Sunday, February 01, 2009

Book 11: The Parable of the Sower

Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler

I've read two of Butler's other series, which are both available as entire sets in the books Seed to Harvest and Lilith's Brood. Some of her themes from these earlier novels are also recognizable in this one, but she takes a different approach. Other than Kindred, this is probably my favorite of hers so far.

In all three of series mentioned above (there is a sequel to Parable of the Sower), Butler presents her readers with a future in which the government has more or less collapsed, people who can shut themselves off in a walled communities away from the drug addicts and criminal elements. In Seed to Harvest, Butler also focuses on a group of people that have telepathic abilities, while in Lilith's Brood an alien race interferes and more or less saves the remainders of humanity by mixing with them.

Parable of the Sower is the diary of Lauren Olamina, a minister's daughter that grows up in a walled community. Even inside the community, people struggle to make ends, but it is better than the outside. Lauren, however, realizes that they cannot remain this way forever, and prepares for the time when she might have to leave home, either to find a paying job, or because as she believes, the system cannot work, and at some point, the outside will force its way in.

In addition, Lauren struggles with her religious beliefs and can't find comfort in her father's god. She believes in change, and writes verses for a religion she labels Earthseed. As she sees it, she is simply observing the world, but she never tells her father about this. Due to her mother's drug addiction when pregnant, Lauren also suffers from a syndrome that makes her feel (or think she feels) the pain and pleasure those around her experience.

It is a rather bleak view of the future as some people find themselves reduced to slavery, and people live in fear of their lives, unable to leave their neighborhoods unarmed. And yet, it seems entirely plausible unlike some of Butler's other works which were interesting, but aliens? That's not going to really happen. Especially with the current economic crisis, some of this stuff seems like a less distant possibiliy as the gap between the rich and the poor widens more and more.

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