Sunday, February 21, 2010

Book Review: Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler

The year is 2024 and 15 year old Lauren lives with her family in a walled community in LA County. Outside the walls, chaos rules. A water shortage has driven up prices on everything and people are desperate, stealing and killing just to survive. Even the police would rather steal from you than help you. These terrible conditions make Lauren strong, but can she survive all the trials that are coming her way?

Though I thought it got off to a slow start, once I settled into this novel’s rhythms, I was completely sucked in. I found it particularly interesting to see the gradual decline of Lauren’s community over a 3 year period, a stark contrast to a lot of apocalyptic fiction where the world is changed by a sudden event and there is a precisely defined before and after. Of course, even in a world of gradual decline, an individual can still have a defined before and after, and in Lauren’s case, it has to do with the event that forces her out on the road finally to fend for herself which comes about halfway through the narrative.

Lauren is a fighter and a survivor, and once she is out on her own, things start to really get interesting. I read this together with Megan of Po(sey) Sessions (we kept track of each other’s progress via twitter) and it wasn’t until this point that the novel really clicked for her. It’s because once Lauren starts her journey, she meets new people outside of her own experience that really broaden her understanding (and ours) of how bad it’s really gotten. Particularly galling is the government sanctioned slave driving that a lot of companies engage in because there are so many desperate people they can take advantage of. But we also meet (or at least see) cannibals, drug addled pyromaniacs, girls forced into prostitution by their own families, and “sharers” – people who share others pain and pleasure because of a drug they were exposed to in utero.

I wasn’t thrilled about the religion Lauren made up (and tended to skip the passages at the beginning of each chapter that were supposedly her teachings), but I did like that it added to her already very well-rounded and fascinating character. I’d definitely be interested in picking up the sequel, PARABLE OF THE TALENTS, to see how Lauren’s journey continues. (BTW - book boths are available in paperback)

My rating – 4 Zombie Chickens: An Excellent Example of the Dystopian (or in this case, Post Apocalyptic) Genre

See Index of all Dystopian Reviews on Presenting Lenore

12 comments:

bermudaonion said...

That actually sounds kind of scary. Can you imagine what would happen to the world if we really did have that kind of water shortage? Great review!

WilowRaven said...

I really love all of Butler's books. This one was a great one for me. Glad you liked it!

Tia said...

I just discovered Butler (I wish it hadn't taken this long!) and enjoyed her book Kindred. I've been thinking about which of hers I'd like to read next, and this sounds like a good one--and very different than Kindred.

Nicole (Linus's Blanket) said...

I've tried read one other book of Octavia Butler's besides Kindred and I wasn't able to get into it. I would like to read some of her other work so I might try this one at some point.

Misty said...

I've only ever read Kindred by Butler, but I loved it. I've been meaning to read more by her ever since. I need to make a to-do list...

Lily Child said...

Fantastic review! I will definitely be picking this one up in the near future! :)

Nymeth said...

I actually didn't know this was dystopian! I must read Butler.

Beth F said...

I haven't read any of Butler (I don't think) -- another author for the list.

Lu @ Regular Rumination said...

I've been reading this book off and on for almost 4 months now. Not because I think it's bad or anything, it's just nice to have a book that I can go back to like that. It's always there when I need it!

Lorin said...

This is such a scary book - it just felt so real!

J.T. Oldfield said...

I like it when apocalyptic books really look at details like what if there were a water shortage?

Zibilee said...

I read this book quite awhile ago and really like it. I thought it was really well written and want to read the second book. Any chance you will review that one too? I hope so!