Thursday, March 15, 2012

Parable of the Sower

Parable of the Sower
Author: Octavia Butler
Grand Central Publishing, 2000
329 pages

This book is a radical departure from my usual mystery/crime thriller, but I do enjoy an occasional diversion. With all the hoopla surrounding the upcoming release of the movie The Hunger Games -- another example of dystopian fiction that I enjoyed -- I thought I'd check out Parable of the Sower by the late science fiction author Octavia Butler. It's the first of a two-book series that was originally published in 1993, and after reading it I can't help but wonder how many other books could have followed if not for Butler's untimely death in 2006.

Main character Lauren Olamina is a rather complicated young woman living in the 2020s. Her father is the local preacher, a man of great intelligence and a big temperament. Lauren lives with him, her brothers, and stepmother in southern California. The United States has gone to hell in a hand-basket, so to speak, the result of decades of economic and environmental disaster: it's now a third world country. Things are bad -- really, really bad.

Lauren has a sort of ability (some might say disability) in that she can feel the pain and pleasure of other people. This hyperempathy is a result of her mother's abuse of a drug while she was pregnant with Lauren; no doubt this is a huge reason for her complexity. But she's also a very forward-thinking young person, and while she's a teenager she begins putting down verses in a notebook that will eventually become the foundation for a new faith.

In the meantime, things go from bad to worse, and Lauren loses her family. Along with two others, she sets off on a journey to the north, where supposedly there are jobs and not as much chaos as in southern California. On this journey, Lauren will see the darkest sides of humanity, but will grown in strength and resolve. We know from reading the book's description that eventually she's going to be some sort of leader, so Parable of the Sower is really the back story. I'm looking forward to the second book, Parable of the Talents, which I seriously hope will come out on eBook sometime soon.

If you like dystopian stuff, this is a must read. However, it's very heavy. Hopefully it will make you think. And possibly act.