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Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler

Parable of the Sower

by Octavia E. Butler

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Earthseed (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4,4651281,729 (4.03)276
"Parable of the Sower is the Butlerian odyssey of one woman who is twice as feeling in a world that has become doubly dehumanized. The time is 2025. The place is California, where small walled communities must protect themselves from hordes of desperate scavengers and roaming bands of people addicted to a drug that activates an orgasmic desire to burn, rape, and murder. When one small community is overrun, Lauren Olamina, an 18 year old black woman with the hereditary train of "hyperempathy"--which causes her to feel others' pain as her own--sets off on foot along the dangerous coastal highways, moving north into the unknown"--… (more)
Recently added bySerrana, rem_brandt, Conor.Murphy, steelcutoaths, hannah.howrie, rena40, facety1, private library
Legacy LibrariesThomas C. Dent, Tim Spalding
  1. 51
    The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood (wonderlake)
    wonderlake: IMO Year of the Flood is a much superior book
  2. 30
    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.
  3. 30
    The Postman by David Brin (infiniteletters)
  4. 31
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  5. 31
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  6. 20
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  7. 10
    Parable of the Talents by Octavia E. Butler (sturlington)
    sturlington: Sequel to Parable of the Sower
  8. 10
    Mara and Dann 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.
  9. 10
    Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (rstaedter)
  10. 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.
  11. 22
    The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (MyriadBooks)
  12. 00
    Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson (sturlington)
  13. 22
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    wonderlake: Strong female teenagers traverse war-torn environments in the near future
  14. 01
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  15. 01
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  16. 01
    Mind-Call by Wilanne Schneider Belden (infiniteletters)
  17. 12
    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.
  18. 23
    World War Z 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.
  19. 13
    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
  20. 18
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    amberwitch: Both told as diaries written by young women growing up 'under siege'.

(see all 20 recommendations)

1990s (16)

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» See also 276 mentions

English (127)  French (1)  All languages (128)
Showing 1-5 of 127 (next | show all)
Parable of the Sower is one of those books that’s kind of a mix of dystopian/apocalyptic themes. I’d say it’s more apocalyptic in feel than dystopian because the government doesn’t play much of a direct role in the story aside from its neglect and its failure to protect its people. Climate change has increased the scarcity of resources, particularly of water. Society hasn’t completely broken down yet, but it’s definitely on the verge with desperate people and drug addicts roaming the streets and taking what they need or want from other people. It’s extremely difficult to find work, and in some places large corporations are essentially bringing back slavery. The story is set in California, told in the epistolary form, written by a teenage girl who’s 15 when the book begins.

I had a lot of mixed feelings about the book, but in general it held my attention well and was a fast read. The first half had a few slow spots, but not many, and it really picked up after Lauren’s community was destroyed and she had to leave. I sometimes get a bit bored with survival stories, and this had many aspects of that, yet I wasn't bored with this one. I was interested in the characters and where the story would go.

I did have some issues with it though. There were a few things that didn’t ring true for me and I was uncomfortable with the main character creating her own religion. I’m going to put more comments on that in spoiler tags so I can type freely without worrying about revealing too much.

I felt like water should have been scarcer than it appeared to be, especially with the talk near the end of surviving by farming and some talk of various fertile areas they saw. Where would the water come from to support crops? Near the beginning of the book, when it rains for a few days, Lauren tells us this is the first time it’s rained more than few drops in 6 years. I don’t think she had walked far enough for the area she settled in to have a significantly different climate than the area she had left. Maybe other areas were getting more rain, but aside from the talk of water vendors who seemed to be selling water of questionable quality on a smaller scale, I don't remember any discussion of water being transported on a large scale from places with a better supply nor any reason to believe that other areas had enough of a surplus to share.

And the Earthseed religion thing… I think I would have liked the story a lot better if that had been left out altogether. I could more or less buy into the idea that a creative teenage girl who grew up as the daughter of a preacher might, after becoming dissatisfied with the answers provided by her father’s religion, choose to come up with a religion of her own, based on what she had experienced in her life. However, Lauren essentially deifies the concept of “change”. I get that she had more foresight than most others in her community about anticipating imminent changes, but had she really experienced that much change in her life so far for it to have become such an all-consuming concept for her? It seemed like her community had been pretty stable for most of her life, with things steadily going downhill so slowly that most of the community was in denial that things could or would change for the worse.

Another issue I had with the Earthseed religion was the way Lauren seemed to think it should become a new way of life, and her desire to build a community based on it. Based on what, exactly? Her religious phrases were mostly just common sense things about dealing with change, so it didn’t strike me as anything that somebody would find profound or life changing or even really a model for day-to-day life.

More than anything else, I wondered what the author was trying to convey by including it in her story. Was she trying to deal with the concept of change herself (which I would find entirely understandable coming from an author who would have been in her mid-40’s at the time) and/or pass on some of her own beliefs about change? Or was she trying to suggest something more subtle that went over my head? One thought I considered based on the reactions of some of the other characters was that the author was putting up for debate the idea that the average person needs a belief system to follow in order to be guided toward making good decisions – would having a religion based on change help people deal with change and prepare for change better than they would otherwise? I’m kind of curious to see where she takes this whole thing in the next book, although I’d be just as happy if it would fizzle out of the story.

So I liked this, it engaged my brain somewhat and held my interest very well, and I intend to continue on and read the sequel. It’s not my favorite book by the author, though. This is the 6th book of hers that I’ve read and my favorites have been her Xenogenesis trilogy. ( )
1 vote YouKneeK | May 25, 2020 |
It does a very good job of setting up its dystopia and convincing you of the moral challenges of living in a desperate world. The characters are fine but nothing special. ( )
  peterbmacd | May 16, 2020 |
This book was mentioned on Episode 2 of Checking Out. Listen here!
  rachelreading | Apr 21, 2020 |
whew. this is both a really hard read but also a really hopeful one. i'm actually surprised it took such a hopeful turn, but i guess butler wanted to show us not just the danger we are facing, but also a possible path out.

it's never (that i can remember) explicitly stated that this new world is a result of climate change or a specific catastrophic event, but it makes sense that it is eventually what happens after ignoring a major climate emergency for decades. it makes sense that these things would happen as the result of a shift in weather patterns, sea level rise, drought, increased temperatures. or in combination with drugs or virus that cause unexpected deaths or hardship. it's, in a way, the same kind of "logical conclusion" that doesn't take a lot of thought to come to, to believe, that i love about the handmaid's tale. at first it's like - how did we get here? and then, without more than a beat or two - we know. but also, it's not just the climate change that makes sense. it's the societal change - the walled neighborhoods, the indentured servitude, the marauding gangs, the privatized social services, the wealth and race gaps made more stark. it's all hard and it all feels true and possible and like a flashing warning. with a possible answer.

this is one of the few books that is specifically (in parts, i mean) about religion and higher powers that i find philosophically interesting and not at all annoying. i appreciate her perspective on discovering earthseed rather than devising or inventing it. and the concepts of this religion (except for the destiny in the stars part) is one that resonates more with me. i'm not sure religion is even the right descriptor - it almost seems more like a collection of thoughts or a philosophy on how to live and survive and be in community, and almost uses god and religion just as a way for people to know what she's talking about contextually. but maybe that's just because it appeals to me on some level and i don't want to be drawn to something resembling a religion.

this is also, though, a warning to prepare. early on, lauren has an argument with her friend. they can both see what's coming, but her friend thinks there's nothing they can do about it, and to just try to make the best with what they have. lauren wants to prepare for things to get worse, to learn skills that will become necessary, to prepare for any eventuality so she can survive and thrive after whatever destruction comes. it really mirrors what we're seeing over the last decade (at least) about climate change and how the voices of urgency and action are being completely ignored while the people who are basically throwing up their hands and saying that it's too hard to change are the ones winning out. to the detriment of the entire world.

obviously the other parallels to today, in spite of our not getting to this extreme yet, are really scary, prescient, profound, and worrisome. she really (like atwood in the handmaid's tale) didn't take things too far. except maybe for the hyperempathy aspect, which is the only part that even approaches her usual sci-fi fare. but even that could be believed, as a delusion. (i wondered why she included that; with reflection i think it makes sense to give lauren a weakness or a vulnerability since she is otherwise so strong and steadfast, and unbending. but also, i love the idea that maybe what helps to save us, in the end, is not violence and subjugation, but to feel, even more, what everyone around us is feeling. to be so aware of everyone else's pain - and pleasure - that we take the only path forward that causes everyone the least amount of pain.) at any rate, it's really something to read about a united states with a corrupt and incompetent leader that might not survive a huge event while we're in the midst of a huge event being completely mishandled by a corrupt and incompetent leader. in a way, though, she gives us a way out. or at least a way to start to create a way out. together. with community. with intelligence and science and planning and most importantly, with each other.

"Secretaries of Astronautics don't have to know much about science. They have to know about politics."

"In order to rise
From its own ashes
A phoenix

"I wonder what you have to do to become a cop. I wonder what a badge is, other than a license to steal. What did it used to be to make people Bankole's age want to trust it. I know what the old books say, but still, I wonder." ( )
  overlycriticalelisa | Apr 18, 2020 |
A lot of the dystopian stories I have read feel ‘safe’ because what triggered them doesn’t seem like it’ll happen. Often because it involves some technology we don’t have. And, even though Butler doesn’t tell us the how or why the world has reached its current point, it feels like we could be there. That makes reading this so much more poignant and at times difficult to keep reading. Though, that is precisely the reason to read it.

Not everything that happens makes sense, but, not because of poor storytelling, but it feels like purposeful choice to make it feel real. ( )
  Sara_Cat | Mar 21, 2020 |
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» Add other authors (13 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Octavia E. Butlerprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bracharz, KurtÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gyan, DeborahCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Palencar, John JudeCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Puckey, DonCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rouard, PhilippeTraductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Thigpen, LynneNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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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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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