Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler: A-

From the back cover:
God is change. That is the central truth of the Earthseed movement, whose unlikely prophet is 18-year-old Lauren Olamina. The young woman’s diary entries tell the story of her life amid a violent 21st-century hell of walled neighborhoods and drug-crazed pyromaniacs—and reveal her evolving Earthseed philosophy. Against a backdrop of horror emerges a message of hope: if we are willing to embrace divine change, we will survive to fulfill our destiny among the stars.

Lauren’s diary entries begin in July 2024, on the eve of her fifteenth birthday, and continue through October 2027, when she is eighteen. In the meantime, the walled neighborhood near Los Angeles in which she and her family live is destroyed and she is forced out onto the road, heading north in search of a better life. Lauren is mature for her years, however, and is more prepared than anyone else for the day when catastrophe strikes. On the road, she collects companions and instructs them in the new religion she has discovered (she states firmly that she did not invent it) while searching for a place they can settle and create a community.

I wondered initially whether I would like this, or if it’d be too religious for me. There were times, indeed, where Lauren’s instruction of her new traveling companions did seem a little creepy and cult-like. Earthseed is really more of a philosophy than a religion, though, and boils down to: “There’s no God who cares about you. So stop sitting around, praying for His intervention, and take care of things yourself.” Since I don’t disagree, the religious stuff didn’t end up bothering me too much.

I found all of the dystopic details very interesting, though occasionally gruesome and horrible. The plot wasn’t complicated—let’s walk North!—but the various encounters with dangerous and desperate people turned what could’ve been a boring travel narrative into something engrossing. I also really liked Lauren, who is smart and level-headed, as well as the way race was dealt with (it’s mentioned and not ignored, but neither is it the defining trait of any character).

I’ll definitely be reading the sequel, Parable of the Talents, and probably checking out other things by Octavia E. Butler, too.

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  1. Butler is awesome! Check out Mind of My Mind and Patternmaster. I think you will like them both.

    Have you read any Sherri Tepper? Grass and the Awakeners were great.

    Also recommended is Fair Peril by Nancy Springer.

  2. Thanks for the recs! I’ve not read any Sherri Tepper and the only Springer I’ve read is I Am Mordred, which I recall thinking was pretty neat.

  3. If you like any of those, I can recommend a TON more 🙂

  4. It’s a deal!

  5. J. Andrews says

    Man.. I got so confused reading this comment thread. Thought I’d been leaving comments and then having blackouts!

    I recently read Fair Peril. It’s different, but not my favorite Nancy Springer from what few I’ve read so far.

    And I do like Octavia Butler, though I grew tired of her themes after reading several books.

  6. I was initially confused myself! The other Julie has a review blog, too. I read hers, so I’m happy to see she reads mine, too. 🙂

    I hadn’t realized that Butler’s works dwelt on the same themes. I can see how that would be irksome. After the sequel to this, I think I’m going to read the Lilith’s Brood anthology.

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