Review: Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
I decided to pick up Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler after I was recommended it by several people, and I am really glad I did. I know dystopian is all the rage now, but let me tell you, Butler had this genre down long before Katniss was even thought of. While the events of The Hunger Games seem unlikely, people recognize that some part of human nature could allow that to happen, and to continue. Butler, though, shows an all too real and all too likely future dystopia.
Her dystopia has all the hallmarks of ages gone by, those days we shudder and sigh about, saying "we didn't know better." Debt slavery, the buying and selling of children for labor, a government quickly selling off public assets to private companies and those companies making life hell for the public.
The story centers on a young black woman with a strange birth defect (the ability to feel others pain, said to be the result of her mothers drug addiction) growing up in what was a solid middle class neighborhood and is now struggling to get by. The neighborhood has a wall around it to keep the poor out. Notably, it is a neighborhood in denial about how bad things are getting, and how close to being poor they themselves are. Lauren is not so naive. She sees the poor people beyond the wall as the inevitable future. She knows that one day people will be so angry at their situation, and see the 'wealth' that is their neighborhood, and try to attack. Her father, a preacher, knows this too and tries to get their neighbors on the right track to be able to survive.
Lauren's tactics are different than her fathers. So different that she forms an entirely new religion called Earthseed, the destiny of which is to spread across the stars. Lauren's belief system is about change and it's inevitability, it is about learning how to adapt to change, and learning how to use that change to one's advantage.
The book is highly relatable, as Lauren grows up and sees a very bleak feature in their gated community. Getting a job is incredibly hard, and while both her parents have jobs, and the neighbors all own their houses, her generation cannot hope for so much. The most they can hope for is to get married and have their own room in their parents house. Lauren wants something bigger, but the current state of the country doesn't seem hospitable to her dreams.
The attack she fears finally does come, and she and two peers are the only known survivors. They head north, and along the way find more desperate people. A family, former debt slaves, a doctor, and more people who are looking for something better. Each person meaningfully challenges Lauren's ideals and beliefs.
This is a fantastic book that I highly recommend. Read this book if you want to add diversity to your reading list, if you want to read about humanity at it's worst, and see it at it's best.