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Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler

Parable of the Sower (edition 1995)

by Octavia E. Butler

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3,113861,812 (4.03)188
Title:Parable of the Sower
Authors:Octavia E. Butler
Info:Aspect (1995), Edition: Reprint, Mass Market Paperback
Collections:Your library
Tags:science fiction, hers

Work details

Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler (Author)

Recently added byFmb, amckie, nams55, mjfrench13, bishopjoey, divinenanny, bckellogg, gbcmars, private library, Deborahrs
Legacy LibrariesThomas C. Dent, Tim Spalding
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» See also 188 mentions

English (85)  French (1)  All (86)
Showing 1-5 of 85 (next | show all)
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 |
When the story starts, Lauren is a 15-year-old girl living in Southern California in 2024. She has hyperempathy syndrome, a condition caused by the drugs her birth mother abused while pregnant with Lauren. Because of this, Lauren can feel others' pain (if she can see them directly). In a future where climate change has caused massive droughts, the economy is on the verge of collapse, the rich hold themselves up in large compounds with protection while the poor (and the people people of color) have to fend for themselves in walled communities while fighting starvation, disease, thieves, murderers, rapists, and "pyros" who set fires for the thrill, Lauren is determined to survive. She knows that to do so, people need to accept that "God is Change"; thus begins her spiritual journey with Earthseed, a religion that she is slowly discovering/creating as she observes the despairing world around her.

Octavia Butler is truly a master of her craft; she depicts a failing country with an unflinching eye toward the violence and danger, yet also depicts moments of great beauty and human compassion. Most of her characters are people of color, and she was a proud feminist, which makes for a great, strong lead in Lauren.

This book may feel a little too timely, given the current political climate. But that just means it is all the more important. ( )
  kaylaraeintheway | Jan 26, 2017 |
“All That You Touch,
You Change.

All That You Change
Changes You.
The Only Lasting Truth
Is Change.

is Change.
'Earthseed: The Books of the Living”

In this dystopian future set in 2024, society has slowly disintegrated due to increasing social problems as well as climate problems brought on by pollution. Only a lucky few still have jobs. The poor are starving and desperate, and murderous drug driven gangs control areas outside of fenced compounds. It's too dangerous to go outside the compound alone, so trips outside are carefully planned in groups with guns.

Everyone will be glad to know that box stores still exist as safe havens of capitalism, with gun guarded checkpoints to get in and nests of automatic weapons watching shoppers' every move.

Lauren lives with her family inside a fenced compound that used to be her middle class neighborhood.

Lauren is a deep thinking teenager. Her mother took designer drugs while pregnant with Lauren and, as a result, Lauren is hyper-empathetic, literally feeling others' physical pain. She's strong, reflective and wise beyond her years; spending time understanding and preparing for events she believes will come. She also questions what she knows about God and find he falls short in current religious philosophies, thereby creating her own new religion which she calls Earthseed.

Lots of thorny questions are addressed in the natural unfolding of the story. Is freedom more precious than safety? Where do race and age and children fit into this society? What kind of God exists in such misery?

I'll definitely be reading the sequel. ( )
  streamsong | Jan 19, 2017 |
This isn't a review so much as it is my emergent thoughts on this book, which I read for a genre fiction challenge in one of my groups, where the eligibility characteristics were that the author had to be a woman and had to be deceased.

I'm not sure what to rate it, but it certainly had a "wow" factor for me, especially given its publication date of 1993, which seems to predate the resurgence of post-apocalyptic lit by close to a decade. I also thought it was pretty interesting that, like Orwell's 1984, it's set in the near-term future - society seems to begin its collapse with the presidential election of 2016, which may make the book worth reading for that reason alone.

I have so many remaining questions about Butler's world - what is it like in the rest of the world? There are no references to a big apocalyptic event - no war, no plague, no zombies (thank God - I hate zombie books), no nuclear winter, no asteroid hitting Earth. It seems it all just fell apart. The world ends, not with a bang, but a whimper. I don't mind that the questions went unanswered, in a way, it is like Doctor Zhivago, a story centered on a single ordinary person living through big events but only seeing what is within her immediate purview because mass communication seems to have collapsed. But I still have the questions.

I feel like Lauren's hyperempathy is really just a distraction, adding little to the story. I loved the Earthseed theme, though, and thought Butler used it really well. It would have been sort of cool if she had actually published Earthseed: The Book of the Living as a prologue to the book. I thought that the use of the poems to begin the chapters was pretty effective. Lauren is a seer, and maybe that is a side effect of the hyperempathy, but I don't think so. I think she's just one of those people who sees because she is paying attention.

Anyway, I read very little sci fi because I don't really like it, and even less dystopian, because I am usually irritated by it. I don't think I can say I "loved" it, because it really isn't my thing. But as far as books that are not my thing go, this one was terrific. I'm engaged enough to want to read the sequel, and I will definitely read more Octavia Butler. ( )
  moonlight_reads | Dec 11, 2016 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Butler, Octavia E.Authorprimary 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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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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