Parable of the Sower

Parable of the Sower

Book - 2007
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Parable of the Sower is a dystopian classic of terror and hope-the story of an African American teenage girl trying to survive in an all-too-real future-from the "grand dame" of science fiction, Octavia E. Butler.

When unattended environmental and economic crises lead to social chaos, not even gated communities are safe. In a night of fire and death, Lauren Olamina, an empath and the daughter of a minister, loses her family and home and ventures out into the unprotected American landscape. But what begins as a flight for survival soon leads to something much more: a startling vision of human destiny...and the birth of a new faith, as Lauren becomes a prophet carrying the hope of a new world and a revoltionary idea christened "Earthseed".

Chilling and thought-provoking for adult and young adult readers alike, "...there isn't a page in this vivid and frightening story that fails to grip the reader" (San Jose Mercury News).

*Includes reading group guide
Publisher: New York : Grand Central Pub., 2007
Edition: First Grand Central Publishing edition
ISBN: 9780446675505
Branch Call Number: SCI-FIC BUTLER 2007
Characteristics: 345 pages ; 21 cm


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Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
It thrills me to the core when I think about Octavia Butler living HERE. The brilliant writer who shows us the power of science fiction for new visions for women and people of color. She won multiple prizes for her writing, and was also a MacArthur Fellowship (aka the MacArthur Genius award), telling the rest of the world what we already knew: She was a (more)

From Library Staff

Octavia E. Butler wrote compelling science fiction and horror featuring strong African-American protagonists and spare, thoughtful prose. Also try: Steven Barnes, Nicola Griffith, Nalo Hopkinson, Maureen F. McHugh, Walter Mosley, Nnedi Okorafor, Judith Tarr and Sheri S. Tepper.

A young woman with empathic abilities joins a group of refugees in Northern California after the country is devastated by disasters. Can she survive the suffering of others she feels so vividly?

From the critics

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Jun 19, 2018

Survival stories have always resonated with me, and this one did not disappoint. It's post-apocalyptic, thought-provoking, and feels eerily relevant in today's political climate though it was published in 1993. I lost track of the many instances of prescient ideas, including virtual reality headsets, a president promising to make the country great again, the discovery of exoplanets, rising sea levels and climate change. Some parts of the story are quite violently graphic, and it is not difficult at all to imagine how easily a once-powerful nation could slide in a similar, bleak direction (if we aren't already).

Aug 24, 2017

Intensely moving and engaging read. Great for fans of survival fiction, with some social and philosophical commentary thrown in. It is all presented in an inviting way with the help of other characters who challenge the ideas and the protagonist responding in kind. Well written, great character development, enveloping world-building.

SCL_Justin Aug 05, 2017

The Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler is a dystopian novel that’s far more realistic than most. Economic downturn has forced communities to hunker down and maybe hope for the best, while drugs and deprivation force people who have even less to descend upon the people who have a little bit. And in all this, a teenage girl with overdeveloped empathy (she feels injuries in other people) is building her own way of seeing and being in the world.

It’s hard to take a lot of other fanciful dystopia at all seriously when this was done so well.

Jun 25, 2017

How fitting that I might finish this on Octavia E. Butler’s birthday!

This is a book that I’d been meaning to read for about a year — but the density of her books often intimidates me. If this is you, don’t put her off any longer, her books are so easily readable — I read my copy in two days.

The eeriest thing about Parable of the Sower is how close it is to reality. How this fiction, science fiction, no less, could be our future in a matter of years. Climate change has dried up a lot of the water. The world is hot, hungry, thirsty. The gap between the rich and the poor has widened, food is expensive, jobs are scarce, ambulances and police don’t come when called, and if they do, they take whatever money anyone has in their pockets and they leave.

And all of this, written in 1998, is set in 2024, which is approaching us faster than we realise. Butler says, in an interview at the back of the book, “I imagined the United States becoming, slowly, through the lack of foresight and short-term unenlightened self-interest, a third world country.”

She said that, in 1999. Let that sink in. Give it a minute.

This feels like Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale except… all the more real. Butler’s writing comes alive in her small details, in her emotional, visceral characters — in this case, the character of Lauren Olamina, the black fifteen-year-old daughter of a Baptist preacher who has a condition called hyperempathy.

Hyperempathy means that Lauren feels the pain and pleasure of others. A difficulty, in a crumbling world, where violence is rife, no one trusts anyone and riots catch like wildfire.

So there you have it — the main character is a young black woman with a disability / syndrome who is intent on surviving. It made me think of my own disability and how I would do in an apocalypse — I have a mild case of cerebral palsy and while I can walk, it takes twice the amount of effort and takes me longer. I always wrote myself off if the world ever did come to an end, I would be one of the first to go — I’m a liability, right?

So is Lauren Olamina, but she intends to survive.

Lily Meade, a prominent author and YouTuber once said that the absence of hope in a story was hope, that the blank pages might fulfil a promise yet, and I feel this is very true in the case of this novel.

Parable of the Sower is visceral, emotional and inspiring. It is the human condition. It is what we all hope to become when the world crumbles around us.

I love this book so much.

Apr 06, 2017

What a beautiful departure from the YA after school special dystopia that seem to be all the rage lately. This brutally graphic portrayal of the near future seems even more germane while Trump starts WW3 simultaneously in Syria and North Korea. I would say the only unrealistic piece is that when Octavia wrote this in the year of our Lord 1993 she believed fiat money would still hold value as society crumbles. Lord knows I have led a vigorous life and if there is one thing I now know besides women, it's that gold, guns, silver, cigarettes and ammo will be the true currency of the Trumpocalypse.

Mar 07, 2017

The Parable of the Sower is a complex feat of world-building. Butler creates both a crumbling dystopian vision of the United States, and simultaneously incarnates Lauren’s Earthseed philosophy out of that wreckage. She slowly and carefully balances the two, first introducing the reader to Lauren’s world, and then going deeper into her protagonist’s heart and mind to reveal her unusual belief system. What becomes clear in all of this is how much the more recent surge in the popularity of dystopian fiction stands on Butler’s shoulders. More eerie still is the resonance with reality; the novel’s presidential candidate is running on the promise to make America great again. Readers of contemporary dystopian will find much that is familiar here, despite the fact that this novel is nearly twenty-five years old.

Full review:

Aug 29, 2016

This isn't catalogued as YA literature, but I would recommend it to anyone who likes sci-fi novels with a strong teen protagonist. (Warning: there's some sex and a lot of violence.) It was first published in 1993 and set in the mid-2020s, so we can see how much of Butler's dystopian vision has come true.

Mar 21, 2016

Although I don't normally read science fiction novels, this is the March 2016 selection of the Willa Cather Book Club. This novel is set in 2025 California where unintended economic and environmental crises have led to social chaos. Lauren Olamina lives in a walled community with her father, stepmother, and 4 younger half brothers. When an attack from a group of "outside the wall" people destroys her home, she finds herself alone with two other survivors (not family) in the very dangerous, "Wild West" America. As Lauren walks from Los Angeles north, she cobbles together a new family and religion. A thought-provoking read...

PimaLib_JB Mar 06, 2015

Want to read a dystopia? How about sci-fi with strong female characters of color? If you haven't tried Octavia Butler, you're missing out!

Jan 29, 2015

An spectacular dystopian future story set apart from the pack by its lack of big, controlling government. Lauren Olamina lives in a near-lawless society in which survival is the main goal.

Butler writes in the tradition of the best of modern science fiction, and her focus on people of color is unique in the genre. This is an excellent and thought-provoking book.

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Mar 07, 2017

Sexual Content: Sexual assault

Mar 07, 2017

Violence: Rape and murder


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Mar 07, 2017

Lauren Olamina is part of the generation of children who do not remember the world before. Before the water shortages, and the walled communities, and the drug addicts who burn anything and everything just to watch the flames. Before the California-Oregon border was closed, and Alaska began to talk about seceding. Lauren believes the Earth is dying, and that sooner or later, humanity will have to take to the stars in order to survive. And Lauren means to survive. But how can she convince those around her that they must be ready, that the good times her father and step-mother talk about are never coming back? As the world outside the wall continues to crumble, Lauren hones the philosophy she believes to be humanity’s only hope, becoming the lonely prophet of a new religion born from the ashes of American civilization.


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Mar 07, 2017

I’ve never felt that I was making any of this up—not the name, Earthseed, not any of it. I mean, I’ve never felt that it was anything other than real: discovery rather than invention, exploration rather than creation.


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