Octavia Butler doesn't flinch. This novel is her response to a future she found all too likely, where the rich live behind walls, where companies may virtually enslave their workers, and everyone else must fend for themselves. In the midst of chaos and anarchy, one brave and determined young woman puts forward her message of hope and self-reliance, gathering followers as she searches for a future for them all.
An amazing book - a frightening but (to me, alas!) believable vision of a bleak future, with a courageous heroine who sets out to save a little part of her world. Inspirational. I couldn't put it down. If you like Neil Gaiman, if you like sci/fi, if you're interested in religions, if you enjoy Heinlein . . . if you savor beautiful writing, this book is for you.
On second reading, I think Butler's riff on post-apocalyptic travails hit me harder than the first time. After seeing the devastation in New Orleans on television and talking to friends and others whose relatives made it out of the city, the concepts of civilisation falling apart and humanity's worst nature coming to the forefront seem a lot closer and more likely... events in general since I first read the book have certainly not reached anywhere close to what Butler predicts in this novel - (which is the United States falling into total economic collapse, with violent drug addicts and criminals preying on anyone weaker than themselves, citizens forming walled communities which are only temporary havens from the inevitable tide of violence, debt slavery growing, as rich corporations and exploiters from richer countries come in to use Americans as a disposable third-world workforce....) - but it seems more and more every day that this is a nation in decline.
Most post-apocalyptic tales feature some gigantic catastrophe - a nuclear attack or an asteroid hitting the earth, etc... but in Parable..., although global warming has rendered the south of the US a desert, and water is a precious commodity, there has been no single, sudden catastrophe - and other parts of the world, and even the USA's rich - are still doing fine... companies are coming out with new advances in entertainment technology, the government is even completing missions to Mars... it's been a gradual decline, with the masses left to fend for themselves if they can... and this makes it that much more terrifying a vision....
However, against the horrific backdrop of a cautionary tale, Butler's parable, which refers to the Biblical parable, but can also work as a parable for today, is a tale that is ultimately hopeful, as her heroine, Lauren Olamina, struggles to find a life for herself, along the way gathering to herself a group of decent people and persisting in trying to start her own religion/spiritual path called 'Earthseed,' still believing that humanity may have a great destiny among the stars...
This near-future dystopian novel tells of a teenager named Lauren living in one of the few walled-in, middle class neighborhoods left as American descends further and further into chaos with an ever-increasing gap between the wealthy and the poor. Lauren is an empath. She feels the pain others feel, often incapacitating her, and her experiences lead her to develop a new religion she calls Earthseed. When her neighborhood is destroyed, she and other survivors head north, and she begins teaching them about Earthseed.
This dystopian novel suffers from a lack of a well drawn-out dystopia in which the characters are living. Although it is only 30 years after the early 1990s, no one seems to know why or when things started to fall apart so drastically in the community. The characterizations are strong, but they are unfortunately in a setting that makes these totally believable characters a bit unbelievable. Additionally, the Earthseed religion is basically The Secret with a touch of Buddhism and some heavy God belief tossed in. The passages about the religion aren't painful to read, but they aren't thought-provoking either.
While I didn't find this unpleasant to read, it also wasn't particularly memorable or enjoyable. If you really enjoy character studies and don't mind a dystopian setting, you'll probably enjoy this book. All others should steer clear.
Check out my full review
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.