the pleasure and pain of others, and there is plenty of pain to go around. Parable of the Sower is a very grim, but also very thoughtful, piece of dystopian literature, and a good readmore
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Reviews

I read a lot of apocalyptic future stories when I was younger - it seems to be fully a quarter of the SF genre. Maybe if I'd read this one I wouldn't have stopped reading professional SF for nearly 20 years. It was published around the same time I started to stop going to bookstores.

I keep writing and deleting because everything I think to say is a negative good. Suffice it to say: a great young heroine, a harrowing, engaging story and possibly more close to home for the visible SF reader than it was 18 years ago.

Added later: Reading other reviews of this novel is fascinating. Reviewers giving it a high score almost all seem to want to find something to dislike strongly, whether it is Lauren's narrative voice, the nature of her relationship with Bankole, the centrality of faith to the story or the blistering frankness of the description of awful things (things that happen to real people now and when the book was written.) This is why number rating systems suck, by the way. But it's also an interesting glimpse into what makes the reviewer uncomfortable about the book, what they are least able to articulate.more
The story is set in the not too distant future (2026) with rather frightening scenes of where a society with too many guns and too many drugs could end up. Powerful tenets from Earthseed the Books of the Living begin each chapter. Frightening, gripping, literate, thought provoking this would make an awesome book discussion book.more
Revisiting an old favorite via audio. This is a tale of a near-future dystopia which seemed much less likely when it came out than it does now. It's also an exploration of religion, and how an ordinary young girl can become the head of a new religion called Earthseed. Parts of this seem a bit fuzzy to me now, which is why I'm knocking it down one star from my original review. It's still an edge-of-your-seat ride, with an engrossing plot and interesting characters. Butler was a good writer who died way too young. I wish there were more of her books to look forward to. Here's my favorite verse from Olamina's Earthseed- it's one that resonates with me, so much so that I have it by heart:

"All that you touch
You Change.

All that you Change
Changes you.

The only lasting truth
is Change.

God
is Change."
more
I found this book relentlessly grim, which is saying a lot as I have a pretty high tolerance for these things. I understand what Butler was trying to argue here but that was so dominant it broke the spell of the book for me. Also, the narrator's philosophies were transparent and unconvincing, and yet I felt we were supposed to be won over by them. Not one of my favourite books by Butler!more
I may be in some danger of becoming a ravening Octavia Butler fangirl. There is something about her prose, her characters and her world view that just resonates with me like two singing bowls calling to one another. I love the clarity of her prose, the bone deep pragmatism of her characters, the way that community is always a part of the equation no matter how difficult the situation becomes, oh I could go on ad nauseum. It just works for me.

As other reviewers have said, this is a post global warming California where the US is falling apart under the pressure, and one teenage girl sets out to survive and try to pull something together. Very bad things happen. Beware. If you are easily shocked or horrified this one is going to upset you. Post apocalyptic stories about teenagers not exactly an underserved literary market either. None the less I highly highly recommend it.more
Octavia Butler's vision of a crumbling, near-future California, wracked by global warming and hordes of tweakers, is perfectly believable. Fellow fans of post-apocalyptic fiction will find it greatly satisfying.more
This isn't an easy book to read. I'm not talking about the prose but the subject matter. Set in the near future of 2025, this book hits close to home as far as a lot of real world worries.

It's almost difficult to categorize it as "science fiction" seeing as it doesn't have many of the standard sci-fi conventions. It's probably best to think of it as straight up speculative fiction. It takes the premise of societal collapse due to global warming and the poor economy and goes from there.

At its heart, it's a journey narrative. We start with the protagonist in one place, she's forced to leave, and she ends up in another place. The heart is the experiences she goes through in the meantime, of course.

As mentioned, it's not an easy read. There's gruesome violence, rape, cannibalism, and a lingering sense of hopelessness. If you're looking for a bit of escapism, put this aside. If you're interested in an engrossing, realistic story, then give it a look-through.more
I can't believe how good a writer Octavia Butler is, and how her works remain relatively unknown. This book was much better than I thought, as I had expected the Earthseed aspect to get more emphasis than it actually did. I would describe it as an abbreviated "The Stand". Substitute studly grandpa for grandma. Good post apocalyptic fiction with a bit of survivalist info.more
I am going to start this review off by asking a theoretical question. There is a huge wave coming, it will wash you and everyone you love out to see. What do you do? Do you back up away from the water? Move to higher ground? Build a boat to ride it out? Or do you turn your back on it, play on the beach and pretend that it isn’t coming? Now imagine that it isn’t a wave of water, but a wave of violence, crime and people that will be unstoppable. No wall will hold them back. You may have nowhere ideal to go. But you have access to books, learning materials and you have time to prepare, pack. Octavia Butler speculates that most people would ignore the coming onslaught and attempt to go about their daily business, not prepare and not learn. It is scary to move forward and change behavior and scary to imagine the world as we know it is ending. But change is necessary to survival, according to Butler. This is what Parable is about – change, adaptation and working together in a community to accomplish the change in order to survive. The main character in Parable, a teenage girl named Lauren, is an agent of change. Lauren is unwilling to turn her back on the huge wave she knows is coming; instead she teaches herself through books everything she can learn and she prepares for what she knows and fears is coming. Lauren is inspired from inside herself and is somewhat of a prophet of a new religion and philosophy. Her belief is “God is Change.” And she goes out to preach it. The creation of the religion is a vehicle for Lauren’s story to be told and for hope to be seeded among her followers. Octavia Butler published her book in 1995, so many apocalyptic novels have come after hers have incorporated elements that are present in this book. It is interesting for me that Butler appears to have less acclaim but she is the predecessor of so many well-known novels. There are books that tell the story of the world ending by an apocalyptic event and then there are books that show you what the world would be like during an apocalyptic even – without holding back. Parable of the Sower is the latter. The images of lives being destroyed and violence being wrought on people just for living and just for having something, anything that is wanted by those who do not have anything – these images are described in details. They are not described, I think, for the delight of reading gore, but to serve as a marker of how far society has fallen. And it is a scary world that Butler describes; scary and realistic. Despite that I have absolutely no point of reference for the scenes described in this book, while reading I felt as though it could have been happening right outside my door. There is nothing about this apocalyptic world that is romantic. In Parable, much of society’s downfall appears to have been caused by environmental devastation, which has in turn caused economic and political devastation. Polluted water, toxic chemicals, failed pharmaceutical and science experiments resulting in dangerous addictive drugs. Butler’s book is a scary warning of pushing consumer and corporate demands to the extreme. Reading this book created questions in my mind. Is this book really about an apocalyptic event? It does take place in the US (California) and the society that is disintegrating is American society, but is this an apocalyptic event or the failure of one society? So many apocalyptic books describe world changing events; but in Parable, it is shortages – gas, water, food, governmental collapse (or increasing ineffectualness) but some infrastructure remains. There are police, but they investigate and then charge user fees; there are property taxes and there are colleges; there is electricity and there are entertainment outlets (like televisions, etc.); there are insurance companies and resources --- but everything for an elevated price and most people do not have the ability to pay for these items and services. What happens is that these institutions are not efficient, they are not accessible to most individuals and there is a heavy cost to purchase their services. There are still jobs and corporations and apparently very successful corporations. People without education and without jobs, crowd in to smaller housing and share space. Corporations dominate certain sectors of society and provide protection and infrastructure to those who can afford it. Punitive debt policies and employment policies are in place that hurt individuals but benefit corporations. Isn’t this describing the current state of some countries in this world right now – maybe even in this hemisphere? Where there is no protection for the individual beyond what they can obtain from people in their community and families? Don’t people already go on migrations to new places (bordering countries, mega cities, factory rich regions) with nothing but a small savings and a hope for anything different? I see this book as an envisioning of what if these situations happened in the United States. The scenarios described in Parable, the extreme violence, the extreme fear and the absolute lack of choices are just so out of the realm of anything most people in the US experience while living in the US that it is hard to imagine, understand and relate to images like written in this book that we may read about in the news, blogs or in non-fiction books. Butler brings it home; she recreates it here and it is absolutely terrifying. At one point in the novel, Lauren travels disguised as a man but she travels along side a woman who is described as highly desirable, Zahra. Zahra encounters problem after problem because men will just not leave her alone – and in a threatening way. There is no government, no structure – and no laws to protect the weak. Butler describes horrible crimes that happen to females of all ages and most of them sexual. What point is Butler making about the physicality of being a woman? Is she saying that in the absence of the protection of a societal framework a woman is more at risk, simply because she is a woman? Does this mean Butler believes this threat is inherent? I have a hard time accepting this concept, but I also know I approach this concept of equality and physical integrity from an extremely privileged position. The mass rapes that happen in war torn countries, the use of rape as a weapon of wars, and the kidnapping and use of children soldiers – these horrors that take place and demonstrate this fragile place in society that women and children can occupy. But again, from my extremely privileged position, I have a hard time grasping that in the absence of government and infrastructure, human beings will turn violent and devoid of empathy. The mass chaos Butler describes is only kept out by walls, guns and guards. However, I have mentioned this and been told by some people, very intelligently, that it does not take a majority to create chaos. A minority of criminals and desparados are enough to create the chaos that endangers people, the forces them to withdraw from society and that puts women and children at risk. If the natural condition in a situation devoid of an effective government is chaos and danger, how could society have evolved? Why would we be here? I do think the answer is that people would join together, form a community, work as a group and attempt to protect the community members. And that, is what I think this book is about – community, bonds, joint action and moving forward as a group. The acceptance of change and the trusting of each other.more
This book pulled off a delicate balancing act—while thinking that a couple of the central elements were only mediocre, I enjoyed reading the story. My complaints are two and both are in the area of consistency. The first is the setting of the story: America of about 15 years in our future (35 from when the book was written). Environmental and economic collapse, coupled with rampant drug use and a failure of police forces, has turned entire states into violent ghettos, while others—marginally more stable—institute border patrols to turn back or kill those attempting to enter. Yet, at the same time, we’re told that the federal government is still functioning, that the National Guard is still operational but, for some reason, not really being used even though the rich and powerful are also getting burned out by the mobs. It was a jarring inconsistency.The second was the in the character of the protagonist, Lauren Olamina. Her destitute family had banded together with others like it who wanted a bit of sanity and safety inside a walled community, shooting intruders. Yet, when the community is finally overrun and she must flee, a lifetime of caution and distrust is abandoned as she becomes a Pied Piper, picking up disciples for her nascent religion/utopian community. The lack of continuity linking old Lauren with new Lauren made this book read as two separate stories that felt separated by years rather than days.So, what made this book work? There are two things and, somewhat paradoxically, they are Lauren and Butler’s vision of the future. In just a few pages Lauren goes from being the poor little black girl with a crippling psychosomatic condition to someone who feels real and whose fate concerns us. Her determination not to sink into the depths of barbarism and to establish some kind of foothold for a viable society is in the best traditions of post-apocalyptic fiction but it’s done with more than the usual amount of intimacy and human-ness.And, setting aside the inconsistency mentioned above, Butler’s vision of the future feels scarily possible. Unlike many near-future dystopic visions that predicate some radical shift in society that doesn’t pass the gut check of plausibility, Butler took the trends of the late 1980s and extended them. What if we continued pumping pollutants into the environment, particularly greenhouse gases?...Might we, as some scientists claim, reach a tipping point where the temperature shifts radically and irrevocably? What if we continue to widen the gap between the rich and the poor?...Might we reach a point where we don’t have a sustainable economic base? What if we continue a blind eye toward corruption?...Might we reach a point where our societal protections become unreliable? The cautionary tale that Butler gives us was, for me, equally as fascinating as the spiritual pilgrimage of the protagonist.I’ll read the sequel, The Parable of the Talents, in anticipation that Butler continues to capitalize on the strengths and that the inconsistencies will fade into irrelevance as the story moves into the future.more
Octavia Butler was one of the most extraordinary science fiction writers of the modern age, and one of the least known. Though not as prolific as many of the 20th century sci-fi authors, she did leave a body of work that is consistently excellent; thoughtful and unabashedly political, Butler's novels offer up a rare perspective in the genre: that of the African-American woman. In this particular novel, as in most of her novels, the main character and narrator is a young black woman in a not-so-distant future. This particular future is bleak and terrifying; citizens with jobs in this future America must blockade themselves inside walled neighborhoods and try to fend off the thievery, murder and mayhem committed by the masses of "street poor" -- homeless, jobless, drug-addicted gangs stripped bare of sense and humanity. The very rich abide in well-defended compounds, but those less affluent must hold back the tide as best they can with what little they have. Our narrator, Lauren, is in this latter position -- she and her family are struggling to keep their community together.SPOILER (sort of) ALERT:It should surprise no one, despite the above warning, that Lauren's community cannot last forever, and the second part of the narrative begins on the eve of loss and destruction. The novel then becomes a post-apocalyptic road novel, as Lauren walks the path toward a better place, as well as the path to true adulthood. What colors and structures the novel most is the idea of "Earthseed", the religion that Lauren is constructing and disseminating as she walks her road. The story unfolds in a sequence of journal entries, but each section is headed with a passage from "The Book of the Living", which Lauren is also writing as she travels. The central belief of the religion is that "God is Change" -- and this idea sits uncomfortably with some of the characters, as it may sit uncomfortably with some readers. For myself, I enjoyed the philosophical element that these religious excerpts added to the text, as well as the critiques of corrupted religion that emanate from the frequent religious discussions within the story itself. Though some readers may grow frustrated with this focus, I feel that the beauty of the spiritual and social ideas elevate this beyond the typical post-apocalyptic road narrative and allow the reader to feel more connected to the characters and their future.Though some of the novel's social and racial perspectives are a little dated, many -- I must admit, with some shame -- are just as pertinent today as when the novel was written. So too are the warnings inherent in Butler's vision of a future America, where that oft-discussed gap between the haves and the have-nots has engulfed the entire nation. Many of the details of Butler's world will resonate with painful familiarity. As with many of the genre, this book is not always easy to read, but it is fascinating and, I believe, still incredibly important. The novel ends openly, facing the future and the sequel the Butler eventually did write. I am planning to read the sequel almost as soon as I am finished writing this review. That might tell you something about this novel.more
The most interesting thing about Parable of the Sower is how clear it makes Octavia Butler's central theme of survival through the main character's religious writings of "Earthseed": "All successful life is Adaptable, Opportunistic, Tenacious, Interconnected, and Fecund." In the year 2027: oil is rare, water is expensive, and food a precious commodity. Many are homeless and/or jobless, police are crooked, and pyromaniac druggies roam the streets. Lauren, who has superempathy, grew up one of the lucky ones, relatively safe inside the gated community her father conceived. But after her home is attacked and scavenged--and her family killed-- Lauren joins the hordes who walk north, in search of work and land, while she dreams up "Earthseed". While I respect what Butler was trying to do with Parable of the Sower, I didn't feel like she was particularly successful. The narrative lacks real vitality. Butler takes the narrative at an overly slow clip, particularly in the first half when we already know Lauren will be chased out of her home. The horrors of Butler's pre-apocalyptic world are never described into visceral presence, nor the scope of her vision large enough for the reader to get a sense of how the world got this way (and why it so needs a religion like Earthseed). Earthseed itself never faces any real challenging by either Lauren or the people she ends up preaching it to, rendering it mostly mumbo-jumbo. It's really unclear what use it offers the survivors-- if anything, the plot really preaches the use of guns. To be fair, the other characters don't appear to offer much resistance to anything, being particularly thin, somewhat interchangeable creations that offer no conflict to Lauren's natural leadership-taking. There's really no conflict that drives the plot at all, to be honest, not even within Lauren herself. Her super-empathy plays almost no part, and all this lack of drive in the narrative really shows up as stagnancy in the novel. "Idea"-books are common in science-fiction, but Parable of the Sower lacks the conflicts that really illustrate the worthiness of its idea.more
Really good book. Not so much a christian book as a religous book (developing religion?). Wonderful story and realistic characters.more
Content-rich story of post-apocalyptic America featuring a young African-American woman as the hero. Lauren Oya Olamina is a "hyperempath" who actually shares the pain of others in her own body. When her Los Angeles gated community is destroyed by violent anarchists, Lauren escapes. Dressed as a man,Lauren travels north meeting other refugees who, like her, search for a safe place to live. What sets Parable of the Sower apart is Lauren's philosophical take on the collapse of society: she is inspired to found her own community, named Earthseed, which will not try to recover what was lost, but instead will prepare for a new society among the stars. The novel is studded with pages from Lauren's Earthseed journal: Books of the Living:"Change is the one unavoidable, irresistible, ongoing reality of the universe. To us, that makes it the most powerful reality, and just another word for God.more
Parable of the Sower feels like the ultimate coming of age tale. We watch the main character, her siblings, her neighbors, her acquaintances, and even her entire country come-of-age. Lauren is a 15 year-old daughter of a minister living in a dystopian world. Through her journal the reader is allowed to watch her spiritual questions turn into an awakening as the world around her literally crumbles into the sea. This novel was cautionary (how quickly everything was have can be lost) but never felt preachy. Even though it was essentially a book about the creation of a religion, I never felt that I was being told how to feel/act. Butler (and Lauren, I suppose) does an excellent job of allowing the reader to understand many different viewpoints through Lauren's family and the people she meets. No one seems like "the bad guy" in this novel. Everyone just seems...true.Even the negatives about Parable of the Sower (Lauren's inability to relate to others; Lauren's stubbornness; the sometimes unnerving pacing of the plot; the huge amount of characters) seem real in a way that artist usually choose to ignore in their work. Teenage girls are often introspective and stubborn. Life moves at unsettling paces. And we interact with MANY people every day, each with his/her very own story.more
Octavia Butler covers an amazing range of personalities all thrown into a cataclysmic time in the world. Reading this book felt she was the sower giving the world a parable about all the destructive things we're dealing with right now. She deals with everything straight up, from the way people de-evolve under pressure to how we discover the best within us in the same way. The different levels of prose mixed with metaphysical poetry make this one of the most amazing novels I've ever read.more
I hesitate to call this post-apocalyptic, as the world Lauren knows is still crumbling. Dystopian will work; society is fragmented, neighborhoods protect only their own, mob rule and survival lof the fittest are dominant, there are no jobs and water is more expensive than food. A 15 year old girl who has hyperempathy (she feels the pain of others - literally) is our narrator; she watches everything and everyone around her and she uses that to develop a new faith, Earthseed. The essence of her faith is "God is Change". When her small neighborhood of safety is devastated, she starts north, in search of a new life - and as she travels, others join her. She tells them of Earthseed and gains converts. Eventually they find a place where they decide to try and start the first Earthseed community.Butler's writing is simple yet delivers punches. The society she describes is not unimaginable at all, in fact it's easily imaginable and frighteningly recognizable. Lauren, the central character, is intriguing - she's only 15 but comes across as an old soul - a very old soul. The story is simple, covering several years in an a journal format - but very engaging. I really enjoyed it and will be reading more.more
If I was ranking this purely on the terms set out on GoodReads, that one star meant "didn't like it" this would be a one star rating for me. (Hell, half star on LibraryThing because "hate" is more like it.) But I do recognize this is a well-written book that someone more sympathetic to its message might like a lot more, even love. So I can't see giving it a one, but because I couldn't bear to finish this I can't justify giving this a three either--thus the two and a half stars.This is my first book by Octavia Butler, and unless someone can tell me it's atypical, it will be my last. I think this is just a mismatch between book and reader for reasons of worldview more than anything. I have loved books by authors well to my left or right politically. I think my being able to enjoy stories that go against my philosophy depend on three things. First, quality; second, if there is enough overlap in view to prevent total cognitive dissonance; third the level of didactic polemic. (This really bothers me, a book can be congruent with all my ideals, but if I find it too heavy handed, I can be turned off.)If a story is strong style-wise or has imaginative world-building or characters I care about, then that can overcome a lot. In the case of Butler, I can't fault her storytelling. Well-paced, with a clean, spare style, and well-drawn secondary characters, this is a thoroughly realized and vivid, scary dystopia. The story, covering three and a half years between 2024 and 2027, is told through the diary entries of Lauren, who is fifteen at the start of the story. She suffers--or is gifted (or both) by "hyperempathy." She can feel your pain--literally.Her diary entries are headed by short verses in bold font setting out her religion "Earthseed" whose mantra is "God is Change" and that "The Destiny of Earthseed / Is to take root among the stars." I think that religious angle, concentrated in that first person voice, and that my beliefs seem to be pointed at as the problem with the world is why around 130 pages, I found myself starting to skip passages in irritation, squirming inside as I read like someone listening to a tedious and unconvincing sermon.I've seen this book compared to Atwood's Oryx and Crake. Both involved dystopias caused by global warming and critiques of private enterprise, and I doubt there's much difference politically between Atwood and Butler. Yet I could get through and enjoy Atwood's novel and even found her thought-provoking--despite finding aspects of her dystopia even less credible than Butler's. I think part of that is that the title characters in Atwood aren't all that sympathetic. Not Mary Sue heroes like Lauren I was supposed to root for and I didn't feel preached at. Atwood simply *showed* us her dystopia and her implied critique of private enterprise came from the events of the story--not from lecturing the reader.Although in the end, it's not just I can't believe in this dystopia, I don't find it or its solution thought-provoking or original. The book 1984 asks us to look at the havoc the corruption of language can do; Fahrenheit 451 looks at a world where all books are burned; The Handmaid's Tale a misogynist theocracy; Brave New World the danger of altering human beings themselves. I can't say I find the dangers of global warming as resonant or startling--you hear about the dangers incessantly in universities and the media--and I found the creed of Earthseed trite.If you have more tolerance for the preachiness, are more sympathetic to the belief that privatization is evil and Global Warming the gospel, you might find this far more your cuppa.Butler's gifts as a writer are obvious--if someone could point me to a book of hers less PC Central and/or less preachy in tone, I'd be willing to try another novel by her.more
The title refers to the biblical parable of Saint Luke. The book also has some parallels to The Book of Job. Fifteen year-old Lauren Olamina is living in near-future southern California where society is crumbling and disintegrating day by day. Her father is a preacher and community leader but she can't bring herself to believe what he believes. She writes her thoughts in diaries and slowly a nascent religion comes into being. She calls her book Earthseed: The Books of the Living. Each chapter starts with a verse from Earthseed. It's a stark religion with no empty promises. Stark but beautiful.Lauren is beset with one calamity after another. She has an iron-strong determination to not only survive but create something from a position of powerlessness. Survival takes most of her energy but as time progresses she also takes baby steps in forming Earthseed. She's as tough a protagonist as they come. When most people would have given up in sheer exhaustion she determinedly forges ahead. Butler knows how to write tough women. There is nothing florid or fancy about Butler's writing. It is simple, concise, and clear. It is powerful and unforgettable. It's also a reminder that most societies are balanced on an edge of progression or regression.more
Disturbing look at an all too believable future. One young woman faces the future with the strength of prophecy and watches as the world disintegrates around her. I'm looking forward to reading the Parable of the Talents as soon as I can get my hands on it.more
Written in 1994, this is a book that predicts total breakdown in 2024. Whenever I read these kind of books I set them '30 years from today'. Butler cleverly works with global warming and water shortages, showing what happens to the very poor and those one rung up. We have no idea what the rich are thinking or doing at this time, but we follow the story of Lauren Olamina, originally 15 yo, for 3 years. I found this book lyrical and haunting. I read it in one day and dreamt about it all last night. I loved her concept of Earthseed and God is Change. I found the book and it's harsh message fascinating and want to know what happens next!more
Lauren Oya Olamina is the heroine of the first novel-Parable of the Sower. It takes place in about 25 years in a suburb of Los Angeles. America has become so economically depressed that people who can afford to live in small "walled" communities. Children do not go to school, most adults work from home-it is simply to dangerous to leave the walled communities. Cars are for rich people, the middle class rides bikes everywhere and are lucky to have enough water to bathe once a week. America as we know it is in the middle of an economic depression, compounded by drought and mild famine. Lauren has lived her whole life in her walled community with her father, step-mother and brothers. Laurens father and step mother are both university professors. Laurens father is also a minister to their local community. Laurens mother was a drug addict-a designer drug that heightened intelligence in the users-and she was born addicted. The side effects of the addiction cause Lauren to experience the pain of others she observes. The slang is Sharers. There is some conflict because "sharing" occurs even when the pain is not real and can even cause victims to bleed if they see someone else bleeding.Lauren sees her world crumbling around her and knows she has to make moves to protect her family. She also knows she is not Christian and that she has found a "set of truths" she calls Earthseed. Lauren plans to leave her community and spread the "truth" of Earthseed. Earthseed a different religion-incorporating ideals of buddhism, zen and neo-paganism. When Laurens walled community is destroyed she is forced out into the world more quickly than she planned for and her journey to spread Earthseed begins in earnest.God is Change. Earthseeds destiny is to take root among the stars.more
This novel is scary and hopeful at the same time. I could not put it down and I know I will reread it. Octavia Butler is one of my favorite authors and this has become one of my favorite books. It's not sci-fi along the lines of Kindred or Fledgling. This story seems all too possible.more
Post-apocalyptic literary scenarios have been a dime a dozen since well before Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, and these days it takes something quite remarkable - like Cormack McCarthy's sublime The Road - to raise even a flicker of interest in this genre from all but the dullest sci-fi fanboy. Octavia Butler's essay on the same theme is now getting on for 20 years old, and stands up well - indeed, it so closely anticipates McCarthy's novel that you have to wonder whether he was aware of it. That is not to suggest plagiarism, however, for the similarities are general indeed: an un-described catastrophe has caused the total breakdown of society and forced a family unit on the road, where they fend for themselves against allcomers in vain hope of a promised land. While Butler employs a couple of nice devices - the P.K.Dick-eque hyperempathy condition is a neat literary device - much better in fact than the hokey "Earthseed" concept which gets unwarranted prominence in the story - but Butler doesn't do nearly enough with it to make it worthwhile. In other aspects, the novel is a little flat. There's not a much in the way of a plot arc - it's more linear: things sort of episodically muddle along to a fairly uninvolving conclusion - and nor do the characters get well fleshed out or developed. Like her protagonist Lauren, Butler throws quite a lot of "seed" about which then appears to fall on stony ground: Lauren's father disappears, presumed dead but unresolved - to no effect. Likewise, Lauren's original sweetheart is introduced, developed, and disposed with for no discernible plot-functional reason. My hunch is that Butler was more interested in developing a quasi-religion than writing a science fiction novel, yet 20 years later, the post-apocalyptic road story is the only part that really holds up. But, all the same, it pales in comparison with Cormack McCarthy's bleaker, more eloquent visualisation, and ultimately I couldn't recommend this novel over, or even really as a complement to, The Road.more
This book is riveting. It's the story, told by a hyperempathetic California teenager, of American society in 2024, about ten or fifteen years after ecological collapse. We meet Lauren, the narrator, when she's about fifteen years old. She's a bright, contemplative preacher's daughter, who has decided that she has found her own God: change. The book is sprinkled with discussions of her beliefs, which she's named Earthseed, and free verse from her "Book of the Living". By her eighteenth birthday, terrifying new synthetic drugs and an "eat the rich" mentality have taken hold outside Los Angeles, and the American government has relaxed business laws to the extent that debt slavery has become more common than ever. Lauren is a wise, clever, and sympathetic protagonist, and the world she inhabits is engaging and perhaps a little too plausible. I plowed through this book in just a few hours, always eager to find out what would happen next, who'd make it through to the next chapter, and what was on each new character's mind.(One further note -- I know plenty of folks who require a touch of the fantastic in their reading. If you're one of those people, you may as well know: This is NOT sci-fi. It takes place in the future and there's one mention of an improbably tiny radio. That's all you get.)more
A reread of Parable of the Sower reveals a dark vision of the near future that is eerily reminiscent of the pictures we all saw on TV following Hurricane Katrina, a frighteningly realistic portrayal of poverty and anarchy that is all too easy to imagine following on the heels of global warming’s devastation. The follow-up, Parable of the Talents, is even more grim and harrowing than its predecessor in its depiction of an America plunged into chaos. Butler deftly picks up the threads of the major issues facing us today — climate change, the widening gap between rich and poor, the privatization of education and social services — and follows them to the inevitably disastrous results if these problems aren’t addressed. Most frightening of all is the depiction of an America in the grips of Christian extremists who murder and enslave people and separate children from their parents, just because they do not hold the same beliefs.But Butler’s story is one of hope too: of a prophet leading her people toward a better future, following a spiritual practice that makes more sense to me than most organized religions I know of, and of a goal — to sow the seeds of humanity throughout space — that I have always believed held the key to our survival as a species. God is change, indeed, but instead of fighting it or surrendering to it, just recognize it and use it to make your goals a reality. This message is contained within a work of fiction that paint a frightening picture of the future, but it rings very true to me.more
This book is on my desert island list. Although it is not cheerful it is full of hope and truth and beauty. Despite the 1993 publication date, it looks disturbingly prescient today, 15 years later. Let's hope things things do indeed change, and not in the way Butler describes.more
According to the new religion of Earthseed, God is change, and the only thing that stays the same is change. In the post-apocalyptic world in which Lauren lives, acceptance of change is a valuable virtue and coping method. After her community is destroyed and her family is gone, she travels up north with a group of disciples, in a sense, to find refuge away from all of the destruction. In addition to the standard challenges, Lauren also has hyperempathy - she can feel the pleasure and pain of others, and there is plenty of pain to go around. Parable of the Sower is a very grim, but also very thoughtful, piece of dystopian literature, and a good readmore
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