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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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2,504592,423 (4.07)133
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

Recently added bydracjr, strongasanoak, seite, kwbridge, private library, HeatherWhitney, weeteeth, ArlieS, johnmiah
Legacy LibrariesThomas C. Dent
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  13. 10
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  16. 22
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» See also 133 mentions

English (58)  French (1)  All languages (59)
Showing 1-5 of 58 (next | show all)
I like how Octavia Butler writes. It’s almost a non-style, crisp and honest, evenly paced and matter of factly. It is what it is, like. For a story like this, a pre-apocalypse, relying on events themselves hitting the reader, it’s extremely effective.

Lauren grows up as the daughter of the minister in a walled community outside Los Angeles. The United States is crumbling fast – global warming is eroding the coastline and burning away the crops, the last scraps of welfare are all but collapsed. The gap between those who have, however little, and those who don’t. is getting more and more acute. Police and fire department are privatized and corrupt. The states up north are closing the borders. Inflation is huge, and bartering is taking over as the means of trade. It’s the last twitches of an imploding capitalist nation.

This, coming into the story as the apocalpyse is about to happen, strikes me as refreshingly unusual. It reminds me of ”Things we didn’t see coming” by Steve Amsterdam, but without the same scope in time. Stylistically and storywise, it’s impossible not to think about ”The Road”.

For of course Lauren’s community breaks down, stormed by hateful hungry looters in the night, and she is forced out in the world on her own. With her she carries just the emergency supplies, a few other saurvivors and the slivers of a new faith. For Lauren has had a revelation of sorts, a blasphemous idea, and she can’t help but thinking that it makes sense.

The book then deals with her travelling north, following the streams of refugees on the highways, meeting more people and starting a community of sorts. It’s often hard reading, in a horribly calm sort of way. This world is incredibly tough, especailly for children, and any reader should be warned of that. But there is more hope and dignity here than in ”The road” for instance, a hope of humankind actually being able to learn something. Occasionally, it’s subtly beautiful.

Written in 1993, this, sadly, feels incredibly visionary. This is pretty close to where the western world is heading if we don’t make some very radical changes very soon, I’m sure. Parable of the sower serves as both a robust alarm clock and a small injection of hope. I’m both eager and a little scared to read the sequel. ( )
4 vote GingerbreadMan | May 27, 2014 |
200 Billion Stars

Lauren Olamina isn't like the other kids in her neighborhood, a walled-off city block in Robledo, just twenty miles outside of Los Angeles. Born to a drug-addicted mother, Lauren is afflicted with hyperempathy - the ability to share in the pain and pleasure of others, whether she wants to or not. This makes her an especially easy target for bullies - brother Keith used to make her bleed for fun when they were younger - so Lauren's weakness is a carefully guarded secret, one shared only with her family. In this crumbling world, a near-future dystopia that's all to easy to imagine, humans already devour their own: literally as well as figuratively. Lauren won't make herself an easy meal.

As if her hyperempathy isn't alienating enough, Lauren has another secret, one that she only shares with her diary. The daughter of a Baptist preacher, Lauren no longer believes in her father's god. Instead, she's cultivating her own system of belief - Earthseed:

All that you touch
You Change.

All that you Change
Changes you.

The only lasting truth
Is Change.

Is Change.

Lauren gathers these verses into a book that she comes to think of as "The Books of the Living." Her new religion? Earthseed. Its destination? The stars.

Parable of the Sower is Lauren's journal (of a sort). Begun on the eve of her 15th birthday and concluding more than three years later, through her diary we witness the collapse of Lauren's fragile world. In a country wracked by poverty, climate change, mass unemployment, homelessness, drug abuse, class warfare, and unspeakable violence, Lauren's small community is a fortress of sorts. Though they're far from well-off, the diverse neighborhood manages to produce enough food and goods (and occasionally for-pay labor) to sustain itself. The residents put personal animosity aside to protect and care for one another: rotating night watches keep would-be thieves at bay; when one resident's garage catches fire, everyone becomes a firefighter; and Lauren's step-mom Cory schools the neighborhood kids in her own home, since it's too dangerous to venture outside the walls.

It's not much, but it's home. But even at the tender age of 15, Lauren can see it unraveling: "We'll be moved, all right. It's just a matter of when, by whom, and in how many pieces." (page 136)

After a series of blows - the disappearance of Lauren's father; several successful infiltrations by thieves; a fire that claims all but one member of its household - Lauren's community finally falls. Drugged out on "pyro," a group of painted arsonists torch the neighborhood, killing and raping its residents. Lauren is just one of three to escape. Along with Zahra - the youngest of Richard Moss's wives - and fellow teenager Harry, they hit the road in search of water and work. A safe place to pitch their (proverbial) tent. And, for Lauren, a safe haven in which to establish the very first Earthseed community.

Parable of the Sower is a must read. A straight-up masterpiece. Originally published in 1993, it's still painfully relevant - and painfully realistic - today. (Even as the gap between present and future has narrowed to a scant ten years; Parable of the Sower takes place between July 20, 2024 and October 1, 2027.) Butler weaves together myriad social and environmental justice issues into a powerful social critique that feels neither forced nor preachy. Antebellum slavery, indentured servitude, police abuse, sundown towns, the underground railroad, the conflict between security and privacy, the privatization of public resources, polygamy, human trafficking, sexual slavery, child rape, border wars, water scarcity, passing as male - all of these and more merit a mention (or sometimes many mentions) in Parable of the Sower.

Butler's also created a cast that's not only incredibly diverse - but also mostly lacking in white protagonists. (How refreshing!) In this future America, racism is alive and well: neighborhoods often segregate themselves according to race, making Lauren's mixed-race home an anomaly. (Lauren is black, with half-brothers who are of African American and Mexican American descent.) As her mixed-race, mixed-gender group of refugees/would-be converts trek through California, they earn more than their fair share of suspicious stares. In a world where people distrust those who don't look like them, Lauren's community's principle of "we all look out for each other" is a source of confusion - and not a little hostility.

After finishing Parable of the Sower, I was pissed - pissed that I wasn't taught Butler in high school, right alongside Atwood and in lieu of the half dozen+ works of Shakespeare I labored through. (Someone please tell me this has changed?) My first Butler book was Lilith's Brood, which I loved; Parable of the Sower is even better! I think I was more easily able to relate to the characters and the situations in which they found themselves minus the alien elements of Lilith's Brood. Parable of the Sower is just a more accessible and easily-imaginable story.

I was worried that I might be put off by the more religious aspects of the Earthseed series, which is one reason why I put off reading it. Instead, I found Lauren's new religion rather enchanting, and well in keeping with my own beliefs. (Two words: starstuff and dust.) More of a philosophy than a religion per se, Earthseed posits that the ultimate truth is change: everything changes. Change is constant. Change is unstoppable. Sometimes we can mold change; other times, change molds us. Rather than fight change, shape it when you can; when you can't, bend to its will as needed. God is not a person; rather, God is change personified. Because a humanoid deity is what people have come to expect from their religion, Lauren makes the tactical decision to give it to them. Fellow traveler Bankle describes Lauren's new religion as a blend of Buddhism, existentialism, and Sufism.

Just as God is change, Heaven is the stars: it is Earthseed's destiny to travel to the stars and settle other planets in the universe. Humanity's past is here on Earth; its future is there in the stars. As much as I love the idea, this is where I must part ways with Earthseed: humans have already destroyed one planet, and I'd rather not see it do the same to any others.

Parable of the Sower gets 200 billion stars: one for each star in the Milky Way.

http://www.easyvegan.info/2014/05/14/parable-of-the-sower-by-octavia-butler/ ( )
  smiteme | May 3, 2014 |
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 |
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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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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 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.

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