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Parable of the Sower

A book by Octavia E. Butler

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Review of Octavia E. Butler's Parable of the Sower

  • Mar 7, 2009
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Robert A. Heinlein once stated that in writing speculative fiction the author takes a current cultural or societal trend and follows that trend to its logical, if sometimes extreme, conclusion. Butler has taken the anomie of today's central cities in the United States, with the attendant violence, drug abuse, and general disregard for community and painted a frightening and stark world in PARABLE OF THE SOWER. Butler introduces us to an America thirty years hence where to survive communities must be armed, walled, and prepared to take human life to defend themselves; an America where drug abuse has taken a radically violent turn in which a new drug "Pyro" induces the user to burn items, be they animate or inanimate, for a sexual high; an America where life expectancy is short; an America where violence is the norm instead of the exception.

In this stark, surreal world is Lauren Oya Olamina, an eighteen year old girl with a vision. Olamina lives in a walled community that has protected itself by keeping quiet, inconspicuous, well armed, and prepared to defend itself. This all changes when Lauren's brother, Keith, enters the nefarious world beyond the walls and implicitly brings attention to this previously secluded community. Lauren finds she and her community must confront the ugly world outside the walls.

Most of Butler's works have a strong, empathetic female character that seem to carry an unfair burden in life. Lauren Olamina is no exception. Lauren has a condition called "hyperempathy" meaning that she feels the physical pain of others (including animals). Yet, she is willing to kill to defend herself and her family, despite the psychological costs to herself. She remarks that if everyone had her disability, violence would greatly diminish. Unfortunately for Lauren, the world she lives in is not only full of violence but inherently forces a person to eventually commit acts of violence in self-defense. Lauren also has a gradual and evolving "philosophy" called "Earthseed" that takes on quasi-religious status as the novel unfolds. This "Earthseed" is the thread that binds the narrative and makes the conclusion innovative and hopeful.

Butler's work is intricate and impressive in its description of a future America. There are many sophisticated parallels between the ugly future Butler paints and today's society. I really cannot do her work justice by a simple and brief description. I highly recommend PARABLE OF THE SOWER.

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From Publishers Weekly
Hugo and Nebula Award-winner Butler's first novel since 1989's Imago offers an uncommonly sensitive rendering of a very common SF scenario: by 2025, global warming, pollution, racial and ethnic tensions and other ills have precipitated a worldwide decline. In the Los Angeles area, small beleaguered communities of the still-employed hide behind makeshift walls from hordes of desperate homeless scavengers and violent pyromaniac addicts known as "paints" who, with water and work growing scarcer, have become increasingly aggressive. Lauren Olamina, a young black woman, flees when the paints overrun her community, heading north with thousands of other refugees seeking a better life. Lauren suffers from 'hyperempathy," a genetic condition that causes her to experience the pain of others as viscerally as her own--a heavy liability in this future world of cruelty and hunger. But she dreams of a better world, and with her philosophy/religion, Earthseed, she hopes to found an enclave which will weather the tough times and which may one day help carry humans to the stars. Butler tells her story with unusual warmth, sensitivity, honesty and grace; though science fiction readers will recognize this future Earth, Lauren Olamina and her vision make this novel stand out like a tree amid saplings.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Octavia E. Butler (22 June 1947 - 24 February 2006) , author of several crtically acclaimed novels, died at the age of 58 after a ...
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ISBN-10: 0446601977
ISBN-13: 978-0446601979
Author: Octavia E. Butler
Genre: Literature & Fiction, Science Fiction & Fantasy
Publisher: Aspect (February 1, 1995)
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