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Parable of the Sower

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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 cu 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.


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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 cu 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.

30 review for Parable of the Sower

  1. 5 out of 5

    Rick Riordan

    I am embarrassed to say I had never read Octavia Butler before. I’m happy I finally corrected this glaring oversight. This novel set in the near future is so frighteningly prescient it is difficult to read. The year is 2026. American society is rapidly breaking down thanks to global warning, economic stagnation and wealth disparity. 18-year-old Lauren Olamina lives with her family in a walled-off middle class neighborhood outside LA, but she knows that their little island of relative safety will I am embarrassed to say I had never read Octavia Butler before. I’m happy I finally corrected this glaring oversight. This novel set in the near future is so frighteningly prescient it is difficult to read. The year is 2026. American society is rapidly breaking down thanks to global warning, economic stagnation and wealth disparity. 18-year-old Lauren Olamina lives with her family in a walled-off middle class neighborhood outside LA, but she knows that their little island of relative safety will not last. No one can leave the compound without risking their lives. People are desperate and bereft of any hope. Police and fire fighters only come to help if you have the money to pay them, and even then they are more likely to arrest you than assist you. Few jobs pay money. Most people are slipping into de facto slavery as servants to the wealthy or employees in company-run towns. The new president promises to “Make America Great Again,” — sound familiar? — but does so by eliminating the space program and loosening all labor protections, which only gives large corporations a freer hand in cutting up the carcass of the United States. Lauren is born with a dangerous condition, hyper-empathy, which means she feels whatever pain she witnesses inflicted on others. When her neighborhood is finally breached and she is forced out into the harsh new world, this empathy is only one of her great challenges. Lauren has an idea for a new kind of society — a new religion that will teach self-sufficiency and a new understanding of what God is — but to realize her dream, she first has to stay alive and learn who she can trust. This book was written in the 90s. The scary thing is — the 2026 Butler imagined twenty years ago could easily happen within ten years. Reading this book, I felt a growing sense of claustrophobia, as if I were already trapped in Butler’s disintegrating vision of America. It is a haunting, powerful read, but not for the faint of heart.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Regina

    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 sea. 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 id 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 sea. 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. For more reviews like this one check out my blog: www.badassbookreviews.com

  3. 5 out of 5

    Samadrita

    For a long time I had naively held on to the notion that Octavia E. Butler is the African American counterpart to Ursula K. Le Guin - an assumption begotten out of the commonality that both their creations despite being shoehorned into the genre of science/speculative fiction epitomize realities of institutionalized sociopolitical inequities. Not only has my first foray into Butler's literary landscapes altered that idea greatly but compounded my respect for Le Guin's masterful way of letting th For a long time I had naively held on to the notion that Octavia E. Butler is the African American counterpart to Ursula K. Le Guin - an assumption begotten out of the commonality that both their creations despite being shoehorned into the genre of science/speculative fiction epitomize realities of institutionalized sociopolitical inequities. Not only has my first foray into Butler's literary landscapes altered that idea greatly but compounded my respect for Le Guin's masterful way of letting the didactic veins in a narrative segue neatly with the plot pulse so that when one turns over the last page, the fatal blow to the gut has already been delivered along with the crucial message. Of course it is too early to discount Butler's calibre as a storyteller of grit but rest assured she is no Le Guin. By this time I have devoured enough post-apocalyptic fiction to remain inoculated against both the horrors of disintegrating social orders relapsing into caveman-era violence and the poignancy of surviving groups regaining lost humanity and optimism in the end. But this does not mean I can remain unmoved in the face of even the umpteenth combination of potent story-telling, layered characterization and extrapolations of current reality to very probable catastrophic consequences in the future. Rampant murder, mayhem, arson and pillage drive the plot ahead here. People get killed, raped, mutilated and cannibalized after every few pages. And yet none of the savagery of aforementioned actions registers with the reader. To cut a long story short, 'Parable of the Sower' shows all the finesse of a bull in a china shop while revealing its many thematic concerns. Lauren Olamina, the young adult protagonist, is a hyperempath with the ability to experience the physical pain of others and yet, ironically, it is her journal entries which are glaringly toneless and devoid of any discernible emotion. Even when she expresses her anguish at some tragic turn of events, only a resilient stoicism is palpable in her narrative voice. The occasional philosophical rumination that she rustles up hints at all the solemnity of fortune cookie sentiments. As is obvious from the blurb, there are issues of gender, class, race, sexual orientation, climate change and human conflict simmering beneath the surface of dystopian barbarity but they are all paraded one by one for the reader's benefit without a modicum of discretion. Sprinkling a narrative with sentences like 'So-and-so was also raped.' is hardly the ideal way to drive home the fact of pervasive misogyny. Negatives aside, the book still deserves brownie points for the insightful commentary on religion if not for designating the individual capacity for empathy as the glue which binds together conflicting elements in a civilization. Worship is no good without action. With action, it's only useful if it steadies you, focuses on your efforts, eases your mind. In course of circumventing a minefield of dystopian evils in search of a safe haven, Lauren inadvertently establishes a new religious order centered more or less around the idea of secular humanism, intending it to be a guiding force to shape the future endeavours of the survivors she helps unite as a community. As per the aphorisms of Lauren's 'Book of Earthseed' aka the new age Bible, God is change, and only by accepting change and embracing the notion of diversity can the welfare of the human race be a realizable prospect. This is old wine in new bottle no doubt but there's an oh-so-unsubtle implication that although all core religious ideas are grounded in survivalist logic at the onset, they eventually fragment into toxic ideologies misused by various groups to advance their respective sectarian agendas. The universe is God's self-portrait. I am not really holding my breath but here's to hoping my next brush with Butler's writing fares better than this one.

  4. 4 out of 5

    J.L. Sutton

    "A lot of things changed for the survivors...It took a plague to make some of the people realize that things could change." 2024 is bleak, very bleak! The following years are even darker. The United States looks like it is in its death throes. In Parable of the Sower, Octavia Butler presents a society broken into enclaves, all fighting for their survival. But outside their walls, it's worse. Unfortunately, that's where our hyper-empathy syndrome heroine, Lauren Olamina, is headed. There's a lot t "A lot of things changed for the survivors...It took a plague to make some of the people realize that things could change." 2024 is bleak, very bleak! The following years are even darker. The United States looks like it is in its death throes. In Parable of the Sower, Octavia Butler presents a society broken into enclaves, all fighting for their survival. But outside their walls, it's worse. Unfortunately, that's where our hyper-empathy syndrome heroine, Lauren Olamina, is headed. There's a lot to think about here, but whether anything positive can come of the horror is still an open question at the end of the novel. The writing is engaging and, even when describing the madness of a crumbling society, keeps a nearly matter of fact tone. And it is believable. I will keep thinking about Parable of the Sower, and possibly update this review after my book club meets and discusses it. 4.5 stars...so my update is that my book club liked it so much that we chose the sequel for our next selection!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    I read this book in its entirety on the bus from New York back to Baltimore. It's a strange thing reading a dystopian novel on public transportation. After every chapter I paused and looked around: at the cars traveling in both directions, obeying commonly accepted rules of the road; and at the forty five strangers sitting around me, all adopting a social contract in which we sit quietly for three hours, keep our own personal space, and leave others to their seats, their money, their food, their I read this book in its entirety on the bus from New York back to Baltimore. It's a strange thing reading a dystopian novel on public transportation. After every chapter I paused and looked around: at the cars traveling in both directions, obeying commonly accepted rules of the road; and at the forty five strangers sitting around me, all adopting a social contract in which we sit quietly for three hours, keep our own personal space, and leave others to their seats, their money, their food, their coats, their belongings. I thought about the home-compounds I've seen in South Africa, surrounded by high walls and razor wire, guarded by dogs, and how those do not make the walled community at the start of this novel such a stretch, even if the world outside those walls is not as bleak as the one depicted here. I tend to wade into dystopian novels carefully. My tendency to apply whatever I'm reading or listening to or watching to real life makes it a bad idea for me to read bleak books. The Road turned me into a hermit for weeks. Thankfully, Butler managed to weave a thread of hope into Parable of the Sower. It helped that the narrator, Lauren, is a teenager. She is pragmatic but not completely jaded. She has grown up in the world as it is, and doesn't harbor memories of the world as it was. There are many incidents in the book that were difficult to read, but I was too wound up in Lauren's story and had to keep going to find out what happened to her. There are actually a number of similarities between The Road and Parable of the Sower; so many that I can't help but wonder if McCarthy's book is in some way a response to this one. McCarthy's novel got far more attention, but I think Butler actually paints the more accurate picture of humanity, for good and for bad.

  6. 4 out of 5

    s.penkevich

    ‘The world is full of painful stories.’ When the world falls apart and people are beset by intense suffering and sadness, many turn to religion for the assuring promise of a better place beyond death. In Parable of the Sower, an intensely riveting and disquieting vision of America’s collapse by Octavia Butler, teenage Lauren Olamina instead asks why should we resign ourselves to hope in paradise after death when we could rise up with the power to fight the suffering we face while alive to embrace ‘The world is full of painful stories.’ When the world falls apart and people are beset by intense suffering and sadness, many turn to religion for the assuring promise of a better place beyond death. In Parable of the Sower, an intensely riveting and disquieting vision of America’s collapse by Octavia Butler, teenage Lauren Olamina instead asks why should we resign ourselves to hope in paradise after death when we could rise up with the power to fight the suffering we face while alive to embrace a brighter tomorrow for all. Lauren lives in a community protected by a wall from the violence outside and is afflicted with a condition of hyper-empathy. Her perspective on other’s pain shapes her towards a revolutionary new beginning for humanity, if she can survive that is. Drawing from the biblical parable from which the novel takes it’s name, this is a novel about the seeds of hope that we must believe can grow even in the darkest of nights and the harshest terrains. Butler plunges the reader into a bleakness of humanity where capitalism has reformed a fresh take on slavery and worker’s oppression as the economy gasps is dying breaths, while all around chaos reigns supreme. Harrowing yet hopeful, Butler’s novel rightfully belongs in conversation with 1984 and Brave New World as a prescient portrayal of social collapse while offering a way forward through embracing change and empathy. ‘Freedom is dangerous but it's precious, too. You can't just throw it away or let it slip away.’ Butler pulls no punches in her world building. Beginning in 2024, Lauren has been born into an America ravaged by climate change, violence and a collapsing economy that opened the door for outlandish inequality. A new President takes the helm on a platform to remove government programs and revitalize jobs, creating a fresh revitalization of Company Towns and debt-slavery. The set-up between a willful acceptance of a debt one can never pay off or succumbing to the violence that is spreading offers little chance of hope in lives already resigned to nothing more than a short lifespan having babies and suffering. Published in 1993, the parallels to our modern sociopolitical climate are striking, such as the pits of debt or fear of losing health care that keep people locked in less-than-desirable jobs (the 2018 comedy Sorry to Bother You from Boots Riley does an excellent job comedically skewering this concept as well--highly recommended). Butler bares her teeth in her critiques of capitalism and the slow creep on human rights that perish for the sake of “economic progress” that only seems to benefit the established elite. ‘There is no end To what a living world Will demand of you.’ When it becomes necessary for human life to be normalized as expendable, is the system even worth upholding? ‘Will it be legal to poison, mutilate, or infect people—as long as you provide them with food, water, and space to die?’ Lauren wonders as those around her flee to the illusion of safety in the newly created company town. As she will say in the sequel, Parable of the Talents, ‘In order to rise from its own ashes, a Phoenix first must burn.’ . Like a phoenix, Lauren wishes for a new future to rise from the ashes of her dying society--which she quite literally witnesses being burnt by roaming gangs who then murder all her friends and family as they try to flee. The God of her forebearers has failed to provide meaning for her anymore and those who follow the old ways seem more of an obstacle to a chance of progress than a safety net. Butler demonstrates how many of our problems are blatant and in our face, but we have been socialized to accept them and those who speak out and warn others or offer an alternative, like Lauren, are dismissed as fearmongering and alarmism. This is a story about what happens when your warnings are correct, but the devastation gives no room for validation. Remember the parts of The Road that haunt you? Now imagine that sustained for a full novel. The second half of this book follows people walking a freeway under constant siege of theft and murder, long nights keeping watch and all the nightmares along the way. ‘That’s all anybody can do right now. Live. Hold out. Survive. I don’t know whether good times are coming back again. But I know that won’t matter if we don’t survive these times.’ Butler evokes the spirit of Frederick Douglass in Lauren, who, like Douglass, had the rare ability to read and write in her oppressed community. As her small group of refugees trudge north, she considers how they have become a sort of ‘modern underground railroad,’ taking in those fleeing prostitution or debt-slavery, those fleeing a wasteland where everything they love was stolen from them. Douglass surreptitiously taught slaves how to read and write using the Bible as the primary text. Lauren, who is teaching her friends, is also spreading religion. But unlike when the oppressed embraced the God of their oppressors--an act of defiance and spiritual salvation--here they are rejecting the God of old in place of a new one: Earthseed. Like the farmer from the biblical parable from which the novel takes it’s name, Lauren is spreading the seeds of her new ‘belief system’. God is Change, Lauren says. Her God is less a deity than an idea that she believes can transform humanity. Writing her scripture in poetry, she is walking the land preaching her new beliefs and taking in converts. Like the seeds of the parable her words may fall on deaf or disbelieving ears, but some, like Travis or Bankole, become her ‘first converts’. All that you touch, You Change. All that you Change, Changes you. The only lasting truth Is Change. God. Earthseed draws on many religions--Lauren’s father is a Baptist pastor, which shapes her foundational thinking--mixed with afrofuturism. The ultimate goal is to spread humanity in peace throughout the stars, which is a defiant statement in a country where the newly elected President is working to abolish the space program. For Lauren, God is a trickster figure, an embodiment of change, which to many of her hopeful converts doesn’t seem enough of a powerful cause to believe in. This makes one consider why religious texts are so imbued with magic and wonder if without something magical--like the resurrection of Jesus from the dead--would his message of being executed by the State for standing up to them with a message of universal and equitable love as an opposition to oppression and wealth-seeking for power have been passed down throughout time. Lauren believes in a ‘Book of the living’ that informs on how to create a paradise for those alive, but without a magical goal it may be a difficult persuasion. Yet, she must still plant the seeds and hope they take in unfamiliar soil. Seeds planting is thematic throughout the novel beyond religious context. Lauren packs different seeds as food in her survival pack--a concept she tries to introduce to her community early on but is shouted down as being alarmist for wanting people to prepare for the worst, an easily empathetic scenario for teens her own age to identify with--and collects different seasonal seeds as the group travels North. When they find a place to possibly settle, it is her seeds that offer hope for a sustainable society to flourish upon. This draws a direct connection between the environmental messages and the religious ones in the novel. ‘The weak can overcome the strong if the weak persist. Persisting isn’t always safe, but it’s often necessary.’ Beyond progressive critiques of capitalism and expositions on impending climate crisis, Butler’s narrative embraces intersectionality and unity as imperative to survival. ‘Embrace diversity,’ Lauren preaches in her poetry as her group begins to pick up a variety of people, ‘Unite— Or be divided, robbed, ruled, killed / By those who see you as prey. / Embrace diversity / Or be destroyed.’ There is a strong message of identifying the usefulness or any individual they welcome into their group, both despite their differences but also by recognizing and embracing differences. Lauren passes herself off as a man to make her initial party appear like a heteronormative couple, which attracts less attention. The biases we find in today’s society are elevated in Butler’s apocalyptic vision to remind us that certain groups bear privileges others do not. By recognizing them they are able to subvert them and take note of which social constructs enable violence upon others. Identifying the points of oppression are necessary to correct them. It’s curious how Butler is always relegated to the Sci-Fi genre and shelved accordingly in bookstores. Not that there's anything wrong with Sci-Fi, but, as Ursula K Le Guin has spoken and written extensively on, the genre is often used as a diminutive to distract from many socially conscious works. She says it is a ‘lingering problem’ in the book community where ‘the maintenance of an arbitrary division between “literature” and “genre... become limitations rather than possibilities (read the full interview here). Why does Parable end up in the Sci-Fi section whereas Atwood’s The Handmaid's Tale, McCarthy’s The Road or 1984 and Brave New World are considered Literary fiction? Of the latter two, Butler’s world feels the least dated and is in many ways more socially progressive than any of these aforementioned titles. Her other work, Kindred, happens to contain time travel, yet the Outlander series remains shelved in fiction. Admittedly, many of Butler’s novels are in fact Sci-Fi narratives, but there is a strong literary aspect to them and this is worth considering. For all the dystopian collapse and horror of gangs fueled by drugs that give them sexual satisfaction from fire (yep), the heart of this novel is one of social justice and dramatic social and economic revolution but most importantly the necessity to embrace change in order for these things to grow in a fertile soil of progress. ‘Belief Initiates and guides action— Or it does nothing. Octavia Butler is an absolute gem of a writer and, while it is sad that the current state of world affairs leads people to seek out a book like this, I’m glad Butler was there to have a nearly perfect one ready and waiting. Earthseed is an interesting concept to consider, particularly because it is fairly secular, so those without a religious bent will not be turned off by strong focus on developing an afro-futurist belief system. In fact, it’s all rather beautiful and encouraging. This is the book I would most recommend for those looking for something in the 1984/BNW/etc category of dystopian classics. Butler invites us all to help build a better world before it is too late. 4.5/5 ‘It took a plague to make some of the people realize that things could change.’

  7. 5 out of 5

    Ken

    Parable of the Sower isn't the easiest book to read. The prose is clear and uncomplicated, but the content can be hard to take. This is a close-to-home dystopia, one which I found hard to dismiss as improbable. And the world that it depicts is cruel and ugly. Even the well-meaning must do ugly things to survive. This is science fiction only in the most technical sense. Sure, it's set in a hypothetical future, and the main character, Lauren, has an uncanny/(super)natural ability to feel the pain o Parable of the Sower isn't the easiest book to read. The prose is clear and uncomplicated, but the content can be hard to take. This is a close-to-home dystopia, one which I found hard to dismiss as improbable. And the world that it depicts is cruel and ugly. Even the well-meaning must do ugly things to survive. This is science fiction only in the most technical sense. Sure, it's set in a hypothetical future, and the main character, Lauren, has an uncanny/(super)natural ability to feel the pain of others. But there is no reliance upon imagined technologies, alien races or superhuman heroics to move the plot along. The framework of this fictional universe is our own, moved forward in time to a barren future. Lauren is intent upon founding her own religion. Her ideas are represented by excerpts from her poetry at the beginning of each chapter. As the story progresses, Lauren explains her ideas to many (initially skeptical) people. I was a little bit unhappy with this (central) aspect of the book: the ideas, and Lauren's writing, felt to me a lot less deep and meaningful than Lauren intended. But what was Octavia Butler's intention? Did she intend these ideas, and Lauren's writings, to be full of meaning, resonance and depth? Was it supposed to be a bit naive and simple, but with potential (which is how I felt)? The answer isn't to be found in this book. When I finished the book, satisfied at its refusal to come to a pat conclusion or judgment about Lauren's ideology, I found out that there is a sequel. I look forward to it and to finding out whether Lauren's ideas mature once put to the test. Apparently, Butler had begun to work on a third book in this series, but sadly she never completed it. Oh, one warning: don't read the back cover. At least for the edition I have, the description on the back gives away a crucial, major turning point in the plot that occurs midway through the book. I hate knowing too much in advance, and I would have been really irritated had I seen that beforehand.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Matthias

    I often wonder about religion. Its roots, its power, its consequences. When looking at the religion that had the biggest influence on my life, I sometimes wonder if that belief system isn't just a biography that got out of hand. We've got the life of Jesus described to us, the good deeds he did and the things he had to say, and people picked it up, learnt it, liked it, loved it, embraced it, fought for it, killed for it, died for it. Whoa, that escalated quickly. Such a tiny harmless thing as a I often wonder about religion. Its roots, its power, its consequences. When looking at the religion that had the biggest influence on my life, I sometimes wonder if that belief system isn't just a biography that got out of hand. We've got the life of Jesus described to us, the good deeds he did and the things he had to say, and people picked it up, learnt it, liked it, loved it, embraced it, fought for it, killed for it, died for it. Whoa, that escalated quickly. Such a tiny harmless thing as a moral compass doing so much harm. I've caught myself thinking about how nifty it would be if my life story would turn into a religion, and what impact writings about it would have on later generations. Telling people about that time when I gave a sandwich to a poor guy, or the one where I forgave a friend after he had put chewing gum in my hair. Or when I waited with washing my dishes for an entire week and had to scrub a bit harder to get the crusts away. What impact would those writings have a couple of generations from now? "And on the seventh day he decideth to wash the dishes, and saw that it was difficult." In this day and age, at least where I live, the moral compass no longer seems to be the Bible. But does that mean our morals and behavior are no longer guided by religion? When Christiano Ronaldo visits a sick kid it's as if a beautiful miracle happened, when Messi tells us not to be racist we accept his wise words, when Coca-Cola tells us to enjoy life and Nike tells us to just do it, we do it. What's the difference with Jesus, except for the time they were living in? A viral video of a beggar giving what little he has and being immediately rewarded for it, a meme of a bully being kicked in the nuts, a social experiment on domestic violence on men filmed in a public square guided by a solemn song and big, white words scrolling over pointing us to what's right. What's the difference between my Facebook feed and a page in the Bible? Could a simple idea as "Enjoy life" be the seed of a religion? These are some of the questions that were inspired by this book, "Parable of the Sower". In it Octavia Butler tells the story of Lauren Olamina, a young girl who holds the seed of a new religion: Earthseed. Aside from the religious aspect, this book also presents us with a dystopian future, a future that is as alarming as it is a possibility that only seems to have increased in likelihood since the time this book was written in the late nineties. Lauren lives in a small community surrounded by walls. The community is not rich, but fairly well-off compared to what's out there. She lives on an island of the privileged amidst an ever-rising ocean of those who fell and got left behind. It's not a particularly warm community, with lots of suspicion, gossip and resentment, even within families, but at least they have chicken to breed and vegetable patches to work on. Outside the walls poverty is king and violence is queen. A new drug turns people into raging pyromaniacs. It is clear for both the protagonist and the reader that the walled community will not be able to stand up to these increasing dangers for a long time, that it will be swallowed up whole. The way Butler describes this situation, the sense of impending danger and how Lauren reacts to it, was done brilliantly. And it's sad to say, but I could relate. Bombs blowing up ever closer to home, streams of refugees looking for shelter, shelters blown up, refugees joining other refugees looking for safe havens that build walls around them to keep the problems out, well, you get the picture, we all watch the news. In the midst of all this, Lauren has discovered a new "religion". That's what the author and her protagonist decided to call it and it starts off very promising with inspiring verses around the idea that the one, undefeatable constant is change. The religion centers around the idea that God is Change. Lauren insist she "found" this wisdom and did not construct it, making her belief very firm and her resolution to spread it even greater. Unfortunately, it doesn't get much richer than that. The idea isn't really expanded upon, there's no clear moral consequences aside from the fact that one can shape change through one's own actions and accept change when one can't steer it. The title refers to seeds and sowers, but it seems that the idea of God being change is the full-grown plant and that's all you get. The part of Lauren's life described in the book also isn't inspirational in the way Jesus' or Zlatan Ibrahimovic' is. It's a story of people on the run. The dangers they encounter and the people they meet all seem to melt together in one big ball of misery that gets harder to relate to as the book progresses. This book does not hold one sparkle of joy or humor, and actually has little emotion to offer in general. It's unceasingly and unremittingly bleak and depressing. "Parable of the Sower" is presented as excerpts of Lauren's journal, but is written in such a factual way it's difficult to relate to her or anyone surrounding her. By the end of the book I still had a hard time discerning between some of the characters. I'm also pretty sure this is actually a Young Adult novel, only I didn't realize it very quickly, which is a compliment for any YA novel in my book. But some aspects, like the hyperempathy syndrome due to which Lauren feels physical pain whenever someone around her is hurting, just feels a bit too "Disney", for lack of finding a better word. You know, the one where a trait with morally desirable consequences is considered a dangerous thing to be ashamed of. You don't need to have hyperempathy to feel where this is going. All of this to say that this book starts off with a brilliant setting and idea in the first half (5 stars), but seems to waste its potential in the second (3 stars). I have to add that the ending of this book is clearly not the end of the story, which continues in "Parable of the Talents", a book I'll start reading tonight. I have hopes that after all the running from fires, dogs, and cannibals in book one, more of the philosophical potential is unlocked in this sequel. Maybe the God-is-change plant will bear some fruits after all.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Apatt

    When I started reading this book I immediately felt inclined to rate it five stars even before finishing the first sentence. Hardly fair or reasonable I know, but that's love. I have loved Octavia Butler since reading Wild Seeds a couple of years ago, I went on to read Kindred and the Lilith's Brood trilogy which only solidified my love for this dear departed lady and all she stood for. Having said that, I initially felt a little disappointed with the first chapter of Parable of the Sower beca When I started reading this book I immediately felt inclined to rate it five stars even before finishing the first sentence. Hardly fair or reasonable I know, but that's love. I have loved Octavia Butler since reading Wild Seeds a couple of years ago, I went on to read Kindred and the Lilith's Brood trilogy which only solidified my love for this dear departed lady and all she stood for. Having said that, I initially felt a little disappointed with the first chapter of Parable of the Sower because the setting is rather mundane, not fantastical like the other Butler novels that I have read. Butler had such an immense imagination that her sci-fi books are always full of a sense of wonder, but Parable of the Sower’s setting seems like a typical dystopian scenario, nothing very outlandish walk the Earth. However, once I settle into the book and became familiar with the characters I was swept away by the storytelling and it no longer matters what the setting is, what genre is, or even what the basic plotline is. I was there with the characters, the only thing that matters is what is happening to them on the current page. Parable of the Sower is a dystopian novel set in what seems like a post-apocalypse America but there was never a single apocalyptic event, no nuclear war and blasted irradiated landscape. It seems that the world just went down the toilet of its own accord. If I can just steal this line from Octaviabutler.org: “When unattended environmental and economic crises lead to social chaos, not even gated communities are safe.” The central character is Lauren Olamina, an eighteen-year-old girl, at the beginning of the novel she lives a stable and relatively safe life with her family but one day her family and the entire community is destroyed by drug crazed pyromaniac raiders. Lauren – the smartest character in the book – anticipated such a disaster from the current state of affairs so she was able to grab a prepared emergency pack and hit the road (her family is all killed though). Lauren has a long-term ambition to found a community and a religion of sorts which will ensure the survival, recovery and even progress of mankind. A project she calls “Earthseed”. So after the destruction of her family the story is of her trek with across America – with a few friends she meets along the way – to find a place where they can settle in and start building a meaningful life. Parable of the Sower is a very bleak yet optimistic novel. The story is driven by Lauren’s indomitable will and her grace under pressure. “The weak can overcome the strong if the weak persist. Persisting isn’t always safe, but it’s often necessary.” Lauren’s only weakness is her "hyperempathy", a condition that causes her to feel the pain of any person she perceives to be feeling pain (not by any kind of telepathy, it is more of a psychological condition from a birth defect). This makes fighting and self-defense very difficult, but she always does whatever she has to do to survive. The US depicted in this book is mostly in a state of anarchy, there is some kind of ineffective government in place and the police are mostly as bad – or worse – than the savages, robbers, rapists and cannibals roaming the land. As I expected, the book is powerfully and beautifully written (in epistolary format). The characters are complex, vivid and entirely believable. If you are particularly squeamish some violent parts can be hard to read, though it is nothing compared to modern day “grimdark” fantasy like A Game of Thrones. Though the book’s title is taken from the New Testament Parable of the Sower is not a religious novel, much less a Christian one though Lauren’s Earthseed concept uses aspects of religion to inspire potential followers. More importantly it is a moving and thought provoking story about what makes living worthwhile. There is a sequel called Parable of the Talents which I will read fairly soon, I intend to read all her novels anyway, unfortunately, there are only a few left that I have not read. ________________________ Update Dec 2015: I have read the sequeal Parable of the Talents, it does not disappoint!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Candi

    Abandoning this book at about 30%. I just can't finish it. Feels too much like a young adult novel, which isn't necessarily a problem in and of itself - but dialogue is boring me. I am not a huge sci-fi/dystopia fan, so it really needs to grab me if I am going to read it. This one just isn't working for me personally. Not going to rate this one as a result. Too many other books waiting to be read! Abandoning this book at about 30%. I just can't finish it. Feels too much like a young adult novel, which isn't necessarily a problem in and of itself - but dialogue is boring me. I am not a huge sci-fi/dystopia fan, so it really needs to grab me if I am going to read it. This one just isn't working for me personally. Not going to rate this one as a result. Too many other books waiting to be read!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Thomas

    Unsettling and powerful, like The Road with a Black female protagonist and more BIPOC characters overall. In some ways I dislike using The Road as a comparison given that white people’s art is not the standard, and Octavia Butler creates a whole world of her own in Parable of the Sower. First published in 1993, this dystopian novel flashes forward to 2025, when the United States has descended into chaos and what remains includes a country pervaded by disease, war, and chronic water shortages. La Unsettling and powerful, like The Road with a Black female protagonist and more BIPOC characters overall. In some ways I dislike using The Road as a comparison given that white people’s art is not the standard, and Octavia Butler creates a whole world of her own in Parable of the Sower. First published in 1993, this dystopian novel flashes forward to 2025, when the United States has descended into chaos and what remains includes a country pervaded by disease, war, and chronic water shortages. Lauren Olamina and her family live in one of the rare safe neighborhoods on the outskirts of Los Angeles, where her father, a preacher, and other citizens try to protect one another and form some version of community amidst the darkness of the world. However, when their neighborhood is attacked and Lauren’s family is killed, she ventures out on her own with a few other refugees to try and survive. On their path Lauren imagines a revolutionary idea that may bring forth a new hope for all of humankind. I liked this novel though it contains a lot of gore, so trigger warning for sexual assault, murder and violence, and brief descriptions of cannibalism. Butler’s prose is sparse and efficient and makes for a straightforward reading experience. I’m most impressed by how much Butler predicted with this novel and the subtle yet meaningful social commentary she weaved in. For example, she incorporates themes related to how the police do not actually help much and oftentimes perpetuate harm, the role of race and racism in people’s chances of survival, the perils of capitalism and worker exploitation, and the power of mutual aid and community trust. While reading Parable of the Sower I felt that Butler came across as well ahead of her time. I give this novel four stars instead of five because I wanted to feel a bit more immersed in Lauren’s world and her emotions. Perhaps she had to develop some emotional calluses or some internal distance from her trauma to survive, yet I wanted to feel more of that connection with her or even more of that connection between the characters. One of my favorite parts of the novel includes how Lauren’s newfound and growing community come to trust one another amidst this awful world they exist in. At the same time, I wanted to travel a bit more in-depth with certain connections or character so I could really get all in my feelings with them. Overall recommended to fans of the Gone series by Michael Grant, N.K. Jemisin, or science fiction and books centering BIPOC characters in general. Wish we could have read this one in school though I don’t think my school at least was ready for the content of this novel – its commentary on whiteness and capitalism probably may have challenged people a bit too much. EDIT 8.5.2020 Okay so I was talking to my bff about Octavia Butler's work on Twitter tonight and realized that the main character of this novel (who starts out as 15 and is 18 by the end of the novel) engages in a sexual and romantic relationship with a 57-year-old man during the course of the book. It's 11:02pm so I don't have the energy to fully analyze or engage in the problematic nature of this, though my bff pointed out Butler has a similar age-gap relationship in her work Fledgling. The main character and this 57-year-old man talk about their age gap and discuss consent and at the same time I wanted to name this relationship given that I don't think I came across any Goodreads reviews that have.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Nenia Campbell

    Instagram || Twitter || Facebook || Amazon || Pinterest I read PARABLE OF THE SOWER for the first time as a teenager and I'm kind of surprised at how much I've forgotten/how much went over my head. It's a typical post-apocalyptic book in some ways, but revolutionary in others. First, it's peopled with a very diverse cast, with black, Asian, and Latino characters, to the point that they overshadow any Caucasian characters. California is one of the most ethnically diverse states in the U.S., so Instagram || Twitter || Facebook || Amazon || Pinterest I read PARABLE OF THE SOWER for the first time as a teenager and I'm kind of surprised at how much I've forgotten/how much went over my head. It's a typical post-apocalyptic book in some ways, but revolutionary in others. First, it's peopled with a very diverse cast, with black, Asian, and Latino characters, to the point that they overshadow any Caucasian characters. California is one of the most ethnically diverse states in the U.S., so it was refreshing to see a book that actually reflected that makeup. Second, PARABLE OF THE SOWER isn't dated at all. It still feels contemporary. Many of the issues - climate change, increase in criminal drug use, hyper-inflation, racially charged violence, gangs - are still relevant today. The only thing that truly places a time stamp on this book are the lack of cell phones and internet, but those things don't really have a place in a post-apocalyptic society anyway, which is maybe why this works. Lauren lives in a cushy gated community with her preacher father. They've walled themselves off from the rest of the world with high-tech razor wire and rely on themselves and no one else. Lauren knows they have it good but isn't sure this is a sustainable way of life; their relative ease is stirring up the resentment of outsiders, and she's afraid that their "safety" is making them soft and unprepared for what awaits them outside. Spoiler - Lauren is right and the worst does come to pass, only because nobody believed her or took her seriously, everyone is woefully unprepared. Not Lauren, though. She's a great character. It's refreshing to see a female protagonist who makes good decisions, and is willing to do unsavory things if it means survival. She isn't without a moral compass though; in fact, in her journal, she's coming up with the tenets of her own religion, which she calls Earthseed. The religious angle is a little weird and almost Heinleinesque, made more so by the fact that Lauren has something called "hyper empathy syndrome," which means that she feels the pain and the pleasure that she sees in the people around her. I thought that was pretty weird. Psychic mumbo jumbo like that is pretty common in the sci-fi of the 70s, and man, did those authors love to preach. PARABLE OF THE SOWER is different from those books in that it has strong female heroines, an ethnically diverse cast, morally ambiguous characters, and a genuinely (and terrifyingly) plausible world that sings a swan song for an earth that may be beyond salvation - but also, maybe not. 3.5 to 4 stars

  13. 5 out of 5

    Althea Ann

    On second reading, I think Butler's riff on post-apocalyptic travails hit me harder than the first time. After seeing the devastation in New Orleans on television and talking to friends and others whose relatives made it out of the city, the concepts of civilisation falling apart and humanity's worst nature coming to the forefront seem a lot closer and more likely... events in general since I first read the book have certainly not reached anywhere close to what Butler predicts in this novel - (w On second reading, I think Butler's riff on post-apocalyptic travails hit me harder than the first time. After seeing the devastation in New Orleans on television and talking to friends and others whose relatives made it out of the city, the concepts of civilisation falling apart and humanity's worst nature coming to the forefront seem a lot closer and more likely... events in general since I first read the book have certainly not reached anywhere close to what Butler predicts in this novel - (which is the United States falling into total economic collapse, with violent drug addicts and criminals preying on anyone weaker than themselves, citizens forming walled communities which are only temporary havens from the inevitable tide of violence, debt slavery growing, as rich corporations and exploiters from richer countries come in to use Americans as a disposable third-world workforce....) - but it seems more and more every day that this is a nation in decline. Most post-apocalyptic tales feature some gigantic catastrophe - a nuclear attack or an asteroid hitting the earth, etc... but in Parable..., although global warming has rendered the south of the US a desert, and water is a precious commodity, there has been no single, sudden catastrophe - and other parts of the world, and even the USA's rich - are still doing fine... companies are coming out with new advances in entertainment technology, the government is even completing missions to Mars... it's been a gradual decline, with the masses left to fend for themselves if they can... and this makes it that much more terrifying a vision.... However, against the horrific backdrop of a cautionary tale, Butler's parable, which refers to the Biblical parable, but can also work as a parable for today, is a tale that is ultimately hopeful, as her heroine, Lauren Olamina, struggles to find a life for herself, along the way gathering to herself a group of decent people and persisting in trying to start her own religion/spiritual path called 'Earthseed,' still believing that humanity may have a great destiny among the stars.

  14. 5 out of 5

    BrokenTune

    "I stared down the hill from our camp where just a glint of water was visible in the distance through the trees and bushes. The world is full of painful stories. Sometimes it seems as though there aren’t any other kind and yet I found myself thinking how beautiful that glint of water was through the trees." There is only one word to describe the world that Butler built in Parable of the Sower and that word is BRUTAL. I recently read a review of one of her other books, Kindred, in which the reviewe "I stared down the hill from our camp where just a glint of water was visible in the distance through the trees and bushes. The world is full of painful stories. Sometimes it seems as though there aren’t any other kind and yet I found myself thinking how beautiful that glint of water was through the trees." There is only one word to describe the world that Butler built in Parable of the Sower and that word is BRUTAL. I recently read a review of one of her other books, Kindred, in which the reviewer used the same word, and I was wondering if that really could be an appropriate description because, after all, a book is just words on a page right? What could possible be so bad about that? And then I started reading The Parable of the Sower, Butler's story set in California in 2024, where communities rely on walls to keep them safe from wild animals, robbery, rape, and murder. But of course, walls are made to crumble. Communities disperse or are erased, and all that is left is a dog eat dog world. "Civilization is to groups what intelligence is to individuals. It is a means of combining the intelligence of many to achieve ongoing group adaptation." What made this book special for me was its immediacy. The book was published in 1993, but is set in a 2024 that is not all that futuristic. There are no clocks striking thirteen. The only thing that has advanced are drugs. I was going to add 'human atrocities' but they have remained the same throughout time, they just disappear from focus, are kept outside the walls of social order. In this sense, The Parable of the Sower, tears down the illusion that social order is ever stable and that social constructs that are based on ideologies or intangible ideas are of any use to man when faced with a battle for survival. I guess from the setting, the description of looting and arson, and the depiction of the police as corrupt and untrustworthy, that Butler may have drawn some inspiration from the 1992 Los Angeles riots. Remembering the images of the time and having seen similar events unfold in more recent years, Butler really captures the volatility of society in this novel. Fortunately, however, in her motley crew of main characters, Butler also captures some of that human spirit that fights against this brutality and that has compassion for its fellow beings and draws strength from the support of and belief in mankind. There may be few of them, but given a chance they are set to thrive, much like the seeds that hit a fertile ground. I am sorry if I have waffled my way through this review but The Parable of the Sower was one of those books that just provides so much food for thought. For all its brutality and distressing scenes and descriptions, it was a gripping read and I am looking forward to reading more by the author.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ron

    (Feb 2016, adjusted rating down after reading Dawn. Butler did do much better.) This might have been the must-read dystopia of the 90s. Perhaps it's because Butler tries too hard. Or readers can't see past the obvious shortcomings. Dystopias have been with us since 1984 and Brave New World, and Utopia's since Mores and even Plato's Timaeus. But Parable of the Sower could have been this generation's dystopia. A really engaging, challenging story of believable, empathetic characters. Great social co (Feb 2016, adjusted rating down after reading Dawn. Butler did do much better.) This might have been the must-read dystopia of the 90s. Perhaps it's because Butler tries too hard. Or readers can't see past the obvious shortcomings. Dystopias have been with us since 1984 and Brave New World, and Utopia's since Mores and even Plato's Timaeus. But Parable of the Sower could have been this generation's dystopia. A really engaging, challenging story of believable, empathetic characters. Great social commentary. What's wrong? One, her protagonist's "hyperempathy syndrome" is stupid and unnecessary. Hokey. Two, in a society crumbling under natural and man-made disaster, public water, phones, electric shouldn't operate. And insurance? Yeah, it didn't pay, but they shouldn't have expected it to. Scarce coffee but plentiful tea. Many such disconnects which throw the reader out of the story. Butler seemed to not understand that a solar water pump is actually an electric water pump. If the solar array is broken, an alternate (probably low-voltage DC) electricity source may work. Three, if Butler could have gotten past her own social-racial memories, she would serve herself better. Readers are subjected to no less than four lectures about "debt slavery." Her sense of history and justice was just too two-dimensional. Four, Butler takes 130 pages to set up the story. Lots of preaching and repetition. Thirty should have sufficed. Five, speaking of preaching, her Earthseed religion, while a realistic construction for the adolescent Lauren, slowed rather than propelled the story. It is a logical construct for a teen in a changed and changing world and helps define her character, but Butler seemed selling it a la L. Ron Hubbard. Readers could skip the "scripture" quotes as they really don't bear on anything (other than Lauren's state of mind). I understand and appreciate books by/about people undergoing a crisis of faith; I do not appreciate books by/about people creating a religion—especially when they try to convert me before they've even explained what it is or why I should care. This shortcoming is partly offset by Butler including credible characters who think Lauren's new faith is claptrap. Like Ender's Game: unnaturally bright, mature individual overcomes both enemies and friends to save the world (maybe). Echoes of Ayn Rand . . . which comparison probably sets Butler spinning in her grave. Do read this book. Parable of the Sower could have been a great event in fiction, but isn't. (I don't think Ender's Game is either, but it came closer.) [Revised 8/18/2014 due to helpful reader feedback.] [Revised 1/11/2017 to correct many typos and tense clashes]

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mary ~Ravager of Tomes~

    The best & worst thing about this book is just how realistic it is. In the world we live in now, with such instant access to crises all over the world as they unfold, it makes sense that some of us are more than a little uneasy over the idea of the future. I want to say things can only get better, but that’s exactly the type of narrow outlook that leads us right back into repeating the worst mistakes our history has to offer. This book follows a young girl & her perseverance through a world ravaged The best & worst thing about this book is just how realistic it is. In the world we live in now, with such instant access to crises all over the world as they unfold, it makes sense that some of us are more than a little uneasy over the idea of the future. I want to say things can only get better, but that’s exactly the type of narrow outlook that leads us right back into repeating the worst mistakes our history has to offer. This book follows a young girl & her perseverance through a world ravaged by economic, environmental, and moral upheaval. Diligently documenting verses of a religion she has founded, Earth Seed, she seeks to create a new community in which people can live peacefully & prosper in the knowledge of truth. One thing in particular that I love about this novel is the main character, Lauren Olamina. I would not categorize this as Young Adult, but Lauren is a young lady with a mind years beyond her age & a consistent adherence to logic & empathy. While I read I just kept thinking of all the young characters I’ve read, in both Young Adult & Adult books alike, who make choices that defy reason for the sake of the plot. That’s not to say Lauren is perfect, in fact she’s glaringly flawed. But her flaws were not at the center of every conflict this book had to offer. Another, aspect of Lauren that I find fascinating is her Hyper-Empathy Syndrome; without experiencing any physical stimulus, Lauren is able to feel the pain & pleasure she perceives others to feel. I’m sure many high educated scholars have analyzed this book, so without reading those I may be way off here, but the element of Hyper-Empathy Syndrome felt to me like a commentary on how pain can be passed down through generations. Early in the book it’s revealed that Lauren’s father believes her Hyper-Empathy Syndrome was passed down to her because her mother abused drugs while pregnant. The fact that it is just speculation for the characters, that a real source of this curse cannot be verified, feels like a parallel to how, people can be directly affected by the suffering of their ancestors. The idea of human desperation & selfishness sending us head first into a brutal apocalypse just makes my stomach turn. But alongside it is the idea that personal hope can exist in even the worst possible scenarios is a lasting, powerful message that we have clung to since the beginning of time. And that’s why I think this is an important read. There were places where it dragged just a bit for me, mostly in the second half. And I also felt as though some of the characters were introduced so quickly that I didn’t have time to get to know them the way I did with those introduced in the first half. But ultimately this is a great book, and another checkmark on my list of Octavia Butler reads! This review and other reviews of mine can be found on Book Nest!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Gabrielle

    “When unattended environmental and economic crises lead to social chaos, not even gated communities are safe.” I fell in love very hard with Octavia Butler’s work when I read “Kindred” (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...), and even more so when I read “Bloodchild” (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...). I honestly can’t believe it took me this long to get to another one of her books! Especially as “Parable of the Sower” is a rather prescient kind of post-apocalyptic novel, the kind that “When unattended environmental and economic crises lead to social chaos, not even gated communities are safe.” I fell in love very hard with Octavia Butler’s work when I read “Kindred” (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...), and even more so when I read “Bloodchild” (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...). I honestly can’t believe it took me this long to get to another one of her books! Especially as “Parable of the Sower” is a rather prescient kind of post-apocalyptic novel, the kind that can be shelved next to “The Handmaid’s Tale”… The world Lauren lives in hasn’t been laid to waste by war, zombies, or aliens or any of your usual cataclysms. It simply just sort of… collapsed on itself because people were in denial about the environment decaying, about the economy falling apart and about the social consequences of those slowly encroaching events. Lauren is a young girl who suffers from hyperempathy syndrome, which means she feels the pain and pleasure of those around her to the point where it can be quite debilitating. She lives in a somewhat stable walled neighborhood just outside of L.A. with her father, stepmother and siblings, where they get by on the parents’ meager salaries and whatever their little community can scrounge together. But no one is ever completely safe from thieves and arsonist… Lauren is, unfortunately, the only one lucid enough to see the writing on the wall, so when her community is attacked and destroyed, she is prepared: she has a pack with things she might need on the road, and when she can’t find any of her family members, she decides to head north, where she hopes to find a job and maybe start a community around a quasi-religious belief system she has been working on. Lauren might seem too smart and thoughtful to be 18, but I have known a few hyper-inquisitive people of that age who would have reached similar conclusions had they been in her place. Mostly I felt for her isolation, both the one created by her outlook of her and her family’s situation, but also the alienation that she must have experienced with her hyperempathy. In some circumstances, her syndrome is a gift, and as is eventually pointed out, if more people felt others’ suffering, the world might be a better place; but in survival mode, it’s a big hurdle that makes a lot of situations very complicated and risky. Butler dances on a fine line between complete and total bleakness and shining optimism: I have no idea how one pulls this off, but despite the truly dark stuff to be found within the pages of this book, “Parable of the Sower” is actually incredibly hopeful. While her world-building in horrifyingly plausible (the scarceness of resources, privatized law enforcement, complete lack of trust in elected officials, the heightened tension between social and racial groups, the gun violence, the eerie political slogans about making things “great again”…), her characters show an inspiring strength of spirit. While there is plenty of danger on the road they choose to take, there is also a capacity for collaboration that they were not always able to find within their own communities. I remember feeling similarly after finishing “Kindred”: crushed, but feeling like there is a way to be better people, and that Butler used her work to point that way as much as she could. I was a bit apprehensive that the religious undertones of the story would turn me off, because they usually do. But Ms. Butler is too clever to turn her story into a preachy, didactic mess. Lauren’s ideology is based on her direct experience and the concept of Change, and she wants to establish a community that acts upon the principles of her belief system: bring together people who support each other, collaborate and work through the ever-changing reality they live to reach Earthseed’s ultimate goal: the stars. Part of me can’t help but find it a bit silly and simplistic, but there is a also a logic to Lauren’s discourse, and in her world, she is certainly the one with the clearest ideas and most reasonable solutions. It can be a bit of an unnerving book to read, because a lot of things in here don’t feel all that far-fetched. Over many conversations with friends, it has really struck me that we have an easier time imagining social collapse than imagining a societal change radical enough to help us correct the really alarming course we are heading on, as a planet and as a society. Butler’s vision of the 2020s seems to reinforce that mental trend, as her characters are not living so much as surviving in their world, and it can be harrowing to read when you are afraid that this is truly in our near future. My edition includes a foreword by the brilliant N.K. Jemisin, who explains much better than I could why this book, while not the crazy sci-fi one might be used to with Butler, is probably her most relevant work at this precise moment. This book is not to be missed, for fans of Butler’s other books and for anyone who hasn’t read this wonderful woman’s work before. I’m looking forward to the sequel, “Parable of the Talents”.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Amerie

    AMERIE'S BOOK CLUB January 2021 Selection! Harsh, heartbreaking, hopeful. And unapologetically 👏🏽 un👏🏽sub👏🏽tle. Yes. In Parable of the Sower, Octavia E. Butler looks both forward and backward, and she does not flinch from humanity’s atrocities. The story not only reflects life in broadstrokes—climate change, power, feminism, racism—but also in intimate detail as we follow wise and rarely-gifted fifteen-year-old Lauren Olamina on her journey toward safety, discovery, and a new belief system. My hea AMERIE'S BOOK CLUB January 2021 Selection! Harsh, heartbreaking, hopeful. And unapologetically 👏🏽 un👏🏽sub👏🏽tle. Yes. In Parable of the Sower, Octavia E. Butler looks both forward and backward, and she does not flinch from humanity’s atrocities. The story not only reflects life in broadstrokes—climate change, power, feminism, racism—but also in intimate detail as we follow wise and rarely-gifted fifteen-year-old Lauren Olamina on her journey toward safety, discovery, and a new belief system. My heart ached for her and her loved ones as it ached for all of us, because somehow, after thousands of years, we still commit such horrors against each other. Is the story hopeful? Pessimistic? Both. Neither. But I reckon that, upon rereading at different points in life, the answer shall differ each time. 📚 #AmeriesBookClub #ReadwithAmerie #ABC #OctaviaButler #ParableoftheSower @AmeriesBookClub @GrandCentralPub ABOUT OCTAVIA E. BUTLER Octavia E. Butler was a renowned African American author who received a MacArthur “Genius” Grant and PEN West Lifetime Achievement Award for her body of work. Born in Pasadena in 1947, she was raised by her mother and her grandmother. She was the author of several award-winning novels including PARABLE OF THE SOWER (1993), which was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and PARABLE OF THE TALENTS (1995) winner of the Nebula Award for the best science fiction novel published that year. She was acclaimed for her lean prose, strong protagonists, and social observations in stories that range from the distant past to the far future. She passed away on February 24, 2006. At the time of her death, interest in her books was beginning to rise, and in recent years, sales of her books have increased enormously as the issues she addressed in her Afro-Futuristic, feminist novels and short fiction have only become more relevant. Her work is now taught in over 200 colleges and universities nationwide. The #1 New York Times bestselling graphic novel adaptation of her book KINDRED, created by Damian Duffy and John Jennings, received the Eisner Award for best adaptation. In media, her novel DAWN is being developed for television by Ava DuVernay (“Selma”; “A Wrinkle In Time”). Amazon Studios and JuVee Productions (Viola Davis and Julius Tennon’s production company) are developing a drama series from Butler’s PATTERNIST series, beginning with WILD SEED, and the series is being co-written by Nnedi Okorafor and Wanuri Kahiu, who will also direct.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    What a fantastic book to finish off my reading month! A full 5 starts and possibly a new all time favorite.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sanne | Booksandquills

    Read this for my #endoftheworldbookclub. Such a bleak and horrible story, but incredibly compelling at the same time.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Obsidian

    I only gave this book 2.5 stars but rounded it up to 3 stars on Goodreads due to Goodreads not having half stars available. So I always hate it when I notice friends who I follow and trust for book recs loved a book and I ended up disliking it. I feel badly about it and then I feel guilty because I write a review talking about things that they really enjoyed. I read this book as part of Dead Writers Society Genre Challenge for the month of March. I can say I loved the other book I read and thoug I only gave this book 2.5 stars but rounded it up to 3 stars on Goodreads due to Goodreads not having half stars available. So I always hate it when I notice friends who I follow and trust for book recs loved a book and I ended up disliking it. I feel badly about it and then I feel guilty because I write a review talking about things that they really enjoyed. I read this book as part of Dead Writers Society Genre Challenge for the month of March. I can say I loved the other book I read and thought this one was...problematic. Taking place in 2025, we follow the character of Lauren Olamina and her family that are living in what remains of areas around Los Angeles. Told in the first person, we get Lauren's "insights" into her family, friends, community, and what the world is turning into. Let's get it out of the way. Lauren bugged the crap out of me. Being stuck in her head from beginning to the end of this book sucked. She is emotionless which doesn't make any sense at all because of her hyper empathy ability. I get she had to train herself to not show anyone besides her family about her ability (which still makes no damn sense...at all) but wouldn't you be feeling more than everyone else, or at least not come across as robotic when we read her diary entries and we get actually dialogue between her and other characters? Don't get me started at how sometimes it seemed to be "on" and other times "not." I can't even get into the problems I found with anyone sitting around and following a character her age while she decides to go forth and spread her religion she has made up that she calls Earthseed. The whole Earthseed thing didn't even fit since at one point Lauren's character was focused on being self reliant because she fears the walled neighborhoods she has lived in with her family is eventually going to be overrun. I have no idea why all of a sudden this turned to a whole Earthseed is the way thing and other religions have failed because they are not practicing what they are preaching and she has found flaws in other religions. The other characters in this book are not developed enough beyond Lauren's father. Everyone else is just a cliche or there to move the plot forward. For example, the character of Keith I thought would have a huge role to potentially play maybe in the latter part of the book. We focus on him for a minute and then events happen, yadda yadda yadda we don't need to follow Keith anymore. Same thing when I thought we would get some friction and maybe some honesty between Lauren and her stepmother Cory. That was a nope again. There is another character introduced in this book named Bankhole and his relationship with Lauren. Nope. There scenes together gave me the shivers. Not in the good way. Once again he's not developed enough for me to care about and is only used to shove the plot forward in the case of Lauren's ultimate goal of spreading the word about Earthseed. My other problem is that the main plot just shifted too many times for me to care. First, it seemed to be about surviving in this post apocalyptic world. Than it was about Lauren deciding to escape up north where things are better. Then it became about establishing Earthseed. I mean what the hell? The writing wasn't great. I think my issue was that each chapter started off with some writing from Lauren regarding Earthseed. "The Self must create Its own reasons for being. To shape God, Shape Self." “The essentials," I answered, "are to learn to shape God with forethought, care, and work; to educate and benefit their community, their families, and themselves; and to contribute to the fulfillment of the Destiny.” “God is Change." Did I maybe have some wine yesterday after finishing up this book. Yes. Yes I did. We also skip over time a lot for most of the book which I wish we had not. It didn't make any sense. Frankly the book could have been split pre-community breakdown and then after the community breakdown. I was honestly ever really interested in the community that lived there and wish that we had focused more on them, their lives, what they were dealing with, and how they were getting by. I thought the story became more unfocused when we had Lauren going outside the walls. The flow was a mess too. At one point we had a diary entry that read as one really long day (which I know wasn't possible) so it didn't work for me at all. The setting of Los Angeles in 2025 is a mess. I already went through this in my status updates. Both for those who skipped my rage updates as I started calling them to myself yesterday, there didn't seem to be much thought behind the world is in a bad state and that was it. We have discussions and asides thrown out about how people are still paying there property taxes on homes. That people still possess life insurance. That the National Guard does still exist. Um excuse you? Why the hell are people than going around willy nilly and slaughtering neighborhoods? Where the hell are the police in this? It doesn't make sense you have to pay them to investigate crimes! You either have a totally destabilized federal, state, and local government or you don't. You can't sorta have things still exist and handwave it away that only the rich are able to protect themselves. Also what the hell caused all of this? There is an allusion made about climate. But that doesn't even begin to explain how society broke down enough to just get walled neighborhoods up and people having to grow their own food, purchase it for extremely high prices, and buy water. Or why there are still drug pushers developing drugs that apparently make people want to start fires. The ending was a total non-starter for me. I didn't care about Earthseed, and Lauren's supposed wisdom was bullshit. It's the kind of crap I used to spout when I was a teenager after thinking I was the shit after reading Anyn Rand. I was in a word, an asshole. I would never follow teen me any damn where so yeah as a 36 year old I would have scoffed at Lauren's ass and went my own way.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Zanna

    This was a compulsive page-turner for me. Compared with at least one contemporary USian perspective, say, that of the low waged service worker, Lauren lives in one version of utopia: a close-knit community, like a village, shaped by an ethics of care and mutual support. She does not have to work, except to share the unalienated labour of social reproduction (childcare, food preparation, education of the young) which leaves her time to pursue her own preoccupations*. The person in her family who p This was a compulsive page-turner for me. Compared with at least one contemporary USian perspective, say, that of the low waged service worker, Lauren lives in one version of utopia: a close-knit community, like a village, shaped by an ethics of care and mutual support. She does not have to work, except to share the unalienated labour of social reproduction (childcare, food preparation, education of the young) which leaves her time to pursue her own preoccupations*. The person in her family who provides money only has to go out to work for it one day per week, leaving him plenty of time to spend at home participating in social reproduction and leisure. Food production is local; families grow and share vegetables, fruits, and nuts. There is no light pollution, so the stars are brightly visible, inspiring Lauren's dreams. The early exchange between Lauren (who's Black) as a young child and her (Euro-Latina) stepmom Cory, in which Cory says she would like the city lights back while Lauren says she prefers the stars for me represents a 'choice' (the choice is for authors and readers, but of course this reverberates...) between an increasingly struggling and desperate 'developed' civilisation and its collapse: a collapse that gives the biosphere time to recover from our ravages and the stars a clean dark background against which to be seen. By the privileged few who remain. Butler of course, confronts us absolutely unsparingly with the victims of such a (horrifically realistic) collapse, not as faceless numbers of convenient dead, but angry, naked, filthy, wounded, diseased, maddened, threatening living, screaming, tormented, starved dying, rotting, dismembered, wormy, stinking, half-eaten corpses. And just in case you thought you could ignore all this, Butler afflicts her narrator with 'hyperempathy syndrome' which causes her to feel all the pain she sees other humans and even some animals feeling. At one point, Lauren reflects that there might be some benefit in others experiencing this illness: 'a biological conscience is better than none' but in a context so bristling with merciless violence it leaves her appallingly, terrifyingly vulnerable. It is pointed out that this would be a very 'useful' quality in a slave. This quality of utopia reminded me of Le Guin's fable The Ones who Walk Away from Omelas. This could be thought of as an inside-out version, and thus one cannot walk away, because one is surrounded by the mirror of horror. This also speaks to the situation we live in of the carceral state. Prisons exist in The Parable of the Sower but what can they be like? The police are completely ineffectual and corrupt, but if they weren't, who would be left outside the jails? And to what extent can the residents of walled neighbourhoods terrified to go outside be considered free? Butler invites us to speculate on realistic possibilities of (re)enslavement as wages fall, climate stability falters and corporate power sheds ever more fetters. Lauren's 'discovery' (as she feels it) and articulation of the religion she founds was extremely thought provoking for me as I tried to feel my way into it - this aspect of the book functioned as a kind of backdoor world-building that allowed deeper insight than other modes of description, supplementing Lauren's austere narration (which gave the book a young adult feel) but also something fresh and exciting in itself. The element of possibility modelling was thrilling: sure, a black teenage girl can found an empowering, non-hierarchical religion in terrifying conditions of social collapse. Why not? Well why not? Butler quietly indicates a few obstacles. As soon as Lauren begins to talk about her own carefully worked out, deeply felt ideas, a white guy demands some documentation. Race is a low key issue in Lauren's peaceful birth community and in the one she creates, but Butler makes clear that outside white supremacy is more or less as lumpily operative as it is today, and shows that corporate power and state corruption and disintegration exacerbate it. Also, many young women and girls have predictably become chattel, without any discernible ideological shift towards more regressive gender frameworks in evidence. Butler has, it seems to me, taken a realistic image of USian culture, shifted a few contextual (broadly ecological) parameters and hit 'run simulation'. I'm an outsider saying this, but I hear the word from over the pond, and the UK isn't so different. Among future dystopia type novels, this puts others in the shade for me on a lot of levels. Instead of focussing on the extension of state power, Butler envisions a scenario of extreme privatisation, climate change and widespread desperate poverty. The state has apparently ceased to provide education, so most people cannot read. Most of the jobs available pay only 'room and board' or company scrip - Butler exposes this as debt slavery. Police (and other emergency services) are corrupt, useless, profit making, just licensed thieves, although some people are still inclined to trust them. So yeah, this feels a lot more prescient today than, say, Brave New World or even 1984. While state power is increasing on the level of surveillance and the erosion of civil liberties, state responsibility to provide anything whatsoever - health and social care, welfare, education, decent pay and conditions for workers and so on is being gradually dismantled, sold off to profiteers, swept away, CUT. *Hito Styerl has written that work has become occupation. Thus, playing on words, a preoccupation could be what defends you from an occupation

  23. 5 out of 5

    Quirkyreader

    Oh my! I can’t stop thinking about this book. I want to read the next part right away, but I have borrowed books from friends that I need to finish first. I thought this book blew Butler’s “Xenogenesis” series out of the water. But you also have to look at it this way, Religion is a subject that I am constantly studying. So seeing Butler’s created religion was mind blowing. Other aspects of this story also ring true. Butler wrote this story towards the end of the 20th Century and set it in 2024 t Oh my! I can’t stop thinking about this book. I want to read the next part right away, but I have borrowed books from friends that I need to finish first. I thought this book blew Butler’s “Xenogenesis” series out of the water. But you also have to look at it this way, Religion is a subject that I am constantly studying. So seeing Butler’s created religion was mind blowing. Other aspects of this story also ring true. Butler wrote this story towards the end of the 20th Century and set it in 2024 through 2027. Some of her “predictions” are coming true. I won’t say which because it would spoil the story. This story sticks with you and makes you think about the world around you. But it also begs the question what can we do to change the world to make it better for everyone.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

    4.5 stars. A brilliantly written and extremely poignant story of a young girls struggle to find her way in a dystopian future. Highly recommended!! Nominee: Nebula Award for Best Science Fiction Novel (1995) Nominee: Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel (1995)

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer (aka EM)

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I've started and stopped this review several times--as I did the book itself--and I wasn't sure why I was having such a hard time putting my thoughts into words until I read reviews of The Road. That's the problem. I'm comparing this novel to The Road, perhaps naturally enough: both are journeys through dystopian landscapes, with evidence of the degradation of environment and humanity all around, central characters who represent 'goodness' and 'morality' and 'hope' in the midst of nothing but bl I've started and stopped this review several times--as I did the book itself--and I wasn't sure why I was having such a hard time putting my thoughts into words until I read reviews of The Road. That's the problem. I'm comparing this novel to The Road, perhaps naturally enough: both are journeys through dystopian landscapes, with evidence of the degradation of environment and humanity all around, central characters who represent 'goodness' and 'morality' and 'hope' in the midst of nothing but bleakness, deprivation and violence. So let's just get this out of the way: McCarthy's bleakness is the bleakest; his violence the most violent; his detail the most stark and horrific. This is not The Road, not even close. But what McCarthy doesn't do, the thing that Butler does here (and maybe others do too; I'm not as well-read in the dystopian genre as I'd like to be) is show us the tipping point; the genesis of the horror. Butler creates a character who is knowingly sliding into the abyss and fights against it. Through Lauren Olamina, she creates a utopian worldview within a dystopian world, like a living kernel inside a dead husk. For me, though, even while clearly central to the novel, the Earthseed religion (cult?) was one of the least interesting things about this book. Instead, I prefer how Butler shows the gradual descent into a world irrevocably and horrifically changed, a life that is unlivable by any standard and yet people live in it--and she shows us that we are already there. She gives us no distance, no perch from which to look down or forward, or wherever it is we look when we read dystopias. Parable of the Sower's strength lies in how it explores the world between the "before" and the "after," and not just the "after" world. Butler focuses on the generation during which the slide down the slippery slope picks up speed, and guess what? It's the one right after ours! It's the future, but not too far ahead that we can complacently think we'll avoid it, or that it doesn't apply to us (because in most dystopias, no matter how much we ask ourselves how we would manage to live in them, don't we simultaneously console ourselves by reassuring ourselves that we don't?). Butler drives the point home by creating a character - Bankole - who is us, the reader. Born in 1970 and therefore of our generation, Bankole's thoughts and memories of what it was like before the handbasket landed in hell are our own. He's a little morally ambiguous (and a lot creepy, but I'll come back to him in a minute). Interesting to read this as oil continues to pour into the ocean which some say is unstoppable ; as California is bankrupt; and as the world economy precariously recovers from near total collapse. Reading it in 2010, instead of when it was first published in 1993, one can't help but see Butler as even more prescient. This, this, is how the world ends. Slowly, localized and then regional disintegration spreading like an oil slick. Environmental catastrophes mount; governments and economies fail. Food and water become scarce. And human beings--their individual behaviour, and the families, communities and social structures that support us--regress to our most barbaric in a heroic futile attempt to survive. Or at least, we regress to isolation, paranoia and self-serving cruelty, even if we retain (or perhaps especially if we retain) a shred of empathy. Empathy is a birth defect here, brought about by drug addiction. Not a mark of civilization, but rather a mark of its downfall and also a weakness that needs to be hidden. The key in Parable of the Sower is how the devolution occurs bit by bit. It reminded me of The Pianist (I just put the book on my to-read list; I'm referring here to the movie or at least my memory of it). We accommodate and accommodate again, continually revising our expectations downward to the 'new normal' until we're living in a crawl space, awaiting a mouldy crust of bread every three days, and we think ourselves lucky for that. Gang violence on the rise? Build gated communities and arm yourself. Water scarce or unfit to drink? Buy bottled. Lost your job? Take a menial one in a mega-corporation, despite the three degrees you went into hock to get as the ante for just getting into the game. Everyone's doing it, and at least you have a job, right? You've got it better than a lot of others, don't you? Butler details the commonplace structures and systems that we know, and shows the interim step before they've completely collapsed. Home schooling is not an option for the fringe; it's the only education anyone gets and most don't get that. I love that she specifically links the collapse of civilization with the collapse of literacy and education (the collapse of humanity with the collapse of the humanities, you might say). Education, health care and the rest of society's basic institutions have not completely failed, but they are only available if you can pay and it is clear almost no one can. No police, ambulance or fire trucks will come; no insurance will be paid when they don't. We've still got our beloved shopping malls as places of sanctuary, but they are protected by power-drunk security guards and ringed by the impoverished peddling their wares and hooligans preying on them. Wait a minute. Bottled water? Poor or no access to health care? Armed homeowners defending their property? Factory farms and multinational corporations running amok with no regard for environmental or labour laws? Debt slaves, largely Latino and African-American, held captive in 'company towns' in the US's most populous state? That sounds like ... NOW. These details are equally as disturbing as the more obviously horrific ones, the cannibalism and the roving bands of drug-crazed maniacs who rape and torture. The former are the source of this book's power, and what I responded to most viscerally: their vividness, their logic, the inescapable proximity of the world Butler creates which looks remarkably similar to the one we live in now had me jittery and anxious. HOWEVER (you knew that was coming, right?): Butler's ideas are better than her execution of them and some of the ideas at the crux of her story are the least well developed, even unnecessary. The central conceit--a teenaged girl, the next messiah leading her followers to salvation via her own unshakable belief in the Earthseed philosophy--is secondary and almost silly. Why did Butler need to have her protagonist invent - oh, pardon me, discover - a religion? Wouldn't it have been enough for Lauren to foresee the eventual destruction of her family, her community and all that she knows and loves (a broader reflection of the destruction of the entire culture around her) and send her on her journey, picking up a ragtag band of fellow travellers as she goes? If it was Butler's intent to show how new religions and religious leaders (cults and cult leaders) emerge, then she didn't focus on it clearly enough. I do like the metaphor: Earthseed, humanity as a handful of grains scattered across the planet, taking root, growing and dying at the whim of our environment. But really--the Destiny? This is clearly an idea for the sequel. Here, it just seems unfinished and unnecessary; an element of which even Butler is unsure, self-conscious and, through the words of her characters, scornful. Butler seems not to follow through on some of the most important ideas, the ones that are at the core of her novel. She does well at showing us how racism slides back into slavery. I think she does less well at showing us how gender roles regress to oppression of women. Women are inconsistently oppressed here, and sometimes barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen, but often not. I'm missing the feminist POV that this novel is said to possess (surely Lauren doesn't carry that banner all on her shoulders, does she?). Someone, I'm sure, will elucidate (and possibly chastise) me for this. Also, little things. The littlest is that typos were scattered like Earthseeds throughout the last third of the book. That is such a pet peeve of mine. Also, dogs. She didn't get the dogs right; didn't do enough research here I think. It doesn't make sense, especially in one generation, that dogs end up banding together to terrorize human beings. Dogs are omnivores, not carnivores--they don't revert to feral as quickly as cats do, and it is far more likely that their domestication and obedience would turn them into tools used for defense or as weapons by aggressors. (She hints at the former later in the novel; so it's not like she didn't know she had an option here. I think she was trying to make everything fit the regression theme). Even in real-world places where feral dog packs are a problem, they are not particularly dangerous except for the threat of disease they may carry. They rarely attack humans; they forage in garbage--that's how they ended up being domesticated in the first place. If Butler wanted to play on the reader's sympathy, she could have used the dogs differently, and she would have been better to make the threat feline--cougars or some of the bigger cats; I don't mean Fluffy, your neighbour's Persian--especially in southern CA. Also, Bankole and Lauren. Ewwwwww. She has Bankole voice the concerns she imagines her reader will: the philosophy is adolescent, simplistic and the need for the "Destiny" portion of it superfluous and silly. On the coupling of Bankole and Lauren, he's suitably squeamish, but not enough to keep his pants zipped. Again I say, ewwwww. Bankole's entire character is there for plot and structural reasons. He's otherwise flat, unconvincing and unnecessary. She tries to bring some mystery to him, some tension--is he good? is he evil?--but it's half-hearted and we know as soon as we meet him what his purpose in the story is. One last flaw to mention: the voice of our protagonist. Early on, she's understandably breathless, earnest and exclamation-point-filled (this is, after all, a 14-year-old girl speaking to us). But that tone and style spills over into long, expositional sections that bolster the philosophy (even as she ages, and becomes more focused on her mission of conversion and salvation). Lauren's voice, especially when she preaches either directly or indirectly, undermined my ability to take the philosophy at the centre of this novel at all seriously. Was I supposed to? I think I was. But all I could ever hear was this track from Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon playing in my head after every Earthseed verse. This one hovers in a high 3 almost 4 for me, so I'll leave it at 4 for now. It's 4 for what it did well seemingly without trying, which overcomes the weaknesses of what it was trying to do well.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jokoloyo

    I read this book is a perfect YA Dystopia. One word for this book: believable. The characters are believable and sympathetic. The setting is grim dark, and yet believable. It might be one of my best reads for 2017. At first, The dystopia setting seems mundane without any special kind of disaster. the bleak situation seems so realistic, I admit some aspects of them already facts, not science fiction. I could engage with some of them due to similarities with Jakarta's 1998 riot. (view spoiler)[At I read this book is a perfect YA Dystopia. One word for this book: believable. The characters are believable and sympathetic. The setting is grim dark, and yet believable. It might be one of my best reads for 2017. At first, The dystopia setting seems mundane without any special kind of disaster. the bleak situation seems so realistic, I admit some aspects of them already facts, not science fiction. I could engage with some of them due to similarities with Jakarta's 1998 riot. (view spoiler)[At least scavengers, rape, high prices, neighbourhood protect themselves, and corrupt police force. (hide spoiler)] But as any good story, the important part is how the protagonists anticipate/react to the problems. And Characterization is the strong point of this novel. They are not so-larger-than-life, everyone in the story have flaws and good sides. And the romances and relationships, they are unexpectedly excellent too. (view spoiler)[ I love the children in Lauren's gang; and I chuckled when Bankole reacted after Lauren told her age to him. (hide spoiler)] The idea of Earthseed as fictitious philosopy/religion is another outstanding aspect of this novel. A religion with an idea to spread the Earthseeds to stars and colonize other planets, are interesting. and the Earthseed teaching that explained in the novel has some real world depth too, not so-bullshit. The idea of Earthseed and how MC used the idea in her actions on POTS is what I expected when I was reading Siddharta. I am glad I read this book, an unexpected gem.

  27. 4 out of 5

    David

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Octavia Butler's vision of an American state on the brink of economic and social collapse seems all too near and plausible. Lauren Olamina, a young minister's daughter, lives in a gated community that falls prey to the violence and anarchy that's been eating away at the edges of civilization for years. It's a brutal novel, as everyone Lauren loves dies, and the deaths are often described in gruesome detail. Lauren herself suffers from a condition called hyper-empathy, which causes her to feel wh Octavia Butler's vision of an American state on the brink of economic and social collapse seems all too near and plausible. Lauren Olamina, a young minister's daughter, lives in a gated community that falls prey to the violence and anarchy that's been eating away at the edges of civilization for years. It's a brutal novel, as everyone Lauren loves dies, and the deaths are often described in gruesome detail. Lauren herself suffers from a condition called hyper-empathy, which causes her to feel what people around her feel... a very bad thing when people around her are being attacked, raped, and killed. But Lauren is anything but a fragile helpless character. She carries the seeds of a new religion, and she's been planning for the collapse since she was a child. This novel has a lot in common with similarly-themed sci-fi where the protagonist is a "chosen one" destined to lead his or her people out of chaos and barbarism, except that no one has "chosen" Lauren. She's decided for herself that this is something she has to do. The story takes us on Lauren's journey up the coast of California, as its highways are flooded with refugees and its cities burn (thanks in large part to a drug called "pyro" which turns people into psychotic pyromaniacs). What is most interesting is not Lauren's "adventures" (which are mostly just a series of tense encounters fraught with dangers, as she constantly has to weigh the need for allies against the hazards of trusting unknown people on the road) but the brutal laying bare of certain truths beneath our capitalist society. Lauren's father foresaw the coming collapse and tried to keep his family from being lured into company towns that were economic traps, but even he didn't foresee how bad things would really become. Lauren discovers that slavery is real, and has been real and common, right here in the U.S., for quite some time. You might think it's a cynical and overly pessimistic view of the future, but if you're not among the privileged classes, it's not far from how many people live today. Ultimately, the book gives some hope for the future, but there is certainly going to be more blood and tears along the way. This was actually my first time reading Octavia Butler, whom I really should read more of, and I'm definitely going to pick up the next book in the series. ETA: My review of Parable of the Talents.

  28. 5 out of 5

    David

    This is a riveting story about Lauren, a 15-year old girl in a dying world. Climate change has made the world warmer, and Lauren lives in a very dry California. She lives with her adopted family, before her neighborhood is destroyed by desperate people. It seems to be everybody for himself. This is a dystopia novel, where one small mistake can mean death by any number of ways--usually murder. This is one of those books I just couldn't put down. It is so intense, and so engaging on different level This is a riveting story about Lauren, a 15-year old girl in a dying world. Climate change has made the world warmer, and Lauren lives in a very dry California. She lives with her adopted family, before her neighborhood is destroyed by desperate people. It seems to be everybody for himself. This is a dystopia novel, where one small mistake can mean death by any number of ways--usually murder. This is one of those books I just couldn't put down. It is so intense, and so engaging on different levels. Lauren is philosophical, and throughout the story she is surreptitiously developing her own religion. She doesn't really believe in the religion of her father, who is a preacher. Instead, she develops a naturalistic religion, The story is so plausible; what happens when a society breaks down? When laws mean very little? When police are no longer working for the greater good? When inflation has made money almost worthless? When you can trust nobody, because everybody is a stranger, looking out only for number one? Lauren is a courageous girl, leading a band of people who don't entirely share her vision of the future. But she has a handicap in this violent world; she is a "sharer", which means that she is ultra-empathic. She literally feels the pain of others. As a result, when she is attacked, if she strikes back she can become paralyzed with pain. And, this is certainly a "coming of age" story, where Lauren learns what she should communicate to other people, and what she should keep inside. Disaster can strike at any moment, without warning. Lauren's motto might be the same as the Boy Scouts' motto: Be prepared. Some people might call this novel "science fiction", but I certainly would not classify it as such. Other than the ultra-empath aspect, there is no science in it, and there is no advanced technology. Some people talk about launching a space ship to Mars, but that is crazy talk, given the state of society. I guess this might be classified as "speculative fiction". If you haven't read any of Octavia Butler's novels, I recommend giving it a try. They grab at me, and keep me reading.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Parvoneh

    I just skimmed a few other Goodreads reviews of Parable of the Sower and felt confused about why difficult subject matter seems to be a weakness to many readers. If anything, I wish Octavia Butler were around so I could thank her for that. She wrote about survival, change, and power with incredible insight; she grapples with some Big Stuff but her novel, ideas, and genre also manage to be accessible. Butler's clarity is a strength and perhaps a stylistic weakness, but mostly I think there's some I just skimmed a few other Goodreads reviews of Parable of the Sower and felt confused about why difficult subject matter seems to be a weakness to many readers. If anything, I wish Octavia Butler were around so I could thank her for that. She wrote about survival, change, and power with incredible insight; she grapples with some Big Stuff but her novel, ideas, and genre also manage to be accessible. Butler's clarity is a strength and perhaps a stylistic weakness, but mostly I think there's something great about directly addressing change and survival--noting the potential horrors but also the possibilities of change, of creation, of our responsibility to ourselves and each other. Butler made that clear while maintaining the complexities of survival, and inspiring a lot of additional thought. On top of that, she demonstrated how sci fi can be relevant to race and gender issues, and how literature can be relevant, and enjoyable, for important work. I get so excited when I realize how remarkable that is, particularly while reading, and that happened often during Parable of the Sower. Right now I'm thinking of Octavia B as sort of a cross between Doris Lessing and Kazuo Ishiguro and Toni Morrison and oh, I just love her.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

    Parable of the Sower? More like "Parable of the RAPEYRAPERAPERAPE!" What Gospel is this again? Where exactly is the good news? "A rapist scattered rape on a rapescape, and some rapes caused unending trauma, and other rapes caused unending despair, but still other rapes created Strong Female Protagonists, and they would never let any man take Advantage of Them Again." Mindnumbingly stupid and insulting to actual real assault victims everywhere. I stopped reading 40 pages in. Hooray, another "gritty Parable of the Sower? More like "Parable of the RAPEYRAPERAPERAPE!" What Gospel is this again? Where exactly is the good news? "A rapist scattered rape on a rapescape, and some rapes caused unending trauma, and other rapes caused unending despair, but still other rapes created Strong Female Protagonists, and they would never let any man take Advantage of Them Again." Mindnumbingly stupid and insulting to actual real assault victims everywhere. I stopped reading 40 pages in. Hooray, another "gritty urban fantasy," in which sexual assault serves as the gritty grit backdrop in the generic apocalyptic wasteland LA. Teh realism! Teh schock valyue! O look, a murdered corpse! O look, a naked rape victim! O look, now there's another rape victim! O look, a 7 year-old naked rape victim! O, remember my old lady neighbor, who was raped? RAPE! RAPE RAPE RAPE! No actual rapists are in sight, just their traumatized victims. Are you filled with horror yet? Are you properly despairing? Maybe I should describe some more, just in case you aren't! This is in no way exploitative or insensitive, by the way. Trust me, I should know, because I am a vulnerable teenage narrator. You will probably go through this whole book fearing for me, which is I guess the point of all this atmosphere of sexual threat. Of course we can't stop to help, EVEN THOUGH WE HAVE ARMED GUARDS WITH GUNS, because we might get attacked too, but we will still bicycle through this hellscape so I can explain it all to you in between my halfbaked religious views. Ugh. Just writing this review is turning my stomach. This book obviously did too, in case you hadn't noticed. There are not enough synonyms of "dreck" to adequately capture my response.

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