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Born 1947, Pasadena, California, died 2006
Octavia Estelle Butler was an American science fiction writer, one of the best-known among the few African-American women in the field. She won both Hugo and Nebula awards. In 1995, she became the first science fiction writer to receive the MacArthur Foundation "Genius" Grant. - from Goodreads
“Choose your leaders with wisdom and forethought. To be led by a coward is to be controlled by all that the coward fears. To be led by a fool is to be led by the opportunists who control the fool. To be led by a thief is to offer up your most precious treasures to be stolen. To be led by a liar is to ask to be told lies. To be led by a tyrant is to sell yourself and those you love into slavery.”
― Octavia E. Butler, Parable of the Talents
I only recently, after a decades long hiatus, have gotten back into reading Science Fiction and Fantasy works. During my time away authors have become world famous, won all the major genre works and died without me ever hearing of them.
Bloodchild, Butler's Hugo and Nebula Prize Winning novella, was my first venture into her work. I loved this story about humans and aliens in a symbiotic relationship. Next I read her time travel work in which an African American woman from contemporary California involuntarily time traveled back to a slave plantation in America, circa 1840. The conception is brilliant and Butler executed it well. I next made a bigger venture, reading her tetralogy Lilith's Blood. I found the overarching idea, the earth being repopulated by humans rescued long ago by aliens interesting but I had to slog my way to the end.
Parable of the Sower begins around 2024, a hopefully not prophetic date when trump could just be completing his second term. Set in a community near a totally in ruins Los Angeles, destroyed by drugs, an extreme shortage of water brought on by Climate Change, poverty and rampant lawlessness and corruption. Our narrator, an African American woman Lauren Otamina, lives in a small walled enclave, with her father, her step mother and her brothers. Her father is a preacher, in the old days both of her parents were professors. Lauren has a hyperempathy, a condition which causes her to feel the injuries of those around her. There is a highly addictive drug rampant which turns people into pyromaniacs. Lauren and her family are in constant fear of roaming bands of scavengers. Butler does just a wonderful job depicting a very believable dystopian vision of America.
One day scavengers burn down her small enclave, her family is killed. Everyone says things are much better in the northern states of Oregon and Washington and Canada is the new promised land. These states have border guards but if you are lucky you can get through. Lauren and a few other survivors set out north. Butler makes the journey very real.
Lauren has her own religion. Ultimately she learns of a safe heaven up north, owned by an older man she meets on her journey, where she hopes to set up a community.
I don't want to tell too much of the very exciting plot. There is a sequel to this work, Parable of the Talents that goes further into the life of Lauren after she forms her community. I hope to read it.
I greatly enjoyed this book.