Octavia E. Butler: Parable of the Sower

Hi there! I hope you’re enjoying this Holiday season. I know it’s a busy time for all of us, and I just want to extend well wishes to you and your families.

With that being said, let’s talk about Butler’s never completed Parables series. Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents are the only two books in the series that were ever written. It is said that Octavia Butler had plans for seven more books in the series, but had such a difficult time writing the third book (due to grieving her mother’s death) that she scrapped the rest of the series.

Parable of the Sower is the first of the two-book series. In it, the reader is introduced to the main character, Lauren Olamina, who lives through a tragic experience and goes on a journey that leads to the development of an entirely new faith. It’s the year 2024. Lauren is the daughter of a Baptist minister, but she no longer believes in her father’s God. Even so, she allows herself to be “initiated” into that church through baptism because, she says, she is a coward. She wants to please her father.

They live in a community surrounded by a wall. Some adults still have to go outside the wall once or twice a week to work, but none of the children go outside the wall to school any longer. Outside the wall is dangerous. The cost of water is going up—several times as much as gasoline—and water peddlers, who sell water to squatters and people who have kept their homes, but can’t pay their utilities, are being murdered.Only the arsonists and the rich purchase gasoline, but it’s impossible to completely give up water.

Lauren Olamina is left alone when her community is set on fire one night and she loses her entire family along with her home. She has to leave the previous safety of her wall, and journey out into the chaos left behind after environmental and economic crises change the social landscape of the US.Making things more difficult for Lauren is her Hyperempathy Syndrome, a congenital disease she contracted due to her mother’s drug use. Her illness creates in her the delusion that she feels the pain, and pleasure, of those around her. Throughout her journey she discovers things and settles upon ideas that lead her towards the development of a new system of belief called Earthseed. “The Destiny of Earthseed is to take root among the stars” she says, and that is the future she works toward in this first book.

Parable of the Sower is set in the not-too-distant future—less than ten years to be exact. It is said that Butler came to this vision of the future by imagining what would happen if the current woes of the United States progressed, unchecked, to their logical ends. There is caution written between the lines of the narrative, and we should take heed.

Have you ever seen an episode of The Outer Limits? It is by far my all time favorite show. Each episode is completely science-fiction, but underlined with a lesson. At the end, a warning to the present generation about where we will end up if we continue on the path we’re on. If you have never seen it, find it. Another option: Black Mirror, currently on Netflix. There is no narrator at the end telling you what lesson you should’ve learned, like with The Outer Limits, but if you pay attention to what you’re watching, you should be able to gather that lesson all by yourself.

Obviously, I’m not really reviewing the book as much as giving you a little teaser about it. Reviewing requires an unbiased opinion of the work, and you’re not going to get that from me when it comes to Octavia Butler. However, if you have any specific questions, feel free to ask.

In my next post we’ll continue the Parables series with Parable of the Talents. Until then…

Happy Reading!



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