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Parable of the Sower

by Octavia E. Butler

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Earthseed (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
7,6342221,127 (4.05)380
"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)
  1. 61
    The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood (wonderlake)
    wonderlake: IMO Year of the Flood is a much superior book
  2. 40
    Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (rstaedter)
  3. 30
    The Postman by David Brin (infiniteletters)
  4. 41
    Into the Forest by Jean Hegland (GCPLreader)
  5. 20
    Parable of the Talents by Octavia E. Butler (sturlington)
    sturlington: Sequel to Parable of the Sower
  6. 31
    The Girl Who Owned A City by O. T. Nelson (infiniteletters)
  7. 20
    The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker (Othemts)
    Othemts: Young narrators observe the slow decline of society into dystopia as result of natural disasters.
  8. 31
    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. 53
    The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (MyriadBooks)
  10. 10
    The Memory Librarian: And Other Stories of Dirty Computer by Janelle Monáe (Othemts)
  11. 10
    Brown Girl In The Ring by Nalo Hopkinson (sturlington)
  12. 21
    An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon (bibliovermis)
  13. 21
    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.
  14. 32
    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. 10
    The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin (msemmag)
    msemmag: Both series explore the intersection of 'troubled, powerful female protagonist', radical community, climate apocalypse/breakdown of established society, and racism/oppression of marginalized communities. Both have queer themes centered around women and family.
  16. 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.
  17. 33
    How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff (wonderlake)
    wonderlake: Strong female teenagers traverse war-torn environments in the near future
  18. 01
    Morne Câpresse by Gisèle Pineau (Dilara86)
  19. 01
    Mind-Call by Wilanne Schneider Belden (infiniteletters)
  20. 01
    Galveston by Sean Stewart (amberwitch)

(see all 23 recommendations)

1990s (218)
AP Lit (108)

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» See also 380 mentions

English (219)  French (2)  Italian (1)  All languages (222)
Showing 1-5 of 219 (next | show all)
Very good. Felt very close to our soon to be present. In fact it takes place in ~2025. Very violent but hopeful. Good read.
  BookyMaven | Dec 6, 2023 |
There are two major storylines here: (1) the gradual collapse of American civilization in the face of a climate crisis, and (2) the establishment of a new religion. This first book in Butler's Earthseed series focuses on the climate crisis, the second (I'm inferring) will get into more detail about Earthseed, the religion being propagated (sowed) by the novel's protagonist, Lauren Olamani.

For a book written in 1993, Butler's projection of the impacts of a climate crisis in the U.S. are chillingly in-line with current forecasts: water shortages, food shortages, high prices, eroding shorelines, and especially the disproportionately appalling impacts on marginalized populations: the poor, minorities, immigrants, etc. Butler's U.S. isn't yet a lawless dystopia - there's still a president, police forces, colleges, and big box stores, etc. - but it's well on the way to becoming one, especially for those unable to afford walled communities, food, water, and armed guards. While the novel makes clear that some states are faring better than others, Butler's southern California is well on its way to dystopian anarchy, overrun by bloodthirsty gangs, rampant drug use (including abuse of a particularly horrific substance that causes users to become pyromaniacs), wanton crime (rape, pillage, murder, cannibalism), and legalized indentured servitude/slavery.

Into this reality is born Lauren Olamani, the precocious, mixed-race daughter of college-educated preacher. As the novel begins, the creeping dystopia that has already ravaged the lower classes is beginning to claim middle class communities like the one Lauren is living in, eventually forcing her to take to the road in search of a (relatively) safe place to settle and propagate her "new religion," which she calls Earthseed - a sort of Darwinian-survival-of-the-best-adapted meets Dale-Carnagie-cult-of-affirmation mashup. Along the way she and her rag-tag community of friends/followers face the expected perils: murderous thieves, wild dogs, thirst, fire, etc.

All of which makes for an entertaining read as long as you focus on the characters (engaging) and plot (brisk), because Olamani's Earthseed credo - while good enough for plot purposes - is laced with logical fallacies and inconsistencies; no great philosophical truths will be revealed. Her depiction of the gradual degradation of civilized norms must have seemed pretty extreme and unlikely back in 1993 when this was first published. However, it's hard to read this now without seeing parallels between events in the novel and current headlines - the carnage caused by illegal drug use (opioids laced with fentanyl), the rise in overt acts of racial hatred, the social impacts of unbridled capitalism, the political manipulations of corrupt politicians, the looming climate crisis - and wondering just how extreme Butler's vision may be.

But then, if the whole idea of the science fiction genre is to analyze current scientific/cultural trends and then extrapolate possible outcomes of these trends into the future, then maybe thinking about how we are going to shape for ourselves a different future than the horrific one depicted here is precisely what we should be doing. ( )
  Dorritt | Nov 8, 2023 |
Tremendous potential, but I don't think it quite panned out. ( )
  mmparker | Oct 24, 2023 |
I'll freely admit I don't get it. It's an interesting attempt to write a dystopia that is much closer to (our) present, evoking something of the simultaneous collapse and continuance of gated communities alongside shantytowns, but it just doesn't cohere into an understandable world. Half the time there's roaming gangs of drug addicted psychopaths burning, killing and stealing their way through a wasteland, where water rations equal cash money (there's a functioning monetary system?), life being valueless, with cannibalism and ravenous wild dogs eating babies straight out of The Road. Then simultaneously there's also police, corporate towns, gated communities with people working as teachers and ministers and unspecific administrative duties. Phone networks that work but are too expensive to use. Literacy rates so low just being able to read and write is a marketable skill yet they've only just cut the space program.
Amid this confusing world building a woman with "hyper empathy" akin to psionic ability must shuffle around a decaying US after losing her middle class (?) lifestyle and family, and while doing so creates a proto-religion based around change. Instead of the narrative Earthseed, we have a lot of story seeds, and none of them really come to fruition. Much like the nascent religion that's being created throughout the book, it really struggles to congeal into a solid point, instead doing a lot of handwaving around themes of social atomism, late stage capitalism, exploitation and reconnecting with humanity in spite of this.
Maybe it suffers from being heavy on the setup for a big payoff in the imagined trilogy of Earthseed books, but with Butler dying before finishing the third installment I won't be along for the ride. ( )
  A.Godhelm | Oct 20, 2023 |
As noted by Steinem in her in her 2016 introduction to this edition, in Butler’s novel first published in 1993 and set in the 21st century, the writing and the story she tells is prophetically accurate. Reading the book in the fall of 2023, this novel which opens in July 2024 is chillingly predictive. It's a grim and brutal tale of escape and survival set in the author’s home state of California. Vast inequality between the rich and the poor has led to walled communities under attack by an impoverished and desperate homeless population ravaged by drug abuse and armed with fire. Public service is minimal, corrupt and designed to serve only the rich.

Butler’s novel is told in diary form by Lauren Olamina, an 18-year-old black woman, the daughter of a Baptist preacher, whose family is attacked when their neighborhood’s perimeter is breached, and burned by a mob. Its residents are assaulted and murdered, and as far as Lauren knows she is her family’s only survivor. She flees north and as she does she gathers a small group of followers. The small group watches out for each other and protects one another.

Lauren has contemplated this journey for some time before the crisis that forces her to leave. In her diary, she has developed what she calls Earthseed it’s a materialist theology with an impersonal God, or to put it another way; it’s a stoic survivalist philosophy. Chapter one of the novel opens with this verse:

All that you touch
You Change.

All that you Change
Changes you.

The only lasting truth
Is Change.

Is Change.

Chapter 23 starts with this verse:

Your teachers
Are all around you.
All that you perceive,
All that you experience,
All that is given to you
or taken from you,
All that you love or hate,
need or fear
Will teach you –
If you will learn.
God is your first
and your last teacher.
God is your harshest teacher:
Learn or die. ( )
  MaowangVater | Oct 9, 2023 |
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Butler, Octavia E.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Blackford, JohnCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bracharz, KurtÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bravery, RichardCover designer and artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Chełminiak, JacekTł.secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Estevez, HermanCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gyan, DeborahCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jemisin, N. K.Forewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Johansson, LinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lewin, PaulCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Manzieri, MaurizioCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ming, Cheung ChingPhotographersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Moreno, SilviaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mustafa, MumtazCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Palencar, John JudeCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Polo, AnnaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Puckey, DonCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rouard, PhilippeTraductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Steinem, GloriaIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sutherland, CharlesDesignersecondary 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
First words
I had my recurring dream last night.
All that you touch
You Change.
All that you Change
Changes You.
The only lasting truth
is Change.
Is Change.
It seems almost criminal that you should be so young in these terrible times. I wish you could have known this country when it was still salvageable.
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"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"--

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Hachette Book Group

2 editions of this book were published by Hachette Book Group.

Editions: 0446601977, 0446675504


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