sturgeonslawyer (sturgeonslawyer) wrote,
sturgeonslawyer
sturgeonslawyer

The Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler (2019-37)

A tale of hope (maybe) set in a grim and all-too-realistic future, this is the first book of what Butler initially planned to be about six, but in the end wrote only two.

As the environment deteriorates, so too does American society. 

In 2024, Lauren Oya Olamina lives with her father, stepmother, and stepbrothers in a walled neighborhood in the Los Angeles area. Note that this is not a planned "walled community," but a suburban court whose residents walled it in as protection from growing violence and vagrants. This is a serious wall with barbed wire and "lazor wire" on its top, and the keys to the gate are jealously guarded. Her father, a minister of a Baptisty sort of home church, works as a college professor, which he mostly does from home, but has to go in now and then for administrative duties, which is dangerous.

Olamina herself has a serious problem: her mother was using a drug when she was pregnant with her, which resulted in Lauren having a neurological disability that causes her to feel others' pain. It isn't true empathy; she feels it only if she can see it. She cannot believe in her father's religion, and starts keeping notes for her own religion, which she calls Earthseed. It is a bit of a survivalist religion, a bit of a protect-the-earth religion, and its goal, if it has one, is to colonize the stars. Its god is Change. It is actually a very positive faith, with a bit of a Taoist feel to me.

The first half or so of the book is about things Gradually Getting Worse. Lauren's oldest step brother escapes the community, joins a gang, brings the family valuable presents, and is finally brutally murdered. Her father simply disappears on his way home from work. Company towns make a reappearance.There is a new drug going around that makes people want to burn things; fire is experienced as more pleasurable than orgasm.

Finally, in an orgy of destruction, Olamina's community is destroyed by a gang of fire addicts and general looters. With two other survivors, she heads north, looking for a place where she can settle down and start a community of Earthseed. She actually makes converts as she travels, and  finds a place. Setting it up as a community is the end of Book One.
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