Some books (like another book I reviewed, Labyrinth) draw you into their world so much that you can’t put them down. And then there are the books that draw you so far into their world that you start to think that you are in that world. One book that hit me like that was On the Beach – it took me a while to shake off the feeling we were living in a post-nuclear-war society. This is also how Parable of the Sower hit me.
Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler is an amazing piece of science fiction. It is one of those books that will draw you into its world – several people recommended it to me, even people who don’t like science fiction.
The setting is in the late 2020s, in California, outside LA. The economy and the climate have changed so much that people have created walls around their neighborhoods to protect themselves from looters. Dogs have become feral and dangerous. Only the very wealthy have cars – most people have bicycles. Guns are required to survive, and you have to protect your food and water. Water is a rare commodity, and is very expensive. People are robbed and killed for their belongings, and it is dangerous to go outside your walled community.
The narrator is a young African-American woman named Lauren. She is living in one of the walled neighborhoods, her father is a minister and a college professor, and her neighbors have grouped together to help eachother. Lauren’s biological mother took drugs during her pregnancy, and Lauren is a “sharer” – she feels the pain of the people around her. This is seen as a weakness (what if she had to hurt someone when guarding the neighborhood?), so it is a family secret. Lauren has a step-mother and younger brothers who she tries to protect. She and her step-mother hold a school for the neighborhood children, as it is too dangerous to leave the neighborhood to go to a school.
The world has changed so much – and Lauren expects more change, so she creates a pack filled with supplies she can grab in case there is an emergency. When an emergency does come and forces her to follow her dream of going North, Lauren finds herself using her poems to help others see her dream of her new belief system (”EarthSeed”). Her experiences walking on the main highways of California were amazing.
I highly recommend Parable of the Sower to anyone who wants a book that will pull them in and let them live in another world. however, I suggest having a lighter book to read next, as this is an easy read, but one that leaves you with a lot of thoughts about the world and how it needs to be changed.