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 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.
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.
In , With The World Descending Into Madness And Anarchy, One Woman Begins A Fateful Journey Toward A Better FutureLauren 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 OthersWhen 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 I read this book in its entirety on the bus from New York back to Balti 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 attention, but I think Butler actually paints the accurate picture of humanity, for good and for bad.
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, of the philosophical potential is unlocked in this sequel Maybe the God is change plant will bear some fruits after all.
Instagram Twitter Facebook PinterestI 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.
, 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 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.
5 to 4 stars 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.
orgWhen unattended environmental and economic crises lead to social chaos, not even gated communities are safeThe 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 pressureThe 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 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 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 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
I am going to start this review off by asking a theoretical question There is a huge wave coming, it will wash you and everyone you love out to see What do you do Do you back up away from the water Move to higher ground Build a boat to ride it out Or do you turn your back on it, play on the beach and pretend that it isn t coming Now imagine that it isn t a wave of water, but a wave of violence, crime and people that will be unstoppable No wall will hold them back You may have nowhere ideal to go But you have access to books, learning materials and you have time to prepare, pack Octavia Butler speculates that most people would ignore the coming onslaught and attempt to go about their daily business, not prepare and not learn It is scary to move forward and change behavior and scary to imagine the world as we know it is ending But change is necessary to survival, according to Butler This is what Parable is about change, adaptation and working together in a community to accomplish the change in order to survive The main character in Parable, a teenage girl named Lauren, is an agent of change Lauren is unwilling to turn her back on the huge wave she knows is coming instead she teaches herself through books everything she can learn and she prepares for what she knows and fears is coming Lauren is inspired from inside herself and is somewhat of a prophet of a new religion and philosophy Her belief is God is Change And she goes out to preach it The creation of the religion is a vehicle for Lauren s story to be told and for hope to be seeded among her followers Octavia Butler published her book in 1995, so many apocalyptic novels have come after hers have incorporated elements that are present in this book It is interesting for me that Butler appears to have less acclaim but she is the predecessor of so many well known novels There are books that tell the story of the world ending by an apocalyptic event and then there are books that show you what the world would be like during an apocalyptic even without holding back Parable of the Sower is the latter The images of lives being destroyed and violence being wrought on people just for living and just for having something, anything that is wanted by those who do not have anything these images are described in details They are not described, I think, for the delight of reading gore, but to serve as a marker of how far society has fallen And it is a scary world that Butler describes scary and realistic Despite that I have absolutely no point of reference for the scenes described in this book, while reading I felt as though it could have been happening right outside my door There is nothing about this apocalyptic world that is romantic In Parable, much of society s downfall appears to have been caused by environmental devastation, which has in turn caused economic and political devastation Polluted water, toxic chemicals, failed pharmaceutical and science experiments resulting in dangerous addictive drugs Butler s book is a scary warning of pushing consumer and corporate demands to the extreme Reading this book created questions in my mind Is this book really about an apocalyptic event It does take place in the US California and the society that is disintegrating is American society, but is this an apocalyptic event or the failure of one society So many apocalyptic books describe world changing events but in Parable, it is shortages gas, water, food, governmental collapse or increasing ineffectualness but some infrastructure remains There are police, but they investigate and then charge user fees there are property taxes and there are colleges there is electricity and there are entertainment outlets like televisions, etc there are insurance companies and resources but everything for an elevated price and most people do not have the ability to pay for these items and services What happens is that these institutions are not efficient, they are not accessible to most individuals and there is a heavy cost to purchase their services There are still jobs and corporations and apparently very successful corporations People without education and without jobs, crowd in to smaller housing and share space Corporations dominate certain sectors of society and provide protection and infrastructure to those who can afford it Punitive debt policies and employment policies are in place that hurt individuals but benefit corporations Isn t this describing the current state of some countries in this world right now maybe even in this hemisphere Where there is no protection for the individual beyond what they can obtain from people in their community and families Don t people already go on migrations to new places bordering countries, mega cities, factory rich regions with nothing but a small savings and a hope for anything different I see this book as an envisioning of what if these situations happened in the United States The scenarios described in Parable, the extreme violence, the extreme fear and the absolute lack of choices are just so out of the realm of anything most people in the US experience while living in the US that it is hard to imagine, understand and relate to images like written in this book that we may read about in the news, blogs or in non fiction books Butler brings it home she recreates it here and it is absolutely terrifying At one point in the novel, Lauren travels disguised as a man but she travels along side a woman who is described as highly desirable, Zahra Zahra encounters problem after problem because men will just not leave her alone and in a threatening way There is no government, no structure and no laws to protect the weak Butler describes horrible crimes that happen to females of all ages and most of them sexual What point is Butler making about the physicality of being a woman Is she saying that in the absence of the protection of a societal framework a woman is 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 reviews like this one check out my blog www.
com 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 Sowershows 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 likeSo and so was also rapedis 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 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.