I’ve had Octavia Butler on my radar for awhile. Several friends have recommended her. And, at some point, her books were really cheap on Amazon, so I stocked up on some ebooks. So when I had to read a book written by a person of color, I immediately though of her and chose Parable of the Sower, knowing absolutely nothing about it.
The story is in my favorite genre, dystopia, and even though I’m a bit burned out on these books, I still appreciate a well written one. Butler isn’t a YA writer, but her book falls mostly into this category. It doesn’t explain how the world is the way it is (takes place in the years 2025-2027) but the world has fallen apart and life is hard. She makes some adjustments to the world by creating fictitious illegal drugs. One drug makes people obsessed with fires. Another leaves people with hyperempathy. Lauren, our main character, has this ‘sharing’ because her mother took the drug while pregnant. Lauren feels others’ pain. When a person is shot, it feels like she has been shot.
Lauren’s family lives in a cul-de-sac in California, and even though they have a gate and guard their property, one night, several homes are set on fire and all the homes are robbed. Lauren is lucky to escape, but most aren’t so fortunate. She and a few survivors travel north, looking for a place to resettle and gather other travelers along the way. Lauren, even though she has never lived outside her cul-de-sac, is very street smart and knows not to trust others. However, the people she meets along the way prove just how desperate they are for help as well.
Lauren sees God as Change. And through her religious teachings, her God evolves into something not good or evil, but as simply the natural process of the world. She calls this new belief Earthseed. While traveling, she tells her group about Earthseed and her beliefs.
Butler skillfully tackles important issues like gender, feminism, sexuality, and motherhood with such creativity and honesty. Every decision the characters made felt authentic and sensible, given their situation. There is a sequel to this book, and I’m really excited to revisit Lauren and her fellow travelers.