Parable of the Sower

Parable of the Sower

Book - 2000 | Warner Books ed.
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This acclaimed post-apocalyptic novel of hope and terror from an award-winning author "pairs well with 1984 or The Handmaid's Tale " and includes a foreword by N. K. Jemisin (John Green, New York Times ).

When global climate change and economic crises lead to social chaos in the early 2020s, California becomes full of dangers, from pervasive water shortage to masses of vagabonds who will do anything to live to see another day. Fifteen-year-old Lauren Olamina lives inside a gated community with her preacher father, family, and neighbors, sheltered from the surrounding anarchy. In a society where any vulnerability is a risk, she suffers from hyperempathy, a debilitating sensitivity to others' emotions.

Precocious and clear-eyed, Lauren must make her voice heard in order to protect her loved ones from the imminent disasters her small community stubbornly ignores. But what begins as a fight for survival soon leads to something much more: the birth of a new faith . . . and a startling vision of human destiny.

Publisher: New York : Warner Books, [2000], c1993.
Edition: Warner Books ed.
ISBN: 9780446675505
Characteristics: 345 p. ; 21 cm.
Study Program: Accelerated Reader AR UG 4.6 15.0 66160.
Reading Counts RC High School 7.1 16 Quiz: 08885 Guided reading level: NR.


From Library Staff

November 2019 selection

List - Beyond 1984
SethE_KCMO Mar 02, 2017

Lauren is a young founder of a new religion in a world where government is corrupt and barely holding things together. This classic combines racial tensions, religion, and politics in a monumental novel - and there's a sequel!

Butler is well-known for her novel Kindred, but her lesser known sci-fi series is worth a read. It’s got adventure, action, romance, suspense - everything to make up an awesome set of novels.

From the critics

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Jun 20, 2020

Set in 2020s California, this novel presents a believable picture and provides a warning. The young heroine fleeing north develops her own Earthseed doctrine. Why does she need to invent a "new religion" when the author's message seems to be that community is the answer.

Apr 12, 2020

Read this more than a year ago and continue to be haunted by it. Very troubling and far too prophetic, I fear. But so beautifully and sharply written. This novel transports and inspires. Octavia Butler deserves to be read and appreciated by us all.

Michael Colford Feb 20, 2020

Twenty-seven years after it was first published (and I first read it), but only five years away from the start of the narrative, Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower is more prescient and more frightening than ever. In this dystopian future, society as we know it has succumbed to violence, corruption, and the disintegration of community, as the trajectory of the human race advances to its sadly inevitable collapse. Laws are ignored, or enforced by a corrupt and violent police force, and humanity either live in poorly-secured, walled enclaves, tightly-controlled, violent cities where slavery has re-emerged, or riskiest of all, out in the wilderness, where the weak are preyed upon by the desperate.

Lauren is a teenager living in a small, walled community in California. Her father is the local preacher, and her mother teaches the handful of children in the community. Her younger brothers are wild and reckless. Yet Lauren possesses a maturity and wisdom that set her up as different from the start. For one thing, she is a sharer, afflicted with a condition that forces her to feel the pain of others around her if she witnesses them. This can be a disability if she is trying to defend herself from predatory aggressors, but Lauren is prepared. She knows that the time will come when the encroaching dangers will overrun her community and she carefully plans her escape.

Despite the intellectual rejection of religion, even her father's, Lauren applies her intelligence and her thoughtfulness in the creation of a new religion, one that espouses God as Change, and she calls it Earthseed. When the inevitable happens, and Lauren's community is overrun, Lauren finds herself fleeing for her life with other refugees - wandering the dangerous, largely abandoned roads to head north, where there is a belief the life might be better. Along the way, Lauren finds other essential decent people among the cast-offs, and all the while, quietly and reasonably shares the philosophy of Earthseed. Can Lauren create a movement that will help set humanity back on a redemptive path? Or will this tiny, emerging movement be crushed by the inevitable crush of chaos.

Now as an adult, with years of life experience, Parable of the Sower resonates with me so much more. Butler's uncanny way of seeing a possible and plausible outcome of the trajectory of present-day society (even back in the early 90's) is frightening, as this violent, self-destructive society, where racism, addiction, environmental collapse, corruption and violence have become the norm to the extreme.. There are so few dots to connect to see our own world becoming Lauren's. Butler's novel is a classic, and I'm looking forward to rereading the sequel, Parable of the Talents.

Feb 19, 2020

Somewhat frightening, less fascinating.
I highly regard author's sharp observations and perspectives, but the ingenious creations (e.g. sharer, Pyro addicts) appear rudiments, yet fleshed out and better formed or made believe. I'd be a follower of Earthseed if it were not proclaimed as a Religion. Its poetic allure faded when I merely halfway through the book. It's Gospel verse without music, singing rendition is the key to deliver otherwise a dull text message. Realism feel in a sci-fi novel should not limit an imagination to be less.

Feb 17, 2020

Too dystopian and troubling

SnoIsleLib_LaurenH Oct 23, 2019

This is a smart and surprisingly prophetic story. This book is a dark, strangely quite familiar dystopia, but ultimately a hopeful one. Highly recommended for fans of speculative fiction and end-of-the-world stories.

Oct 17, 2019

Butler paints a realistic and frightening picture of the future of our world, ravaged by increasingly drastic climate crises and a lack of resources - food, water, etc. The events that take place in the book seem entirely plausible, demonstrating how apocalyptic circumstances will happen in incremental steps that we might not see if we're not paying attention. In truth I didn't feel as much of a connection to the religious aspect as I did to the tale of survivors banding together to forge a future. Definitely worth your time, highly recommend.

Jan 01, 2019

Geez I couldn't get into this book. It was written journal style which made it way more difficult to connect with Lauren (I never actually felt like I DID connect with her character), I couldn't get behind the Earthseed religion (it just felt way too unnecessary and like it was added either for shock factor or as an excuse of a motive), and the slow pace of the story just lost me. Honestly I was way more interested in the backgrounds of the side characters than anything that actually happened in this story. Knowing that this was pretty much written in response of the LA riots makes more sense and helped put it in better perspective for me but I couldn't get over the entitled attitude of Lauren and how she seemed unable to empathize with anyone, especially when she seemed to look down on and blame the poor for being dirty and poor. Like, what???

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.

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Jan 20, 2019

Sexual Content: There are a few sexual scenes, but the positive ones aren't described in any detail; this isn't a pornographic novel and the scenes are included not for reader entertainment but to characterize the protagonist and/or to move the plot forward. (See below for more about the negative sexual scenes.)

Jan 20, 2019

Coarse Language: Swearing and brief discussion of anatomy and sexual themes at a few places.

Jan 20, 2019

Frightening or Intense Scenes: Sexual assault is an ever-present force in the protagonist's world and it's mentioned semi-frequently. There is semi-graphic description of a sexual assault of one of the characters, but after that it isn't mentioned much. Death of all kinds--animal and human--is brought up frequently. Don't read if you find mild description of graphically violent scenes to be too much. I myself was okay, though.

Jan 20, 2019

Violence: See "Frightening or intense scenes" for information.

Mar 07, 2017

Sexual Content: Sexual assault

Mar 07, 2017

Violence: Rape and murder


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Jan 20, 2019

astronus thinks this title is suitable for 17 years and over


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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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