Reactions to ‘Parable of the Talents’

Parable of the Talents

Last month almost to the day I wrote about Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower—the first of her Parable series that I consumed with such speed you’d think I wasn’t doing anything else but reading all day. In that post I wrote “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.” And while I loved Parable of the Sower, the sequel Parable of the Talents left a longer lasting imprint in my mind.

Parable of the Talents was published in 1998 and it focused on protagonist Lauren Oya Olamina and her estranged daughter Asha Vere while they wrote about their lives and the world around them in two different timelines. In Lauren’s journal beginning in 2032 (several years after the first book is set), she wrote about the election of a terrifying right wing conservative president named Andrew Steele Jarrett who vows to “make America great again” (and this was written in the 90s, remember?) and oversees militant religious soldiers that terrorize anyone Jarrett sees unfit. Lauren’s Earthseed community takes shape with many new characters and a real tangible home, but despite their upstanding status in their city, Jarrett’s orders directly target Lauren and everyone she holds dear. Asha is a baby in these sections, but she ends up on a terrible journey of her own separated from her parents and the people who loved her. It’s unclear to the reader throughout most of the novel whether Asha and Lauren have any connection, but Butler reveals their destinies in the end.

I was captured greatly by Parable of the Talents and even more so than Parable of the Sower because of how terrifying the majority of the book is. I was scared by the first novel because of its dystopian setting and the way people were excited about hurting each other throughout. However, Parable of the Talents hits almost too close to home as Jarrett obviously has the same slogan that Tr*mp used for his political campaign and their politics run parallel to each other. A large chunk of the book is about what Jarrett’s militant followers do to those they disagree with, which was particularly traumatizing to read. There are obvious triggers throughout regarding sexual assaults, murder, and other tortures, which are similar to that of the first book. However, I read the novel as both a cautionary tale and a story of hope because no matter how bad people could be, there were many who truly helped each other. I would highly recommend this novel to anyone willing and able to read about dystopian sci-fi that’s almost a little too scary and reflective of our times.