I’ve only gotten through six books during 2021 so far and I loved every single one of them! They’ve mostly been communist theory, Sci-Fi, and abolition focused (here’s the last one I wrote about), and the one that grabbed my attention quickest is Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower. Parable of the Sower is the first of the Parable series, which should have been a trilogy should Butler have written the third novel prior to her death in 2006. Butler was a brilliant Sci-Fi author whose work won honors such as the MacArthur fellowship; Arthur C. Clarke, Nebula, and Hugo awards. She was the first Sci-Fi writer to win a MacArthur fellowship, which she received in 1995 following the publication of Parable of the Sower. Butler published 15 books with 10 of them falling within 3 different series: Patternmaster, Xenogenesis, and Parable or ‘Earthseed’. Butler’s work was inherently focused on humans and how we interact with each other and the species and world around us. Her writing was extremely realistic— especially throughout the Parable series, which was sometimes difficult to read as it became more bloody and gruesome. However, the novel that was published in 1993 (and Parable of the Talents, which I just finished today) is an incredible vision of humanity’s future and what we could end up struggling through if we continue living under this economy, governmental neglect, and increasing climate change.
I’m not the most avid fan of Science Fiction (I’m more of a consumer of abolitionist and communist nonfiction texts), but I love how Butler mostly examined the people suffering through realistic future catastrophes rather than just the setting itself. Parable of the Sower is about a 15-year-old girl named Lauren Oya Olamina who’s a “sharer” (she feels the pain and pleasure that other people experience) and is living with her family in their walled-off community during massive environmental and economic collapse. Jobs are hard to find and people are addicted to drugs that make them set fires and kill people, so the world is dangerous for everyone. Some way through the novel, Lauren’s entire family is gone and her community they worked so hard to build is destroyed by a large group of users. And although she loses everything and everyone she loves, she courageously leads a group of survivors from all across the West Coast on a treacherous journey to find a safe place to build her Earthseed religion, which is the belief that God is Change and that everyone will one day seek shelter and better lives among the stars.
I love Parable of the Sower because Butler developed such rich and interesting characters that all felt different and whole even though there were many of them the reader has to remember. I actually grew to care about the many people Lauren found along the way and I was on edge the whole time hoping they’d be safe and make it to their resting place. Butler made the story as nerve wracking and scary as possible by building tension and making me feel like I was in this dangerous future constantly looking over my shoulder like the characters did. Even though the book was well over 350 pages, I was racing toward the end and hoping to find more pages of story! I was also terrified about how Butler predicted so much of what our future could look like when she wrote the novel in 1993. We could face these same situations of devastating climate change and economic failure if we don’t make any changes in society. I loved Parable of the Sower and am excited to share my thoughts on Parable of the Talents next!