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I finally read this sci-fi classic and the overachieving take away I had was how close that world is to our own. I was surprised to see how many scary parallels this story had to our current world and then after some research on the story I found that the current 90s political and racial landscape was Octavia E. Butler's inspiration for The Parable of the Sower. She wanted to focus on the world she lived in and how she saw it's possible acceleration in the future. This is a fascinating story of a future I hope we never encounter.
Required reading, whether you are a sci-fi person or not. Butler's future--in which a climate crisis and increasing inequality has led to a quasi-apocalypse in mid-2020s Los Angeles--feels eerily familiar and should be a warning of the fragility of our shared reality.
Recently I’ve been revisiting the futurism found within 90’s cinema. It’s 2021 now, so why not take a look at how Johnny Mnemonic envisioned this year playing out? Ok, so maybe the pains and trails of 2020 pushed me to look to cinema for brighter (or darker?) futures to fixate on. That’s the long way of saying that, despite the enjoyment one can get from 90’s cinematic futurism (I’m looking at you Waterworld and The Postman), truly excellent stories of the future are hard to come by. Butler’s Parable of the Sower, published in 1993, defiantly stands apart as just such an excellent work. While there are some limitations inherit in 2021, to reading a tale from 1993, which takes place in the mid ‘20s, the power of the story, and the depth to the characters and world, easily wave away the lack of any resonating technological futurism. Butler expertly creates a world ravaged by societal and environmental turmoil, leading to one of the more realistic dystopian pre-apocalyptic settings found in fiction. Furthermore, after the political and societal turmoil of our past four years, it’s much easier to envision an America who’s days are waning, and where civic social structures are radically changed. The beauty, and terror, of Parable is that the world Butler reveals is one not too far off from today. If you want to see a pulpy technologically driven futurism, watch Mnemonic again. But, if you want a thoughtful and poignant look at humanity in crisis, read Parable, and take heed from its warnings.
Intense dystopian novel written in the early 1980s by Octavia Butler. I appreciate the development of characters, especially the main character Lauren and her yearning for a better and more meaningful life as she tries to incorporate religious beliefs in a world gone very, very wrong. Not all the characters are likable or gallant and they struggle with their own prejudices, distrust, beliefs and pain. Some of the scenes and descriptions may be too horrific for the reader but then again, a dystopian fiction novel is not meant to be a happy place. There is both hope and action on the part of the protagonist and she understands that, in order to survive and thrive in this challenging world, she needs to cultivate a community of growth, purpose and trust. Outstanding.
Set in 2020s California, this novel presents a believable picture and provides a warning. The young heroine fleeing north develops her own Earthseed doctrine. Why does she need to invent a "new religion" when the author's message seems to be that community is the answer.
Read this more than a year ago and continue to be haunted by it. Very troubling and far too prophetic, I fear. But so beautifully and sharply written. This novel transports and inspires. Octavia Butler deserves to be read and appreciated by us all.
Twenty-seven years after it was first published (and I first read it), but only five years away from the start of the narrative, Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower is more prescient and more frightening than ever. In this dystopian future, society as we know it has succumbed to violence, corruption, and the disintegration of community, as the trajectory of the human race advances to its sadly inevitable collapse. Laws are ignored, or enforced by a corrupt and violent police force, and humanity either live in poorly-secured, walled enclaves, tightly-controlled, violent cities where slavery has re-emerged, or riskiest of all, out in the wilderness, where the weak are preyed upon by the desperate.
Lauren is a teenager living in a small, walled community in California. Her father is the local preacher, and her mother teaches the handful of children in the community. Her younger brothers are wild and reckless. Yet Lauren possesses a maturity and wisdom that set her up as different from the start. For one thing, she is a sharer, afflicted with a condition that forces her to feel the pain of others around her if she witnesses them. This can be a disability if she is trying to defend herself from predatory aggressors, but Lauren is prepared. She knows that the time will come when the encroaching dangers will overrun her community and she carefully plans her escape.
Despite the intellectual rejection of religion, even her father's, Lauren applies her intelligence and her thoughtfulness in the creation of a new religion, one that espouses God as Change, and she calls it Earthseed. When the inevitable happens, and Lauren's community is overrun, Lauren finds herself fleeing for her life with other refugees - wandering the dangerous, largely abandoned roads to head north, where there is a belief the life might be better. Along the way, Lauren finds other essential decent people among the cast-offs, and all the while, quietly and reasonably shares the philosophy of Earthseed. Can Lauren create a movement that will help set humanity back on a redemptive path? Or will this tiny, emerging movement be crushed by the inevitable crush of chaos.
Now as an adult, with years of life experience, Parable of the Sower resonates with me so much more. Butler's uncanny way of seeing a possible and plausible outcome of the trajectory of present-day society (even back in the early 90's) is frightening, as this violent, self-destructive society, where racism, addiction, environmental collapse, corruption and violence have become the norm to the extreme.. There are so few dots to connect to see our own world becoming Lauren's. Butler's novel is a classic, and I'm looking forward to rereading the sequel, Parable of the Talents.
Somewhat frightening, less fascinating.
I highly regard author's sharp observations and perspectives, but the ingenious creations (e.g. sharer, Pyro addicts) appear rudiments, yet fleshed out and better formed or made believe. I'd be a follower of Earthseed if it were not proclaimed as a Religion. Its poetic allure faded when I merely halfway through the book. It's Gospel verse without music, singing rendition is the key to deliver otherwise a dull text message. Realism feel in a sci-fi novel should not limit an imagination to be less.
Butler paints a realistic and frightening picture of the future of our world, ravaged by increasingly drastic climate crises and a lack of resources - food, water, etc. The events that take place in the book seem entirely plausible, demonstrating how apocalyptic circumstances will happen in incremental steps that we might not see if we're not paying attention. In truth I didn't feel as much of a connection to the religious aspect as I did to the tale of survivors banding together to forge a future. Definitely worth your time, highly recommend.
Geez I couldn't get into this book. It was written journal style which made it way more difficult to connect with Lauren (I never actually felt like I DID connect with her character), I couldn't get behind the Earthseed religion (it just felt way too unnecessary and like it was added either for shock factor or as an excuse of a motive), and the slow pace of the story just lost me. Honestly I was way more interested in the backgrounds of the side characters than anything that actually happened in this story. Knowing that this was pretty much written in response of the LA riots makes more sense and helped put it in better perspective for me but I couldn't get over the entitled attitude of Lauren and how she seemed unable to empathize with anyone, especially when she seemed to look down on and blame the poor for being dirty and poor. Like, what???
Survival stories have always resonated with me, and this one did not disappoint. It's post-apocalyptic, thought-provoking, and feels eerily relevant in today's political climate though it was published in 1993. I lost track of the many instances of prescient ideas, including virtual reality headsets, a president promising to make the country great again, the discovery of exoplanets, rising sea levels and climate change. Some parts of the story are quite violently graphic, and it is not difficult at all to imagine how easily a once-powerful nation could slide in a similar, bleak direction (if we aren't already).
Intensely moving and engaging read. Great for fans of survival fiction, with some social and philosophical commentary thrown in. It is all presented in an inviting way with the help of other characters who challenge the ideas and the protagonist responding in kind. Well written, great character development, enveloping world-building.
The Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler is a dystopian novel that’s far more realistic than most. Economic downturn has forced communities to hunker down and maybe hope for the best, while drugs and deprivation force people who have even less to descend upon the people who have a little bit. And in all this, a teenage girl with overdeveloped empathy (she feels injuries in other people) is building her own way of seeing and being in the world.
It’s hard to take a lot of other fanciful dystopia at all seriously when this was done so well.
How fitting that I might finish this on Octavia E. Butler’s birthday!
Hyperempathy means that Lauren feels the pain and pleasure of others. A difficulty, in a crumbling world, where violence is rife, no one trusts anyone and riots catch like wildfire.
So there you have it — the main character is a young black woman with a disability / syndrome who is intent on surviving. It made me think of my own disability and how I would do in an apocalypse — I have a mild case of cerebral palsy and while I can walk, it takes twice the amount of effort and takes me longer. I always wrote myself off if the world ever did come to an end, I would be one of the first to go — I’m a liability, right?
So is Lauren Olamina, but she intends to survive.
Parable of the Sower is visceral, emotional and inspiring. It is the human condition. It is what we all hope to become when the world crumbles around us.
I love this book so much.
What a beautiful departure from the YA after school special dystopia that seem to be all the rage lately. This brutally graphic portrayal of the near future seems even more germane while Trump starts WW3 simultaneously in Syria and North Korea. I would say the only unrealistic piece is that when Octavia wrote this in the year of our Lord 1993 she believed fiat money would still hold value as society crumbles. Lord knows I have led a vigorous life and if there is one thing I now know besides women, it's that gold, guns, silver, cigarettes and ammo will be the true currency of the Trumpocalypse.
The Parable of the Sower is a complex feat of world-building. Butler creates both a crumbling dystopian vision of the United States, and simultaneously incarnates Lauren’s Earthseed philosophy out of that wreckage. She slowly and carefully balances the two, first introducing the reader to Lauren’s world, and then going deeper into her protagonist’s heart and mind to reveal her unusual belief system. What becomes clear in all of this is how much the more recent surge in the popularity of dystopian fiction stands on Butler’s shoulders. More eerie still is the resonance with reality; the novel’s presidential candidate is running on the promise to make America great again. Readers of contemporary dystopian will find much that is familiar here, despite the fact that this novel is nearly twenty-five years old.
Full review: https://shayshortt.com/2017/03/07/the-parable-of-the-sower/
This isn't catalogued as YA literature, but I would recommend it to anyone who likes sci-fi novels with a strong teen protagonist. (Warning: there's some sex and a lot of violence.) It was first published in 1993 and set in the mid-2020s, so we can see how much of Butler's dystopian vision has come true.
Although I don't normally read science fiction novels, this is the March 2016 selection of the Willa Cather Book Club. This novel is set in 2025 California where unintended economic and environmental crises have led to social chaos. Lauren Olamina lives in a walled community with her father, stepmother, and 4 younger half brothers. When an attack from a group of "outside the wall" people destroys her home, she finds herself alone with two other survivors (not family) in the very dangerous, "Wild West" America. As Lauren walks from Los Angeles north, she cobbles together a new family and religion. A thought-provoking read...
Want to read a dystopia? How about sci-fi with strong female characters of color? If you haven't tried Octavia Butler, you're missing out!
An spectacular dystopian future story set apart from the pack by its lack of big, controlling government. Lauren Olamina lives in a near-lawless society in which survival is the main goal.
Butler writes in the tradition of the best of modern science fiction, and her focus on people of color is unique in the genre. This is an excellent and thought-provoking book.