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Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler

Parable of the Sower (edition 1993)

by Octavia E. Butler

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,439None2,521 (4.07)126
Title:Parable of the Sower
Authors:Octavia E. Butler
Info:Aspect (2000), Trade paperback
Collections:Your library, Classics Collection, Favorites
Tags:Catastrophes--Apocalypse--Survival, Science fiction, women and girls, apocalyptic fiction, near-future, 1993, top20, reread, edition (reissue), SF-SOC, bl

Work details

Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler

  1. 30
    The Postman by David Brin (infiniteletters)
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    Into the Forest by Jean Hegland (GCPLreader)
  3. 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.
  4. 20
    The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood (wonderlake)
    wonderlake: IMO Year of the Flood is a much superior book
  5. 20
    The Girl Who Owned A City by O. T. Nelson (infiniteletters)
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  9. 10
    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
  10. 11
    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.
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    Mind-Call by Wilanne Schneider Belden (infiniteletters)
  14. 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.
  15. 22
    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.
  16. 00
    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.
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    wonderlake: Strong female teenagers traverse war-torn environments in the near future
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    amberwitch: Both told as diaries written by young women growing up 'under siege'.

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» See also 126 mentions

English (56)  French (1)  All languages (57)
Showing 1-5 of 56 (next | show all)
Parable of the Sower isn't the easiest book to read. The prose is clear and uncomplicated, but the content can be hard to take. This is a close-to-home dystopia, one which I found hard to dismiss as improbable. And the world that it depicts is cruel and ugly. Even the well-meaning must do ugly things to survive.

This is science fiction only in the most technical sense. Sure, it's set in a hypothetical future, and the main character, Lauren, has an uncanny/(super)natural ability to feel the pain of others. But there is no reliance upon imagined technologies, alien races or superhuman heroics to move the plot along. The framework of this fictional universe is our own, moved forward in time to a barren future.

Lauren is intent upon founding her own religion. Her ideas are represented by excerpts from her poetry at the beginning of each chapter. As the story progresses, Lauren explains her ideas to many (initially skeptical) people. I was a little bit unhappy with this (central) aspect of the book: the ideas, and Lauren's writing, felt to me a lot less deep and meaningful than Lauren intended.

But what was Octavia Butler's intention? Did she intend these ideas, and Lauren's writings, to be full of meaning, resonance and depth? Was it supposed to be a bit naive and simple, but with potential (which is how I felt)? The answer isn't to be found in this book.

When I finished the book, satisfied at its refusal to come to a pat conclusion or judgment about Lauren's ideology, I found out that there is a sequel. I look forward to it and to finding out whether Lauren's ideas mature once put to the test. Apparently, Butler had begun to work on a third book in this series, but sadly she never completed it.

Oh, one warning: don't read the back cover. At least for the edition I have, the description on the back gives away a crucial, major turning point in the plot that occurs midway through the book. I hate knowing too much in advance, and I would have been really irritated had I seen that beforehand. ( )
  ksimon | Feb 6, 2014 |
This was intense and went by really fast. The protagonist was strong and interesting, and there's a lot of food for thought about the future, and about definitions of religion in general. In a way it reminded me of The Hunger Games. There's a strong female protagonist who's distinctly female, but interesting and powerful and individual, and there's the dystopian element there too. ( )
  FFortuna | Dec 10, 2013 |
This books takes you to a really terrible place where the world is at and end. But in Lauren the reader sees hope and attempts to put the pieces together for humanity.
  MarissaRichardson | Dec 3, 2013 |
I enjoyed the dystopian/post-apocalyptic elements, which felt plausible enought to satisfy me. It's also great as a coming-of-age story through difficult times. The protagonist, Lauren, is a strong and interesting character.
My one caveat is that I found the attempts at creating a new belief system (Earthseed) dull and unconvincing, and wasn't sure how seriously I was meant to take this. This edition has a Q&A with the author included though, and the answer seems to be: quite seriously.
It's easy enough to glide over those bits if you're not into them, and the story rips along pretty well after the first 100 pages. ( )
  daisyq | Oct 27, 2013 |
I loved this book when I first read it and I have to say thoroughly enjoyed it on the second go around, too. A trigger warning should go out to those uncomfortable with violence and rape, both of which appear in this book.

Parable of the Sower is a bit of a bleak book, with the U.S. having dissolved into chaos with poverty levels extremely high and a vast majority of the population living on the streets. Many are homeless and jobless and some have taken to living as squatters in shanty towns, while earning as much as a living as they can. Some become scavengers and thieves. Some become predators, preying on the weak, kidnappers, murderers, rapists, and slave traders. (One of the things that's terrifying about this book is just how real a world like this could be, with desperate people drawn to desperate measures.)

Lauren Olamina lives in Robledo, California in a small community, which is protected from the outside chaos by a wall. While many in the community believe this wall makes them safe, Lauren is less certain and begins to make plans to handle the storm she knows is coming. In the midst of this she also works to hide her psychological disorder, a kind of hyper-empathy that makes her feel the pain of others. She also begins to work on her discovery of a new belief system that she dubs Earthseed, one that is perhaps less comforting than the one her father preaches, but more practical for the world in which she lives. "God is Change," she writes in one of the verses that appear at the beginning of each chapter, and, "The only lasting truth is change."

When the walls finally fall, Lauren and two other survivors from the town begin to make a long slow journey North with hordes of other refugees that may or may not be trusted. Along the way they gather allies and followers, people she hopes to convert and one day build a community with — that is, if they can survive the dangers on the roads and the hordes of drug addicts that thrive on setting fires.

The hope in all this chaos and horror lies in the ways people are able to come together and offer help, aid, respect, and trust to one another, how they are able to cling to their humanity even in desperation, and how they are willing to work toward hope by building something new with each other.

In addition to Butlers skillful storytelling and collection of interesting characters, the religion proposed by Lauren Olamina is fascinating. The concept of a practical religion, not focused on the rewards or punishments that come after death, but on the rewards or sufferings that one can achieve through hard work in life is rather fascinating. I remember reading it the first time and being kind of taken in by it, even if this is fiction, because even fiction can house truths. And even now, I find this fictional religion captivating and I'm curious what would happen if people in this world were more focused on how they can shape their own lives while doing as little harm as possible.

At any rate, this is a fantastic book, grim at times, but hopeful at others, and one in which I find myself rooting for these people to conquer and achieve the life they hope to shape for themselves. ( )
  andreablythe | Sep 16, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Octavia E. Butlerprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gyan, DeborahCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Palencar, John JudeCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Puckey, DonCover designersecondary 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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Wikipedia in English (1)

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.
Haiku summary

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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:04:36 -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.

(summary from another edition)

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