When I started reading this book I immediately felt inclined to rate it five stars even before finishing the first sentence. Hardly fair or reasonable I know, but that's love. I have loved Octavia Butler since reading [b: Wild Seeds|20202752|Reap The Wild Seeds|Loyd E. Hill and Marvin R. Query|https://s.gr-assets.com/assets/nophoto/book/50x75-a91bf249278a81aabab721ef782c4a74.png|28043575] a couple of years ago, I went on to read [b: Kindred|60931|Kindred|Octavia E. Butler|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1339423248s/60931.jpg|1049657] and the [b: Lilith's Brood|60926|Lilith's Brood (Xenogenesis, #1-3)|Octavia E. Butler|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1439247785s/60926.jpg|3739] trilogy which only solidified my love for this dear departed lady and all she stood for.
Having said that, I initially felt a little disappointed with the first chapter of Parable of the Sower
because the setting is rather mundane, not fantastical like the other Butler novels that I have read. Butler had such an immense imagination that her sci-fi books are always full of a sense of wonder, but Parable of the Sower
’s setting seems like a typical dystopian scenario, nothing very outlandish walk the Earth. However, once I settle into the book and became familiar with the characters I was swept away by the storytelling and it no longer matters what the setting is, what genre is, or even what the basic plotline is. I was there with the characters, the only thing that matters is what is happening to them on the current page.Parable of the Sower
is a dystopian novel set in what seems like a post-apocalypse America but there was never a single apocalyptic event, no nuclear war and blasted irradiated landscape. It seems that the world just went down the toilet of its own accord. If I can just steal this line from Octaviabutler.org: “When unattended environmental and economic crises lead to social chaos, not even gated communities are safe.”
The central character is Lauren Olamina, an eighteen-year-old girl, at the beginning of the novel she lives a stable and relatively safe life with her family but one day her family and the entire community is destroyed by drug crazed pyromaniac raiders. Lauren – the smartest character in the book – anticipated such a disaster from the current state of affairs so she was able to grab a prepared emergency pack and hit the road (her family is all killed though). Lauren has a long-term ambition to found a community and a religion of sorts which will ensure the survival, recovery and even progress of mankind. A project she calls “Earthseed”. So after the destruction of her family the story is of her trek with across America – with a few friends she meets along the way – to find a place where they can settle in and start building a meaningful life.Parable of the Sower
is a very bleak yet optimistic novel. The story is driven by Lauren’s indomitable will and her grace under pressure.“The weak can overcome the strong if the weak persist. Persisting isn’t always safe, but it’s often necessary.”
Lauren’s only weakness is her "hyperempathy", a condition that causes her to feel the pain of any person she perceives to be feeling pain (not by any kind of telepathy, it is more of a psychological condition from a birth defect). This makes fighting and self-defense very difficult, but she always does whatever she has to do to survive. The US depicted in this book is mostly in a state of anarchy, there is some kind of ineffective government in place and the police are mostly as bad – or worse – than the savages, robbers, rapists and cannibals roaming the land.
As I expected, the book is powerfully and beautifully written (in epistolary format). The characters are complex, vivid and entirely believable. If you are particularly squeamish some violent parts can be hard to read, though it is nothing compared to modern day “grimdark” fantasy like [b: A Game of Thrones|13496|A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, #1)|George R.R. Martin|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1436732693s/13496.jpg|1466917]. Though the book’s title is taken from the New Testament Parable of the Sower
is not a religious novel, much less a Christian one though Lauren’s Earthseed concept uses aspects of religion to inspire potential followers. More importantly it is a moving and thought provoking story about what makes living worthwhile. There is a sequel called [b: Parable of the Talents|60932|Parable of the Talents (Earthseed, #2)|Octavia E. Butler|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1170553715s/60932.jpg|249012] which I will read fairly soon, I intend to read all her novels anyway, unfortunately, there are only a few left that I have not read.
Update Dec 2015: I have read the sequeal Parable of the Talents
, it does not disappoint!