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Parable of the Talents by Octavia E. Butler

Parable of the Talents (1998)

by Octavia E. Butler

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Parable of the Sower (2)

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1,353325,693 (4.06)68
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    Morne Câpresse by Gisele Pineau (Dilara86)
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    Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler (sturlington)
    sturlington: The events in this book take place before Parable of the Talents.

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I’m extremely worried about the future of this planet. The next five or so years are absolutely crucial when it comes to halting climate change, and at present very little is indicating we’ll make the two degree goal, which is the best we can hope for. Capitalism doesn’t seem to have the tools to adapt to a limit of resources, several Antarctic glaciers are melting beyond stopping, and in most places making real changes is impossible for reasons of political popularity. Instead everything is pointing towards a pretty hellish scenario already in my children’s lifetime, with billions of climate refugees, shortage of food and water and global economic collapse. Quite frankly, I often feel there’s no hope.

Well, that’s a perky start of a review, right?

But there’s a point. For Butler’s book is very much the right read at the right time for me, giving me some glimpses of insights that feel very important. “Parable of the Talents” follows the events of Lauren and her little group after they found the enclave Acorn, making it the centre of the new faith, Earthseed. They are successful, even prosperous, until a new president of the wobbly United States is elected, a hateful bigot who wants to rebuild America’s greatness by trampling the different. Earthseed is looked upon as a satanic cult, and cannot avoid the president’s “Crusaders” forever. When the strike comes, it’s crueler than anyone could foresee.

Butler paints a very cruel, bleak world, a recognizable America in free fall, where human lives are cheap and getting by is hard. But Talents is, more than anything, a book about prevailing. About getting by. About trying again. About finding dignity in the most trying of circumstances. And as such, as a book pointing out that human existence can be worthy, meaningful, even beautiful even in the shittiest of worlds, it resonates strongly with me: If we fail, if don’t make it, if we’re heading towards a world five or six degrees warmer, with melted poles and scorched lands, there might be lives worth living there too.

On the other hand, I realize that the ultimate goal the Earthseed faith paints, the dream of a humankind surviving by taking to the stars, leaves me totally cold. The idea of man spreading to other parts of the universe, at the risk of repeating the same mistakes, holds very little comfort for me. I come to understand, however superficially, that my love is for this planet, rather than mankind per se. Not a bad bunch of insights to get from 430 pages of science fiction, eh?

As a book, Talents has all the same qualities that “Parable of the Sower” had: a strong sense of setting and character in a no-nonsense kind of way. It’s brutal in the same way (which may deter some). In the end though, it doesn’t quite take full responsibility for it’s setup. The storyline of Lauren and her lost daughter (who is telling the story) never seems to become all it could be. There’s a tiny sense of anticlimax in the end. But the road there is pretty damn stunning. ( )
4 vote GingerbreadMan | Jul 3, 2014 |
This book is a sequel to Parable of the Sower. In my review of Sower, I had doubts about the religious writings and ideology of the main character, Lauren. Thus I really appreciated that here, Butler brings other voices into the mix, other narrators who question and even oppose Lauren's vision. This lifts her Earthseed religion out of its starry-eyed beginnings in the first book, and brings it into context as a noble but not necessarily infallible belief system, one that redefines God in quite secular terms.

I still have mixed feelings about Lauren's Earthseed religion, but this book left me turning it over in my head -- even seeking out scholarly articles written about the book to get different perspectives on it. Any work of fiction that is so thought-provoking, well-written, and engrossing deserves five stars.

I have to confess that before reading this book, I had no idea what the word "talent" meant in this context. I read the Parable of the Talents (the actual biblical parable, Matthew 25:14-30), and couldn't make any sense of it. When I finished Butler's book and still found the parable incomprehensible, I searched my library for information about it. (See now why I became a librarian?) Anyway, I realized to my embarrassment that a "talent" in the Bible is a monetary unit! Suddenly the parable made a lot more sense. I wish I'd had the presence of mind to look into that before I'd read Butler's book.

Apparently, Butler planned on continuing her series past these first two books, but sadly she passed away before writing another. The two Parable books stand well on their own, however, and I recommend them to all readers, even those who normally stay away from science fiction.
( )
  ksimon | Feb 6, 2014 |
I knew that this and Parable of the Sower were two books in what was supposed to become a trilogy but never did, but I couldn't remember which came first, and the bookstore I was in only had this one on the shelf. Therefore, I went ahead and bought it only to determine later that it was the second. However, it stands so well on its own that I'm a little worried that I'll be disappointed when I go back and read the first book.

The post-cataclysmic world in which Olamina is struggling to build a community and find a way to spread her philosophy of Earthseed is one in which the government is in the process of being taken over by a fundamentalist denomination known as Christian America, education has become a luxury or something that must be arranged privately, and the poor routinely find themselves sold into slavery, and all of it is frighteningly believable. I can't comment on how possible it all seemed when it was first published, but thirteen years later it strikes me as one of the most prescient books that I've ever read.

And yet, as dark as the book is, so full of violence and despair, it ends with hope. Olamina begins to find supporters at the end of the book's main timeline; in the farther-future timeline, in which her daughter pieces together bits of her mother's journal along with occasional additions from her father and her uncle in order to tell the story, we are told that Christian America is now just one denomination among many. Although a CA family might believe that a woman who moves out of her parents' house before marrying is more or less a prostitute, there's no law that keeps her from doing so. She's not the property of her father until she becomes the property of her husband, and neither does a male guardian have to manage her finances or own/rent the place where she lives. In short, America did not go the way of The Handmaid's Tale. And if the chaos just sort of passing and normality returning might seem narratively strange, without the drama of massive resistance movements, it also seems quite natural in its way that the country would just reject the CA movement when it became clear they did not have the answers. ( )
  Unreachableshelf | Nov 23, 2013 |
I would really give this book 3.5 stars. I was initially disappointed with the slow pacing of the story. I should have known that it would only be a matter of time before I was sucked back into Olamina's story. Octavia Butler did not let me down.

This is a story of the efforts of Lauren Oya Olamina to jumpstart her Earthseed belief system during the dystopian chaos of America in 2032. At this time, America is no longer the shining city on a hill. Alaska has seceded from the union, American currency is worthless and slavery, disease, and violence are widespread. Out of desperation, citizens have elected Texas Senator Andrew Steele Jarret as the new President of the United States of America. Jarret also just happens to be the head of the Church of Christian America. Jarret and his supporters are going to fix things.....even if it means burning people at the stake who refuse to fall in line.

Join us and thrive, or whatever happens to you as a result of your own sinful stubborness is your problem.

The clash between Earthseed and Christian America is inevitable. The consequences are tragic. I had a hard time putting this book down. ( )
  diovival | Oct 14, 2013 |
Several years after the events of the first novel, Parable of the Sower, Lauren Olamina and her fellow survivors of the chaos of the Pox have welcomed others and began to build a home for themselves in Northern California. Acorn is a community of over 60 people, most of whom are followers of Olamina's religion, known as Earthseed. While there are still many dangers and poverty is still rife, things in California have quieted some and there is less overt violence on the roads. But a new fear is growing in the form of a fanatical Christian group, controlled by a powerful presidential nominee, that wants to return to an archaic and false ideal of the past, and this group could erase Acorn and Earthseed from the world.

The book opens with the voice of Olamina's daughter Asha, and Asha's anger with her mother is clear. Asha has compiled pages from her mother's and father Bankole's journals in an attempt to understand them and to understand herself. It's clear from the start that while she can find sympathy for the father she never met, she has little sympathy for her mother.

As the book unfolds, we still are presented with Olamina's voice the most in the form of her journal entries, and she is fascinating as ever in her persistent pursuit of making the Earthseed religion a reality. She's powerful, brave, driven, and almost blinded by her drive, but she is also loving and caring toward her family and friends.

Through the words of Asha, Olamina, and Bankole, we see how Earthseed grows from a few words written in a notebook into a full community and cult, which is nearly wiped out. The journey is fascinating and it's compelling to see an imagining of how a religion (or cult, depending on your point of view) can be born and grow followers.

Like with Parable of the Sower, a trigger warning should go out to those uncomfortable with violence and rape, both of which appear in abundance within the book. Violence appears many times in this book, but again, there is hope in the way people come together and find ways to preserve their humanity in horrifying situations.

But also, like Sower, Butler writing and storytelling offer a grim, and occasionally bleak, but ultimately hopeful tale that might have failed in less skilled hands. While I didn't love it as much as the first, it is a fantastic book and one I also recommend.

The only pity is that Butler never had a chance to continue with this series, which I have heard would have continued Earthseed's journey by having its followers attain their goal of populating the stars. It would have been fascinating to see how these people carried this religion into new worlds, and how their society changed and grew as generations build communities on new worlds. I suppose, since it was never written, that I will just have to imagine what might have been. ( )
  andreablythe | Sep 18, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Octavia E. Butlerprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Van Ryn, AudeCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Here we are-- Energy, Mass, Life, Shaping life, Mind, Shaping Mind, God, Shaping God. Consider-- We are born Not with purpose, But with potential. From EARTHSEED: THE BOOKS OF THE LIVING by Lauren Oya Olamina
To my aunts Irma Harris and Hazel Ruth Walker, and in memory of my mother Octavia Margaret Butler
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They'll make a god of her.
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Book description
Parable of the Talents (the sequel to Parable of the Sower) tells the story of how, as the U.S. continues to fall apart, the protagonist's community is attacked and taken over by a bloc of religious fanatics who inflict brutal atrocities.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0446675784, Paperback)

Octavia Butler tackles the creation of a new religion, the making of a god, and the ultimate fate of humanity in her Earthseed series, which began with Parable of the Sower, and now continues with Parable of the Talents. The saga began with the near-future dystopian tale of Sower, in which young Lauren Olamina began to realize her destiny as a leader of people dispossessed and destroyed by the crumbling of society. The basic principles of Lauren's faith, Earthseed, were contained in a collection of deceptively simple proverbs that Lauren used to recruit followers. She teaches that "God is change" and that humanity's ultimate destiny is among the stars.

In Parable of the Talents, the seeds of change that Lauren planted begin to bear fruit, but in unpredictable and brutal ways. Her small community is destroyed, her child is kidnapped, and she is imprisoned by sadistic zealots. She must find a way to escape and begin again, without family or friends. Her single-mindedness in teaching Earthseed may be her only chance to survive, but paradoxically, may cause the ultimate estrangement of her beloved daughter. Parable of the Talents is told from both mother's and daughter's perspectives, but it is the narrative of Lauren's grown daughter, who has seen her mother made into a deity of sorts, that is the most compelling. Butler's writing is simple and elegant, and her storytelling skills are superb, as usual. Fans will be eagerly awaiting the next installment in what promises to be a moving and adventurous saga. --Therese Littleton

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:33:33 -0400)

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Laura Olamina's daughter, Larkin, describes the broken and alienated world of 2032, as war racks the North American continent and an ultra-conservative religious crusader becomes president.

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