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Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler
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Parable of the Sower

by Octavia E. Butler

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Earthseed (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,202891,739 (4.03)194
  1. 41
    The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood (wonderlake)
    wonderlake: IMO Year of the Flood is a much superior book
  2. 30
    The Postman by David Brin (infiniteletters)
  3. 31
    Into the Forest by Jean Hegland (GCPLreader)
  4. 20
    The Fifth Sacred Thing by Starhawk (espertus)
    espertus: Another post-apocalyptic feminist novel, although unlike in Parable of the Sower, the religion/magic is real, not symbolic.
  5. 31
    The Girl Who Owned A City by O. T. Nelson (infiniteletters)
  6. 20
    The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (MyriadBooks)
  7. 10
    Parable of the Talents by Octavia E. Butler (sturlington)
    sturlington: Sequel to Parable of the Sower
  8. 21
    Bel Canto by Ann Patchett (the_awesome_opossum)
    the_awesome_opossum: Both novels are about human connections formed in the face of unusual crises. Very competent and well-written, both books had much the same vibe about them
  9. 10
    Mara and Dann: An Adventure by Doris Lessing (amberwitch)
    amberwitch: Both featuring young female protagonists of colour, traveling north looking for a place to live after her society disintegrated, partially due to climatical changes.
  10. 22
    How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff (wonderlake)
    wonderlake: Strong female teenagers traverse war-torn environments in the near future
  11. 00
    Morne Câpresse by Gisèle Pineau (Dilara86)
  12. 22
    When She Woke by Hillary Jordan (ellbeecee)
    ellbeecee: Near-future dystopian fiction that makes you consider what's going on and the various paths that could be taken.
  13. 00
    Galveston by Sean Stewart (amberwitch)
  14. 00
    Mind-Call by Wilanne Schneider Belden (infiniteletters)
  15. 11
    Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany (thesmellofbooks)
    thesmellofbooks: A very different dystopia written by a very different African-American science fiction writer. Yet the intensity and humanity of Parable of the Sower are present as well in this much older book.
  16. 23
    World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks (storyjunkie)
    storyjunkie: Both are tales of how to survive a world gone mad, though there are no zombies in Butler's. Both works' treatment of the human questions are equally nuanced, variable, and detailed.
  17. 26
    Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank (amberwitch)
    amberwitch: Both told as diaries written by young women growing up 'under siege'.
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» See also 194 mentions

English (88)  French (1)  All (89)
Showing 1-5 of 88 (next | show all)
My first taste of Butler and I really like her style; the strong female character was also a plus; I give it a 3 only for the depth of the story itself, as I feel it could have led to so much more. ( )
  longhorndaniel | Jul 19, 2017 |
I’ve heard a lot about Parable of the Sower. I only narrowly missed out on reading it in high school — the freshmen English teachers began teaching it when I was a sophomore. I’ve also heard people say that it’s eerily accurate to the United States after November 2016. I’ll come straight out and say it: I was scared to read Parable of the Sower. Octavia Butler’s books are always intense, and I didn’t know if I had the emotional fortitude to deal with Parable of the Sower.

Lauren’s gated community is an island of safety in a sea of chaos. Her father is a minister and college professor who mostly works from home — venturing out beyond the gated walls is dangerous. A wrecked economy and exorbitant prices for food and water have left many people poor and desperate. To make matters worse, a new drug that compels its users to start fires is gaining in popularity. Lauren’s community may have walls, but they are far from wealthy. They are the remnants of the middle class, and they are struggling to get by. And Lauren knows that it can only get worse. Eventually, their walls will fail and the hoards of impoverished thieves and drug addicts will descend on them.

Part of what makes Parable of the Sower feel so real is it’s a post-apocalypse novel without an apocalyptic event. The government still exists — in fact, a new president has just been elected. But most people don’t bother to vote, and you have to bribe the police to investigate a murder. Even then they probably won’t turn up anything. There’s no comet, alien invasion, nuclear bomb, or viral outbreak. Just a slow and steady decline that started years before Lauren was born.

Lauren’s especially vulnerable thanks to her hyper-empathy symptom. If she perceives someone experiencing pain, she reacts as if she herself is in pain. The condition is entirely mental, and Lauren experiences no physical harm. However, it makes it very difficult for her to hurt others.

Oh, and since I haven’t yet mentioned it, Lauren’s founded a religion called Earthseed, the principal tenet of which is “God is change.” Lauren believes intensely in Earthseed, although the characters around her don’t always. Her entire goal in life is to establish a community around Earthseed, using it to make the world a better place. The narrative is interspersed with Lauren’s writings on Earthseed, which take the form of poems. To be honest, it did not take long for me to begin skipping these. It’s nice that Lauren has goals in life, but I don’t care about Earthseed.

I generally did like Lauren, even if she was a bit weird. If creating her own religion wasn’t enough, her love interest is a fifty-seven year old man, one year younger than her father. She’s eighteen. It was sort of making me wonder if she had daddy issues. Are eighteen year olds normally into men the age of their fathers? Actually, nobody answer this. I’d rather continue my life in peace.

Having finished Parable of the Sower, I was right about one thing — it’s dark. Dark dark. Like, there’s a brief mention in passing of a pregnant thirteen-year-old eating a human leg. That’s the sort of background this story is set against. For all that, it wasn’t as difficult as I’d feared. People kept making references to how eerily similar some of it is to what’s happening in US politics right now. I didn’t see much of it in Parable of the Sower… but when I started the sequel, Parable of Talents, I soon realized that I had the books mixed up. Parable of Talents is where a presidential candidate promises to make America great again. Yikes.

Parable of the Sower is doubtlessly ripe for a lot more thoughtful analysis than I go into here. If I ever reread the books, I’ll have to dig into them more for thematic material. As it stands, it was still a compelling but disturbing story of one girl who remains optimistic about the potential of community even in the worst of situations.

I received an ARC in exchange for a free and honest review. ( )
  pwaites | Jun 10, 2017 |
I will admit that I found this book a little disappointing? I can't quite articulate why- I don't know if it was overhyped to me and I just was expecting to be completely blown away and have my life changed, and while I do think the book was good, it wasn't that level for me. I do think I want other people to read it, because it's reached classic status without being written by a white man (HALLELUJAH!!!) and it's a pretty tight, well-put-together world, which could be really instructive for people wanting to write dystopian/utopian stuff!

SPOILERS
I will say that I had some discomfort with the relationship between Lauren and Bankole? It got easier after a bit, but after they had sex and he was like "you're only 18???? you seemed so much older!!!!" I was like GET ME THE FUCK OUT OF HERE OH MY GOD. Also there's this throwaway line about how colonization is what will save them, and like I know Butler means space probably, but given that the novel takes place in California, and that she seems to treat California Indians as relics of the past (when talking about how the family learned to use acorn flour) I was like "ummmm can we not."
/SPOILERS

Overall I would definitely recommend people read this book, but I myself did not enjoy it as much as I thought I would based on other people's recommendations. ( )
  aijmiller | May 7, 2017 |
Bleak, to say the least. ( )
  Jon_Hansen | Apr 4, 2017 |
Lauren Olimina is a young girl coming of age in Southern California in the near distant future where civil society is disintegrating. There are homeless people abounding and criminal gangs and scavengers throughout the city. Lawlessness is everywhere and the civil government is unable to keep things in check (or unwilling as the police and fire services seem to operate on a fee for service basis). Although her parents and neighbors are far from well-to do her neighborhood is a “walled” one that has had to resort to armed patrols to keep scavengers and thieves out. Her father and step mother are Ph.d college instructors, but her step mother now home schools the neighborhood children because of the danger of going outside the walls to the college where she formerly taught. Lauren’s father also teaches, mostly on-line, but must occasionally visit the college. It is so risky to venture out that the people who do so travel in groups. Lauren’s father is also a part-time minister who conducts worship services from his living room. There is evidently substantial income inequality as Lauren knows of compounds that house the super rich with high security to keep out the desperate class. Guns are everywhere and it is common to see murder victims along the road sides as well as those who have starved to death. Climate change has taken its toll and water is scarce and expensive.
Lauren’s biological mother died in child birth, but she had been abusing a prescription medication that has left Lauren with a condition called hyperempathy that results in Lauren feeling the acute physical pain experienced by others just by witnessing it. Lauren has rejected her father’s views on God, although she keeps this from him. In its place she is developing her own religion she calls “Earthseed” that posits that the real essence of God is change that human kind must both recognize and shape. She keeps a journal of her ruminations on Earthseed with free verse that expresses her ideas. She envisions an ultimate “Destiny” that involves travel to a planet in a distant constellation where the human species can prosper. She has prepared herself to flee in the event of worsening chaos that she is certain will happen.
And, it does. Her younger brother runs away to live in the city, returning occasionally to give his mother money that he has obtained through violence and thievery. Some months later is tortured body is discovered. Later, her father never returns from a commute outside the walls and it is certain he has been killed. Finally, there is an invasion by drug-crazed criminals who murder, loot and burn down the neighborhood. (There is wide spread use of a drug that produces ecstasy in its users after setting anything on fire.)
Lauren’s step mother and brothers are among the slaughtered and her home is destroyed by the pyromaniacs. She grabs her emergency pack and runs along with two neighbors – Harry and Zahra. Harry was the boyfriend of her friend Joanna and Zahra is a “sister” wife of a neighbor (she was literally bought by him). They determine to head north by foot in the hopes of finding a place of safety in Oregon, Washington or Canada where they can find work. Lauren works on interesting Harry and Zahra in starting a commune that will adhere to her “Earthseed” philosophy. Their journey north is harrowing, they are often tracked or attacked by bands of wild marauders or escape fires set by the pyromaniacs. There are heavily guarded stores along the way where they can buy provisions and periodic water stations where water can be purchased. It’s plain that there’s a massive movement of displaced and desperate people heading north and along the way Lauren, Harry and Zahra hook up with others who join them. In an attack, one of the companions is killed and Lauren is wounded, but they continue to press on northward. They are joined by Bankole, an older man who says he has property in Northern California that is farmed by his sister and her family. Bankole offers this as a place where they can settle; he’s skeptical of Lauren’s “religion” but willing to go along with it (they’ve developed a romantic relationship). When they reach to land they discover that his family has been slaughtered and the buildings destroyed. They determine, however, the try to make a go of it by self-sustaining farming and Lauren holds on to her vision of an ultimate safe harbor and restart for humanity on a distant planet.
The story is haunting because its vision of the breakdown of civil society in America seems not implausible. The novel was written in 1993 and the conditions forecasted by Butler are not at all fantastic. The impacts of climate change, income inequality, breakdown of civil relations, gun-related violence, homeless and deprivation through massive economic dislocation as we approach the early 21st century years do cast a dark cloud over our future. Lauren has concluded that the rupture of human society cannot be repaired and that a completely new beginning is the only hope for the future of the race. ( )
  stevesmits | Feb 14, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 88 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Octavia E. Butlerprimary authorall editionscalculated
Gyan, DeborahCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Palencar, John JudeCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Puckey, DonCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Prodigy is, at its essence, adaptability and persistent, positive obsession. Without persistence, what remains is an enthusiasm of the moment. Without adaptability, what remains may be channeled into destructive fanaticism. Without positive obsession, there is nothing at all. -- EARTHSEED: THE BOOKS OF THE LIVING by Lauren Oya Olamina
All that you touch / You Change. / All that you Change / Changes You. / The only lasting truth / is Change. / God / Is Change. -- EARTHSEED: THE BOOKS OF THE LIVING
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I had my recurring dream last night.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
Set in a dystopian future, Parable of the Sower centers on a young woman who possesses what Butler dubbed as hyperempathy – the ability to feel the perceived pain and other sensations of others – who develops a benign philosophical and religious system during her childhood in the remnants of a gated community in Los Angeles. Civil society is near collapse due to resource scarcity and poverty. When the community's security is compromised, her home is destroyed and her family murdered. She travels north with some survivors to try to start a community where her religion, called Earthseed, can grow.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0446675504, Paperback)

Octavia E. Butler, the grande dame of science fiction, writes extraordinary, inspirational stories of ordinary people. Parable of the Sower is a hopeful tale set in a dystopian future United States of walled cities, disease, fires, and madness. Lauren Olamina is an 18-year-old woman with hyperempathy syndrome--if she sees another in pain, she feels their pain as acutely as if it were real. When her relatively safe neighborhood enclave is inevitably destroyed, along with her family and dreams for the future, Lauren grabs a backpack full of supplies and begins a journey north. Along the way, she recruits fellow refugees to her embryonic faith, Earthseed, the prime tenet of which is that "God is change." This is a great book--simple and elegant, with enough message to make you think, but not so much that you feel preached to.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:06 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

In 2025 California, an eighteen-year-old African American woman, suffering from a hereditary trait that causes her to feel others' pain as well as her own, flees northward from her small community and its desperate savages.

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