|Publisher:||Seven Stories Press|
|Product dimensions:||5.70(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.40(d)|
About the Author
A writer who darkly imagined the future we have destined for ourselves in book after book, and also one who has shown us the way toward improving on that dismal fate, OCTAVIA E. BUTLER (1947–2006) is recognized as among the bravest and smartest of contemporary fiction writers. A 1995 MacArthur Award winner, Butler transcended the science fiction category even as she was awarded that community’s top prizes, the Nebula and Hugo Awards. She reached readers of all ages, all races, and all religious and sexual persuasions. For years the only African-American woman writing science fiction, Butler has encouraged many others to follow in her path.
Read an Excerpt
From EARTHSEED: THE BOOKS OF THE LIVING
Gives shape to the light
Shapes the darkness.
Gives shape to life
Share this wholeness,
Defining the other.
Gives shape to the universe
As the universe
FROM Memories of Other Worlds
By Taylor Franklin Bankole
I have read that the period of upheaval that journalists have begun to refer to as "the Apocalypse" or more commonly, more bitterly, "the Pox" lasted from 2015 through 2030-a decade and a half of chaos. This is untrue. The Pox has been a much longer torment. It began well before 2015, perhaps even before the turn of the millennium. It has not ended.
I have also read that the Pox was caused by accidentally coinciding climatic, economic, and sociological crises. It would be more honest to say that the Pox was caused by our own refusal to deal with obvious problems in those areas. We caused the problems: then we sat and watched as they grew into crises. I have heard people deny this, but I was born in 1970. I have seen enough to know that it is true. I have watched education become more a privilege of the rich than the basic necessity that it must be if civilized society is to survive. I have watched as convenience, profit, and inertia excused greater and more dangerous environmental degradation. I have watched poverty, hunger, and disease become inevitable for more and more people.
Overall, the Pox has had the effect of an installment-plan World War III. In fact, there were several small, bloody shooting wars going on around the world during the Pox. These were stupid affairs-wastes of life and treasure. They were fought, ostensibly, to defend against vicious foreign enemies. All too often, they were actually fought because inadequate leaders did not know what else to do. Such leaders knew that they could depend on fear, suspicion, hatred, need, and greed to arouse patriotic support for war.
Amid all this, somehow, the United States of America suffered a major nonmilitary defeat. It lost no important war, yet it did not survive the Pox. Perhaps it simply lost sight of what it once intended to be, then blundered aimlessly until it exhausted itself.
What is left of it now, what it has become, I do not know.
Taylor Franklin Bankole was my father. From his writings, he seems to have been a thoughtful, somewhat formal man who wound up with my strange, stubborn mother even though she was almost young enough to be his granddaughter.
My mother seems to have loved him, seems to have been happy with him. He and my mother met during the Pox when they were both homeless wanderers. But he was a 57-year-old doctor-a family practice physician-and she was an 18-year-old girl. The Pox gave them terrible memories in common. Both had seen their neighborhoods destoyed-his in San Diego and hers in Robledo, a suburb of Los Angeles. That seems to have been enough for them. In 2027, they met, liked each other, and got married. I think, reading between the lines of some of my father's writing, that he wanted to take care of this strange young girl that he had found. He wanted to keep her safe from the chaos of the time, safe from the gangs, drugs, slavery, and disease. And of course he was flattered that she wanted him. He was human, and no doubt tired of being alone. His first wife had been dead for about two years when they met.
He couldn't keep my mother safe of course. No one could have done that. She had chosen her path long before they met. His mistake was in seeing her as a young girl. She was already a missile, armed and targeted.
FROM The Journals of Lauren Oya Olamina
Sunday, September 26, 2032
Today is Arrival Day, the fifth anniversary of our establishing a community called Acorn here in the mountains of Humboldt County.
In perverse celebration of this, I've just had one of my recurring nightmares. They've become rare in the past few years-old enemies with familiar nasty habits. I know them. They have such soft, easy beginnings. . . . This one was, at first, a visit to the past, a trip home, a chance to spend time with beloved ghosts.
My old home has come back from the ashes. This doesn't surprise me, somehow, although I saw it burn years ago. I walked through the rubble that was left of it. Yet here it is restored and filled with people-all the people I knew as I was growing up. They sit in our front rooms in rows of old metal folding chairs, wooden kitchen and dining room chairs, and plastic stacking chairs, a silent congregation of the scattered and the dead.
Church service is already going on, and, of course, my father is preaching. He looks as he always has in his church robes: tall, broad, stern, straight-a great black wall of a man with a voice you not only hear, but feel on your skin and in your bones. There's no corner of the meeting rooms that my father cannot reach with that voice. We've never had a sound system-never needed one. I hear and feel that voice again.
Yet how many years has it been since my father vanished? Or rather, how many years since he was killed? He must have been killed. He wasn't the kind of man who would abandon his family, his community, and his church. Back when he vanished, dying by violence was even easier than it is today. Living, on the other hand was almost impossible.
He left home one day to go to his office at the college. He taught his classes by computer, and only had to go to the college once a week, but even once a week was too much exposure to danger. He stayed overnight at the college as usual. Early mornings were the safest times for working people to travel. He started for home the next morning and was never seen again.
We searched. We even paid for a police search. Nothing did any good.
This happened many months before our house burned, before our community was destroyed. I was 17. Now I'm 23 and I'm several hundred miles from that dead place.
Yet all of a sudden, in my dream, things have come right again. I'm at home, and my father is preaching. My stepmother is sitting behind him and a little to one side at her piano. The congregation of our neighbors sits before him in the large, not-quite-open area formed by our living room, dining room, and family room. This is a broad L-shaped space into which even more than the usual 30 or 40 people have crammed themselves for Sunday service. These people are too quiet to be a Baptist congregation-or at least, they're too quiet to be the Baptist congregation I grew up in. They're here, but somehow not here. They're shadow people. Ghosts.
Only my own family feels real to me. They're as dead as most of the others, and yet they're alive! My brothers are here and they look the way they did when I was about 14. Keith, the oldest of them, the worst and the first to die, is only 11. This means Marcus, my favorite brother and always the best-looking person in the family, is 10. Ben and Greg, almost as alike as twins, are eight and seven. We're all sitting in the front row, over near my stepmother so she can keep an eye on us. I'm sitting between Keith and Marcus to keep them from killing each other during the service.
When neither of my parents is looking, Keith reaches across me and punches Marcus hard on the thigh. Marcus, younger, smaller, but always stubborn, always tough, punches back. I grab each boy's fist and squeeze. I'm bigger and stronger than both of them and I've always had strong hands. The boys squirm in pain and try to pull away. After a moment, I let them go. Lesson learned. They let each other alone for at least a minute or two.
In my dream, their pain doesn't hurt me the way it always did when we were growing up. Back then, since I was the oldest, I was held responsible for their behavior. I had to control them even though I couldn't escape their pain. My father and stepmother cut me as little slack as possible when it came to my hyperempathy syndrome. They refused to let me be handicapped. I was the oldest kid, and that was that. I had my responsibilities. Nevertheless I used to feel every damned bruise, cut, and burn that my brothers managed to collect. Each time I saw them hurt, I shared their pain as though I had been injured myself. Even pains they pretended to feel, I did feel. Hyperempathy syndrome is a delusional disorder, after all. There's no telepathy, no magic, no deep spiritual awareness. There's just the neurochemically-induced delusion that I feel the pain and pleasure that I see others experiencing. Pleasure is rare, pain is plentiful, and, delusional or not, it hurts like hell.
So why do I miss it now?
What a crazy thing to miss. Not feeling it should be like having a toothache vanish away. I should be surprised and happy. Instead, I'm afraid. A part of me is gone. Not being able to feel my brothers' pain is like not being able to hear them when they shout, and I'm afraid.
The dream begins to become a nightmare.
Without warning, my brother Keith vanishes. He's just gone. He was the first to go-to die-years ago. Now he's vanished again. In his place beside me, there is a tall, beautiful woman, black-brown-skinned and slender with long, crow-black hair, gleaming. She's wearing a soft, silky green dress that flows and twists around her body, wrapping her in some intricate pattern of folds and gathers from neck to feet. She is a stranger.
She is my mother.
She is the woman in the one picture my father gave me of my biological mother. Keith stole it from my bedroom when he was nine and I was twelve. He wrapped it in an old piece of a plastic tablecloth and buried it in our garden between a row of squashes and a mixed row of corn and beans. Later, he claimed it wasn't his fault that the picture was ruined by water and by being walked on. He only hid it as a joke. How was he supposed to know anything would happen to it? That was Keith. I beat the hell out of him. I hurt myself too, of course, but it was worth it. That was one beating he never told our parents about.
But the picture was still ruined. All I had left was the memory of it. And here was that memory, sitting next to me.
My mother is tall, taller than I am, taller than most people. She's not pretty. She's beautiful. I don't look like her. I look like my father, which he used to say was a pity. I don't mind. But she is a stunning woman. I stare at her, but she does not turn to look at me. That, at least, is true to life. She never saw me. As I was born, she died. Before that, for two years, she took the popular "smart drug" of her time. It was a new prescription medicine called Paracetco, and it was doing wonders for people who had Alzheimer's disease. It stopped the deterioration of their intellectual function and enabled them to make excellent use of whatever memory and thinking ability they had left. It also boosted the performance of ordinary, healthy young people. They read faster, retained more, made more rapid, accurate connections, calculations, and conclusions. As a result, Paracetco became as popular as coffee among students, and, if they meant to compete in any of the highly paid professions, it was as necessary as a knowledge of computers.
My mother's drug taking may have helped to kill her. I don't know for sure. My father didn't know either. But I do know that her drug left its unmistakable mark on me-my hyperempathy syndrome. Thanks to the addictive nature of Paracetco-a few thousand people died trying to break the habit-there were once tens of millions of us.
Hyperempaths, we're called, or hyperempathists, or sharers. Those are some of the polite names, And in spite of our vulnerability and our high mortality rate, there are still quite a few of us.
I reach out to my mother. No matter what she's done, I want to know her. But she won't look at me. She won't even turn her head. And somehow, I can't quite reach her, can't touch her. I try to get up from my chair, but I can't move. My body won't obey me. I can only sit and listen as my father preaches.
Now I begin to know what he is saying. He has been an indistinct background rumble until now, but now I hear him reading from the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew, quoting the words of Christ:
" 'For the kingdom of Heaven is as a man traveling into a far country who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. And unto One he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.' "
My father loved parables-stories that taught, stories that presented ideas and morals in ways that made pictures in people's minds. He used the ones he found in the Bible, the ones he plucked from history, or from folk tales, and of course he used those he saw in his life and the lives of people he knew. He wove stories into his Sunday sermons, his Bible classes, and his computer-delivered history lectures. Because he believed stories were so important as teaching tools, I learned to pay more attention to them than I might have otherwise. I could quote the parable that he was reading now, the parable of the talents. I could quote several Biblical parables from memory. Maybe that's why I can hear and understand so much now. There is preaching between the bits of the parable, but I can't quite understand it. I hear its rhythms rising and falling, repeating and varying, shouting and whispering. I hear them as I've always heard them, but I can't catch the words-except for the words of the parable.
" 'Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same and made them another five talents. And likewise he that had received two, he also gained another two. But he that had received one went out and digged in the earth, and hid his lord's money.' "
My father was a great believer in education, hard work, and personal responsibility. "Those are our talents," he would say as my brothers' eyes glazed over and even I tried not to sigh. "God has given them to us, and he'll judge us according to how we use them."
The parable continues. To each of the two servants who had traded well and made profit for their lord, the lord said, " 'Well done, thou good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.' "
But to the servant who had done nothing with his silver talent except bury it in the ground to keep it safe, the lord said harsher words . " 'Thou wicked and slothful servant . . .' " he began. And he ordered his men to, " 'Take therefore the talent from him and give it unto him which hath ten talents. For unto everyone that hath shall be given, and he shall have in abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.' "
When my father has said these words, my mother vanishes. I haven't even been able to see her whole face, and now she's gone.
I don't understand this. It scares me. I can see now that other people are vanishing too. Most have already gone. Beloved ghosts. . . .
My father is gone. My stepmother calls out to him in Spanish the way she did sometimes when she was excited, "No! How can we live now? They'll break in. They'll kill us all! We must build the wall higher!"
And she's gone. My brothers are gone. I'm alone-as I was alone that night five years ago. The house is ashes and rubble around me. It doesn't burn or crumble or even fade to ashes, but somehow, in an instant, it is a ruin, open to the night sky. I see stars, a quarter moon, and a streak of light, moving, rising into the sky like some life force escaping. By the light of all three of these, I see shadows, large, moving, threatening. I fear these shadows, but I see no way to escape them. The wall is still there, surrounding our neighborhood, looming over me much higher than it ever truly did. So much higher. . . . It was supposed to keep danger out. It failed years ago. Now it fails again. Danger is walled in with me. I want to run, to escape, to hide, but now my own hands, my feet begin to fade away. I hear thunder. I see the streak of light rise higher in the sky, grow brighter.
Then I scream. I fall. Too much of my body is gone, vanished away. I can't stay upright, can't catch myself as I fall and fall and fall. . . .
I awoke here in my cabin at Acorn, tangled in my blankets, half on and half off my bed. Had I screamed aloud? I didn't know. I never seem to have these nightmares when Bankole is with me, so he can't tell me how much noise I make. It's just as well. His practice already costs him enough sleep, and this night must be worse than most for him.
It's three in the morning now, but last night, just after dark, some group, some gang, perhaps, attacked the Dovetree place just north of us. There were, yesterday at this time, 22 people living at Dovetree-the old man, his wife, and his two youngest daughters; his five married sons, their wives and their kids. All of these people are gone except for the two youngest wives and the three little children they were able to grab as they ran. Two of the kids are hurt, and one of the women has had a heart attack, of all things. Bankole has treated her before. He says she was born with a heart defect that should have been taken care of when she was a baby. But she's only twenty, and around the time she was born, her family, like most people, had little or no money. They worked hard themselves and put the strongest of their kids to work at ages eight or ten. Their daughter's heart problem was always either going to kill her or let her live. It wasn't going to be fixed.
Now it had nearly killed her. Bankole was sleeping-or more likely staying awake-in the clinic room of the school tonight, keeping an eye on her and the two injured kids. Thanks to my hyperempathy syndrome, he can't have his clinic here at the house. I pick up enough of other people's pain as things are, and he worries about it. He keeps wanting to give me some stuff that prevents my sharing by keeping me sleepy, slow, and stupid. No, thanks!
So I awoke alone, soaked with sweat, and unable to get back to sleep. It's been years since I've had such a strong reaction to a dream. As I recall, the last time was five years ago right after we settled here, and it was this same damned dream. I suppose it's come back to me because of the attack on Dovetree.
That attack shouldn't have happened. Things have been quieting down over the past few years. There's still crime, of course-robberies. break-ins, abductions for ransom or for the slave trade. Worse, the poor still get arrested and indentured for indebtedness, vagrancy, loitering, and other "crimes." But this thing of raging into a community and killing and burning all that you don't steal seems to have gone out of fashion. I haven't heard of anything like this Dovetree raid for at least three years.
Granted, the Dovetrees did supply the area with home-distilled whiskey and homegrown marijuana, but they've been doing that since long before we arrived. In fact, they were the best-armed farm family in the area because their business was not only illegal, but lucrative. People have tried to rob them before, but only the quick, quiet burglar-types have had any success. Until now.
I questioned Aubrey, the healthy Dovetree wife, while Bankole was working on her son. He had already told her that the little boy would be all right, and I felt that we had to find out what she knew, no matter how upset she was. Hell, the Dovetree houses are only an hour's walk from here down the old logging road. Whoever hit Dovetree, we could be next on their list. Aubrey told me the attackers wore strange clothing, She and I talked in the main room of the school, a single, smoky oil lamp between us on one of the tables. We sat facing one another across the table, Aubrey glancing every now and then at the clinic room, where Bankole had cleaned and eased her child's scrapes, burns, and bruises. She said the attackers were men, but they wore belted black tunics-black dresses, she called them-which hung to their thighs. Under these, they wore ordinary pants-either jeans or the kind of camouflage pants that she had seen soldiers wear.
"They were like soldiers," she said. "They sneaked in, so quiet. We never saw them until they started shooting at us. Then, bang! All at once. They hit all our houses. It was like an explosion-maybe twenty or thirty or more guns going off all at just the same time."
And that wasn't the way gangs operated. Gangsters would have fired raggedly, not in unison. Then they would have tried to make individual names for themselves, tried to grab the best-looking women or steal the best stuff before their friends could get it.
"They didn't steal or burn anything until they had beaten us, shot us." Aubrey said. "Then they took our fuel and went straight to our fields and burned our crops. After that, they raided the houses and barns. They all wore big white crosses on their chests-crosses like in church. But they killed us. They even shot the kids. Everybody they found, they killed them. I hid with my baby or they would have shot him and me." Again, she stared toward the clinic room.
That killing of children . . . that was a hell of a thing. Most thugs-except for the worst psychotics-would keep the kids alive for rape and then for sale. And as for the crosses, well, gangsters might wear crosses on chains around their necks, but that wasn't the sort of thing most of their victims would get close enough to notice. And gangsters were unlikely to run around in matching tunics all sporting white crosses on their chests. This was something new.
Or something old.
I didn't think of what it might be until after I had let Aubrey go back to the clinic to bed down next to her child. Bankole had given him something to help him sleep. He did the same for her, so I won't be able to ask her anything more until she wakes up later this morning. I couldn't help wondering, though, whether these people, with their crosses, had some connection with my current least favorite presidential candidate, Texas Senator Andrew Steele Jarret. It sounds like the sort of thing his people might do-a revival of something nasty out of the past. Did the Ku Klux Klan wear crosses-as well as burn them? The Nazis wore the swastika, which is a kind of cross, but I don't think they wore it on their chests. There were crosses all over the place during the Inquisition and before that, during the Crusades. So now we have another group that uses crosses and slaughters people. Jarret's people could be behind it. Jarret insists on being a throwback to some earlier, "simpler" time. Now does not suit him. Religious tolerance does not suit him. The current state of the country does not suit him. He wants to take us all back to some magical time when everyone believed in the same God, worshipped him in the same way, and understood that their safety in the universe depended on completing the same religious rituals and stomping anyone who was different There was never such a time in this country. But these days when more than half the people in the country can't read at all, history is just one more vast unknown to them. Jarret supporters have been known, now and then, to form mobs and burn people at the stake for being witches. Witches! In 2032! A witch, in their view, tends to be a Moslem, a Jew, a Hindu, a Buddhist, or, in some parts of the country, a Mormon, a Jehovah's Witness, or even a Catholic. A witch may also be an atheist, a "cultist," or a well-to-do eccentric. Well-to-do eccentrics often have no protectors or much that's worth stealing. And "cultist" is a great catchall term for anyone who fits into no other l It seems inevitable that people who can't read are going to lean more toward judging candidates on the way they look and sound than on what they claim they stand for. Even people who can read and are educated are apt to pay more attention to good looks and seductive lies than they should. And no doubt the new picture ballots on the nets will give Jarret an even greater advantage.
Jarret's people see alcohol and drugs as Satan's tools. Some of his more fanatical followers might very well be the tunic-and-cross gang who destroyed Dovetree.
And we are Earthseed. We're "that cult," "those strange people in the hills," "those crazy fools who pray to some kind of god of change." We are also, according to some rumors I've heard, "those devil-worshiping hill heathens who take in children. And what do you suppose they do with them?" Never mind that the trade in abducted or orphaned children or children sold by desperate parents goes on all over the country, and everyone knows it. No matter. The hint that some cult is taking in children for "questionable purposes" is enough to make some people irrational.
That's the kind of rumor that could hurt us even with people who aren't Jarret supporters. I've only heard it a couple of times, but it's still scary.
At this point, I just hope that the people who hit Dovetree were some new gang, disciplined and frightening, but only after profit. I hope. . . . But I don't believe it. I do suspect that Jarret's people had something to do with this. And I think I'd better say so today at Gathering. With Dovetree fresh in everyone's mind, people will be ready to cooperate, have more drills and scatter more caches of money, food, weapons, records, and valuables. We can fight a gang. We've done that before when we were much less prepared than we are now. But we can't fight Jarret. In particular, we can't fight President Jarret. President Jarret, if the country is mad enough to elect him, could destroy us without even knowing we exist.
We are now 59 people-64 with the Dovetree women and children, if they stay. With numbers like that, we barely do exist. All the more reason, I suppose, for my dream.
My "talent," going back to the parable of the talents, is Earthseed. And although I haven't buried it in the ground, I have buried it here in these coastal mountains, where it can grow at about the same speed as our redwood trees. But what else could I have done? If I had somehow been as good at rabble-rousing as Jarret is, then Earthseed might be a big enough movement by now to be a real target. And would that be better?
I'm jumping to all kinds of unwarranted conclusions. At least I hope they're unwarranted. Between my horror at what's happened down at Dovetree and my hopes and fears for my own people, I'm upset and at loose ends and, perhaps, just imagining things.
(c) 1999 by Octavia E. Butler"
Table of Contents
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is a wonderful and prophetic look at a possible direction that society can lead to. I am also happy that a Character of African decent can be portrayed with such depth and intelligence. This sequel of Parable of the Sower is a must read for all people.
This book was the most brilliant piece of writing I have ever read. It took me 2 months to read it because I had to put it down every few pages just to mentally digest some of the ideas she puts forth.
Anything by Octavia E. Butler is truly a work of great art, and Parable of the Talents is one of her finest ever.
Tis book is the best fiction book i have ever read its even better that harry potter in my opinion.
I am an adult, and I loved this book, Octavia Butler is one of the best authors I have read. Very different and new and fascinating. I would love to meet this brave woman.
This book is one of my all time favorites. So much of it can be seen in our current reality that this could actually happen. An exceptional read.
Another great book and wonderful charactors, I am excited to think that there might be a sequel.
I didn¿t like this nearly as much as the first book, Parable of the Sower. In fact, I enjoyed it less and less as the book progressed. At first, it seemed like a continuation of the previous story: things are semi-stable in a U.S. gone mad¿whoops, things fall to pieces¿Lauren¿s personal drive and charisma save a few people¿rinse and repeat. A little of this for continuity would have been okay, but I had almost enough of it in the first book and it was time to move on to something else, especially to an exploration of the whole concept of Earthseed. Unfortunately, that didn't happen until the final few pages when, suddenly, the distopic elements just go away.The exploration of Earthseed never happened. For a major theme¿almost a character¿of the book, it got surprisingly short shrift. Lauren talked a lot about it but we never really saw its effects. For me, it was a violation of the classic dictum about fiction: ¿Show me, don¿t tell me.¿ The end result was that it felt hollow, as if Butler (and, by extension, Lauren) didn¿t really buy any of it, and was exerting a lot of effort.And the characters weren¿t able to save the story. I liked Lauren a lot in the first story. I still like her but she steps to the side to share center stage with other narrators, becoming a little more remote and insubstantial in the process. Her daughter, the primary narrator, is too petulant and self-absorbed to excite any positive feelings and her one other blood relation, also a narrator, turns out to be a minor sort of monster.Three quarters of the way through the story, as it became a litany of endless rape stories, and her daughter¿s groundless bitterness toward everything continued to grate on me, and the characters I actually enjoyed had died or moved out of the story, and the tide of Bad Things kept rolling¿I found myself saying, ¿I just don¿t care anymore.¿The only remaining question of real interest to me is the exact meaning of the title¿i.e., what is Butler¿s intended parallel between the biblical parable and Lauren¿s story?While I won¿t change the rating of Parable of the Sower based upon its sequel, I wouldn¿t have spent time on it had I known that the second half of the overall story would be like this.
I thought this book was better than Parable of the Sower. As I read it, I had flashbacks to The Handmaid's Tale, in that this society treats women as second class citizens. A theocratic government controlled the country, and I interpreted it as another comparison to the Moral Majority of the 90's taking over society. This world was much more detailed than Handmaid's Tale, and covered dystopian conditions over a much larger scale. I particularly enlightened by the section addressing the breakdown of the public education system. Acorn community citizens were able to educate each other. I am intrigued by the concept that in a collapsing society, poor children will not get education they deserve. Public education will come to an end, and it will only be available to the wealthy, and through private and religious organizations. I think this is relevent due to deteriorating economic conditions in the US and elsewhere.There wwere some good survivalist tenets also, like cacheing? supplies and money, salvage, and general self reliance.
A reread of Parable of the Sower reveals a dark vision of the near future that is eerily reminiscent of the pictures we all saw on TV following Hurricane Katrina, a frighteningly realistic portrayal of poverty and anarchy that is all too easy to imagine following on the heels of global warming¿s devastation. The follow-up, Parable of the Talents, is even more grim and harrowing than its predecessor in its depiction of an America plunged into chaos. Butler deftly picks up the threads of the major issues facing us today ¿ climate change, the widening gap between rich and poor, the privatization of education and social services ¿ and follows them to the inevitably disastrous results if these problems aren¿t addressed. Most frightening of all is the depiction of an America in the grips of Christian extremists who murder and enslave people and separate children from their parents, just because they do not hold the same beliefs.But Butler¿s story is one of hope too: of a prophet leading her people toward a better future, following a spiritual practice that makes more sense to me than most organized religions I know of, and of a goal ¿ to sow the seeds of humanity throughout space ¿ that I have always believed held the key to our survival as a species. God is change, indeed, but instead of fighting it or surrendering to it, just recognize it and use it to make your goals a reality. This message is contained within a work of fiction that paint a frightening picture of the future, but it rings very true to me.
Lauren Olamina's vision of Earthseed continues in this sequel to the "Parable of the Sower". It's slightly less powerful than the first book but still, a very worthy read. Olamina's first Earthseed community, Acorn, is thriving and slowly growing when extremists come in and destroy it. The adults are made slaves and children are taken. Eventually she and others escape and she attempts to find her stolen infant daughter (Larkin). At the same time, she still wholeheartedly believes in Earthseed and continues to teach the beliefs. Each of Olamina's journal entries is prefaced with words from her now-adult, estranged daughter. Each encapsulates how the women survived and kept on in a difficult world and their eventual reunion. There is hope, bitterness, grief, and joy in this novel. It is not action-packed but still is engaging. In a general way, it reminds me of titles such as The Road, Oryx & Crake, etc. I found Olamina to be the most interesting character in her refusal to give up on life, on change, on hope - no matter what she or others suffered. Some may say she was narrow in her views or obsessive, but she didnt just care about her vision - she cared about others and their condition - to me, that is honorable.To sum up, read it - after you read the 1st one (Parable of the Sower).
This could possibly be my favorite Butler novel (and at this point I've read them all except for two). It's a sequel to -"The Parable of the Sower" which gets you intimately connected with the characters. Then in this one you get to see them continue to suffer and struggle and survive (or not in some cases). By the end of the story I ended up screaming (out loud) at the characters that I hated and congratulating (also out loud) the ones that I liked when they succeeded at somethng. The plot was interesting but after reading her other works I'm starting to see a formula. These things are in almost all Butler's books.1) Strong, Black, Female main character (makes sense and there definitely aren't enough of them but I would have liked to see her branch out occasionally).2) Moving a race to the stars or evolving a race to create a kind of racial immortality. It's almost as if all the books are linked in someway.3) Intense suffering in a harsh environment. As the song says, "Nobody does it better." Although Russell's "The Sparrow" is probably at least as full of emotional suffering.The only other problem I had with this book is the "sharer" thing. I could have been completely removed and it wouldn't have effected the book in the least. I was sure it would end up being the key to some major plot element but it wasn't.
Parable of the Talents is the sequel to Parable of the Sower, and begins with the growth of Acorn, the Earthseed community which Lauren has established. The story is told half by excerpts from Lauren's journal that she kept over the next few years, and expanded upon by her daughter Larkin later. This book is more political than Parable of the Sower; much of the future is defined by Christian America, the majority political party of the US, who have denounced Earthseed as a dangerous cult. Even so, Lauren gathers new members and spreads the ideology of Earthseed, against all opposition in the brutal society which America has become. Parable of the Talents was an interesting read, and Lauren is one of the strongest female characters I've ever encountered, but Octavia Butler writes dystopian literature so well, and so grim, that it kind of weighed me down to read it. Still, a fascinating and unique story
This sequel to 'Parable of the Sower' reads differently than the first; instead of only seeing the world through Lauren Olamina's journal entries, we have the added voices of Lauren's daughter and even some sections from Bankole, her husband. The shift between these perspectives is sometimes jarring for the reader, but I do think that the multiplicity and the family dynamic both serve to open up the narrative in a productive way. Once again Butler brazenly approaches ideas of religion and politics, but this time the novel is less hopeful, even less spiritual in tone. The sections from the daughter's perspective are touched with bitter flavor, as the character struggles to come to terms with her mother's persona and the religious relationships that she has no part in. Ultimately, this is a novel about suffering, from multiple viewpoints, and about reality. That reality angle may seem a hard sell when one considers that this is a science-fiction-post-apocalyptic-near-future novel, but the way Butler has framed both the circumstances in which the characters find themselves and the extreme attitudes of some of the people they face will ring eerily true for 21st century readers, at least those who have been paying attention to the religio-political rhetoric that has been flying around in the US recently. For a novel published in the nineties, it feels impeccably timely. This is not an easy novel to read. The characters are harder -- life's experiences have made them that way -- and the events are even more horrific to witness, but as with any good future fiction, there are important messages to comprehend here. Perhaps even more importantly, there are vivid people and complex ideas to face -- the sheer magnitude of Butler's skill never fails to impress. There were some frustrating moments in the process, but this is absolutely worth reading. Recommended.
Innovative: this book tackles spirituality, feminism, race, and class issues and captures the complexity of all four. Superb in execution. Why give it a 2.5? Mostly, it's a personal thing: I just didn't enjoy reading it. Substantive critique: not every evil man is a *rapist*, and the bad guys in this book all seemed to be. That got pretty tiresome and 2-dimensional. When the Christian American splinter folks took over Acorn, you knew they were gonna be rapists... of course!!
Butler writes of a not-too-distant future in which climate change and economic crises have overturned society. The U.S. is in especially bad shape. Law and order are essentially non-existent; and most people are struggling on their own to survive poverty and violence. Slavery is back and nearly all rights, especially those of women, are gone. Extreme fundamentalist Christians are gaining power, leaving them free to burn "witches" and herd all "heathens" into concentration camps.In the midst of this chaos, Lauren Olamina sees humanity's best hope in a new belief system she calls Earthseed. She teaches that God is change, and humanity can only save itself by working towards its Destiny--to colonize other planets.The story is told partly through the writings of Olamina's daughter, but mostly through journal entries written by Olamina and those connected to her. It's a narrative style I frequently enjoy and it's used to great effect here. The characters become very real through the various first person accounts.This was often a harrowing book to read, but well worth it. It was the first Butler novel I've read; and I'm definitely going to read more.
Before I get into my review of Parable of the Talents, I'd like to make a general complaint about publishers who refuse to make it clear when a book is a sequel, or comes late in a series. I picked up this thick little volume at a book sale--the only Butler novel I could find, and shelved in the African-American Literature section, no less, despite being terribly and clearly dystopic science fiction. Because I've been trying to be better about reading books in order over the past several years, I checked both the back cover and inside list of Butler's published works. Not only was there no indication that this was a sequel, but it was also listed before Parable of the Sower on the inside flap, implying that this was the first book of the series.I think it's a dirty trick by publishers who, I suppose, think readers are less likely to pick up the second book, and I think it does a disservice to the readers.That being said, I'm not sure that my reading experience was at all marred by reading Parable of the Talents first, because I didn't even realize that I was reading a sequel until about two hundred pages in. This novel stands on its own incredibly well. Though, I'm sure, I missed out on some information which would have established the characters and the universe more firmly, I was actually only vaguely aware of this, and instead initially took this as one of the novel's strengths--that the universe felt complete and real; that the interactions within the universe by various characters did not need thorough introductions, because that's more true to how real people interact with the world around them.Parable of the Talents is a post-apocalyptic novel set in the near-future United States. The ice caps are melting and religious extremists have taken control of the US government. Amidst this, Lauren Olamina attempts to found both a community, Acorn, and a religion, Earthseed, which places human destiny in the stars. It's told through a series of journals and writings by four different characters; this is effective, but I found the two male perspectives offered largely dispensable. This is really a novel about mothers and daughters, and Butler offers strong, distinctive voices and a unique perspective on this relationship in the writings of Lauren and daughter Larkin.The characters here, both those two and the supporting cast, are very real. Though Lauren's husband Bankole is only with us for about half of the narrative, he's very realistically drawn; his concerns and characterizations felt incredibly true to life, and I found myself mourning the loss of him right along with Lauren.I wasn't quite sure of how I felt about Earthseed, though, and the religious verse that opened each chapter. It's a fairly simple and self-evident philosophy, which suggests, to me, that we were meant to feel utterly sympathetic toward it. This made me a bit uncomfortable--was this Butler's way of proselytizing?--and it also meant that Larkin's later objections to Earthseed felt false, or at the very least, petulant.The universe that Butler creates for us is a huge one, and quite immersive. Ultimately, I felt that the book could have easily supported another hundred pages. Instead, the ending felt rushed. We don't get to hear Lauren's voice after Earthseed becomes a successful movement, and I would have loved to experience it from her perspective.But still, the long-awaited interaction between Lauren and Larkin touched me at the end. It was incredibly sad and very affecting. This was another well-done novel from Butler. I look forward to reading the first in the series, even if I know, ultimately, how it ends.
A masterful example of craftsmanship, this epistolary style narrative manages to range from dystopia to future without ever losing the complicated, contradictory human nature of it's characters.This was an emotionally difficult book to read, the way that the news is difficult.
Octavia Butler writes the best and most human science fiction ever.
This is one of her most awesome piece of art.