Book: Parable Of The Sower by Octavia Butler
Published November 1993 by Four Walls Eight Windows|299 pages
Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library
Series: Earthseed #1
Genre: Adult Dystopia/Apocalyptic
When unattended environmental and economic crises lead to social chaos, not even gated communities are safe. In a night of fire and death Lauren Olamina, a minister’s young daughter, loses her family and home and ventures out into the unprotected American landscape. But what begins as a flight for survival soon leads to something much more: a startling vision of human destiny… and the birth of a new faith.
Lately, I’ve been on an Octavia Butler kick, and while I have yet to read Kindred, I will get to it at some point. I really liked Fledgling and Wild Seed but I didn’t like Parable Of The Sower as much as I thought I would. I liked it, but not as much as I expected to.
Parable Of The Sower felt really dense, and I could only read it a few chapters at time before I had to put it down. It felt really slow, which does make sense, given it takes place over the span of several years. And it’s in sort of a diary-format, which was fine, but I think that’s why it felt so slow to me. Considering everything is falling apart, I was surprised that things moved so slow.
I did like seeing the community that Lauren wanted to build, especially in the world she’s living. It’s only ten years from now, when the book takes place, so as far as time goes, it’s not too far off from where we are now. And I can picture a world where communities are nervous about new-comers or people passing through, and in some areas, being walled off. And people stealing and starting fires because of a new drug out there (which I think was initially to cure Alzheimer’s that had some really bad effects), and water shortages….the water shortage is all too familiar to me, living in San Diego, so I can picture parts of the book really well.
Still, we are put in this world, where jobs are hard to find (also sort of familiar, in a general sense) and people are in debt to the point that debt slavery is a thing. And I wish we had more context for what happened to U.S. I got the general idea, but I kind of wanted more specifics about how the world Lauren lives in got to that point.
And in a weird way, I was reminded of Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. Partly because of the fact that the book takes place over a long span of time, but also because things are unraveling/have unraveled, and that there are small pockets of people banding together, and the time spent on the open road. Other than that, I’m not quite sure why I thought of Station Eleven, but it could be an interesting read-alike for Parable Of The Sower.
There is a lot about gender, class and race in the book, and what it’s like for a California that’s set in the near-distant future. I think that’s pretty typical for Butler’s work, if the other books I’ve read by her are any indication. But I like that she does that, because it doesn’t seem to happen a lot. Then again, maybe I’m just not reading a lot of books where it comes up (but I am trying to make more of an effort to do that).
I’m not sure how I feel about Lauren having hyper empathy, or able to feel other people’s pain/pleasure. It seemed a little confusing, and how it affected her seemed randomly put in, and sort of distracting. Like, how can she bike around, and not be affected by other people? Or, how can she kill, but not die herself? And, why/how did she outgrow bleeding when other people did, but not outgrow pain? It seemed a little out of place in this world, and the only explanation we get for why she is that way is because her mom was a drug user. It was actually kind of disappointing, especially after reading both Fledgling and Wild Seed.
I think it’s time to talk Earthseed itself. I get Lauren created it herself, and she didn’t share her father’s religious beliefs. A lot of people don’t, and that’s fine. But it seemed more like a philosophy than an actual religion, but maybe that’s because it’s not really set up as an actual religion with followers in this book. The Earthseed stuff wasn’t as interesting as I thought it would be, and I ended up skipping over all of Lauren’s Earthseed writings. I get why she wanted a community, especially in the world she’s living in, but it didn’t really pay-off in this book.
3 stars. Parable Of The Sower felt really dense, and Earthseed itself was really uninteresting to me. I just had a really hard time getting into it, but it could be an interesting read-alike for Station Eleven.