Octavia E. Butler - Parable of the Sower

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Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower - The Underground Railroad Begins Again In Post-American Times

Jun 25, 2002 (Updated Oct 18, 2002)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Character driven. Heavy drama.

Cons:Not too sci-fi-ish. No real resolution.

The Bottom Line: A neat tale of the beginnings of the comeback of slavery in the U.S. (in the future). Not much sci-fi but well told through it's main character Lauren.


Octavia E. Butler's Parable The Sower is written in a loose diary format.

The novel itself is the story of Lauren Olamina, a young girl whose mother abused drugs while pregnant giving Lauren an 'empathic' ability (or curse may be more appropriate).

Lauren lives in a 'gated' community which is protected by a large wall to keep out the baddies. What baddies essentially means is that imagine a future where virtually all hope is gone. There are no jobs, none whatsoever. Life is garbage for most people. The mass population has turned to theft, rape, drugs, and sees violence every day. Only in these last small communities does some semblance of what life was like remain.

All good things come to and end so eventually Lauren's community collapses. Running for her life, she heads north towards Washington or Canada in the hopes of finding work and spreading her 'Earthseed' religious beliefs.

The only places left that pay money for work (everyone is slowly being converted into slavery) is in the northern States and Canada. Lauren isn't the only one who wants a paying job of course, along the highways she runs into thousands of people slowly walking their way up north. Many try to kill travelers to rob, rape, or just have fun. However, slowly during the course of her travels, her good deeds impress various other travelers that join up and travel with her.

The story isn't really anything too new for me. I've read this same type of story in various incarnations like Stephen King's The Long Walk for one. The only major difference is the black point of view Butler has and the future heading back into a slave-workforce storyline.

Butler's novels always give great insight on what it must have been like in the past and present as a black person, now she's written a great little post-apocalyptic tale describing a 'what if' slavery slowly came back to the United States?

One neat thing was the Earthseed religion that the lead character creates. I'm basically an Atheist so have never really understood religious beliefs too much. However, during a recent trip to Memphis' National Civil Rights Museum I read an excellent excerpt describing how blacks turned to religion to give them hope during their days in slavery. Perhaps that is why so many blacks I know have the strongest religious beliefs of anyone I know.

So what is Octavia actually saying in her Parable The Sower novel? Slavery is back and all hope is virtually gone. Does Earthseed (religion) give the characters that hope? Is Earthseed the hope that these poor futuristic slaves need? Do people need a religion like Earthseed during terrible times such as this future and the black slavery of the past?

As I learn more and more about black culture I get more and more fascinated by Butler's writing and how she seems to be able to tie in perfectly slight historical references (at least what I feel to be historic references) and the like. The novel I'm afraid most likely will not appease science fiction fans though. Unlike her Pattern Master or Xenogenesis series' this story doesn't contain anything really futuristic. The Earth as it is in Lauren's world could very well be tomorrow. Because of this, the people are the same and so is the technology. I would recommend this to people that don't normally read Butler's work because they dislike Sci-Fi. It's a good character driven tragedy.

Followed by: Parable Of The Talents


Recommend this product? Yes

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