The Earthseed duology describes a very possible future – published in 1993 & set only a few years ahead of now, Octavia has predicted the future in a very scarily but accurae way, producing an east-to-imagine destiny for America. Octavia’s imagination & incredible writing come together in these two books in an addictive & riveting way, that I became completely obsessed with.
⚠️ This book is set in a very potential near-future & includes a vast range of difficult adult topics. These include, but are not limited to, poverty, discussions of rape/sexual violence, a lot of violence, violence toward (wild) dogs, parent/child violent abuse, child deaths & murder, loss/death of parents & children, gun violence, hunting, murder, graphic descriptions of injuries, fire/arson, drug abuse, modern slavery, human trafficking, electrocution, off-page child rape, child abduction, homophobia, false imprisonment, symptoms of PTSD, suicide & scenes of a sexual nature ⚠️
Parable of the Sower
This book immediately grabs your attention; the storyteller, Lauren, narrates in a moving & haunting manner, & I knew very early on that I was going to enjoy this series. I had never heard of Octavia E. Butler before this & I now consider that an absolute crime. I know now that Octavia is well-loved & well-known & as I made my way through each book, I became more & more shocked that I hadn’t read her work before.
As I said in my intro, this book was published in the early 1990s & that makes it even more powerful as Octavia has put together a future that is very, very possible. Unfortunately, the series never touches on what it’s like outside of America during this time but readers do learn an awful lot about how dangerous, corrupt & poor the US has become. There is a lot of violence, new, dangerous drugs, endless crime & deep fearful, suffering. Lauren initially lives within a walled cul-de-sac so for part of book one she is relatively safe & happy with her family, but that soon changes & leads to Lauren having to face up to the dangers of the world outside her small community.
The plot of this book moved very quickly at times, & things changed suddenly throughout which helped to create a sharp & unpredictable atmosphere. Lauren doesn’t know what’s coming next & as we are following her via her journal entries, we also have no idea what’s to come. I really feel like the events in this book have never been more relevant than what they are today & throughout the book we are shown the true dangers of relaxed gun laws, drug use, discrimination & a lack of care for our fellow human beings. The book carries a very sad message, but also a vital one.
Octavia has created a fantastic protagonist in Lauren – Lauren is a well-rounded character who is forced to mature, grow, toughen-up & learn new things very, very quickly. I didn’t always agree with Lauren’s actions but I loved her as a narrator & developed a strong love for her. A big part of what makes Lauren who she is, is her belief in a system called Earthseed. Earthseed is a type of religion that you could say Lauren created, but which Lauren would say she discovered. Earthseed focuses on Change & encourages its followers to focus on changing & building the world into something new. This religion doesn’t have a God in the usual sense – God is Change & Change is God.
I found the Earthseed religion fascinating & it’s something that I was eager to learn more about throughout the book. A lot of the verses that Lauren writes in her journal throughout her journey made sense to me & as someone who fears change, I could see the logic in encouraging people to see Change as a good thing, as our purpose as humans & as something we should aim for rather than avoid. During Lauren’s travels through America she starts to teach strangers about the way she sees the world & Octavia wrote these parts of the book so well that I found myself considering Earthseed as a legitimate & real-life belief system.
Parable of the Sower ends in quite a surprising & quick way, at the end of Lauren’s journey to find somewhere safe, but the suddenness just made me want to get the second book as quickly as I could (& my mama bought it for me because of how excited I was about book one). PotS ends in a hopeful way & left me deep in thought about the state of the world, about religion & about facing your fears! It was fab.
Parable of the Talents
Parable of the Talents doesn’t pick up directly from where book one ends & it’s actually told in quite a different way from book one. This time around we are told the story from various different points of view, some of these in journal/diary form, some not. We are also reading about events that have already happened, rather than experiencing them with Lauren like in book one – I found this strange at first but it provides the opportunity to see how things had changed over the years, which was really interesting. Lauren’s character is also criticised quite a lot during book two, giving the reader the opportunity to see her in a very different way than in book one.
Despite not agreeing with the more negative view of Lauren we are fed in this sequel, I think it’s awesome that Octavia wrote the book in this way as it adds another perspective to the story. In book one, Lauren is very much painted as a hero, but in book two things go wrong, people die & Lauren feels that she has failed. Even though I still personally see Lauren & Earthseed as something positive, maybe even as something desirable, I know that this new perspective will sway other readers into seeing Lauren as a manipulative cult leader. In that way, I guess Octavia’s writing is as seductive & suggestive as Lauren is made out to be; these books make you believe in something, regardless of which opinion you side with. It’s super clever & really interesting.
In Parable of the Talents, Lauren tells us that Earthseed slowly grows in popularity across America because the people needed something positive – I think the real world could do with something like this right now too & the more I read, the more I hoped that someone like Lauren is out there, teaching something like Earthseed. To me, it is a positive & logical way to view the world & I think something like it could have the potential improve the world we live in. It actually wouldn’t surprise me if people really were leading their lives in the Earthseed way.
I read the Earthseed books during the time around the murder of George Floyd; the timing of my read meant that the book was even more upsetting as the violence, riots, discrimination & attitudes of Octavia’s America very closely reflected what we’ve been seeing on our TVs & in our communities. To make things extra strange, there is a President in the book, who reuses Reagan’s slogan “Help us to make America great again” (page 18) just like Trump, which is just one of the many similarities between the two; this just added to how scarily accurate Octavia’s prediction of our future is & added another layer that makes the story feel more like a reality than fiction.
Book two was not necessarily the sequel I was expecting but I was still completely hooked; there were some good & bad surprises thrown in throughout, some of which broke my heart completely. Book one was a sad book, with some horrible events, but for some reason the horrors of book two felt worse to me because Lauren & everyone else had already experienced so much trauma. The book ends in a neat, tidy way & I found it quite a satisfying ending; Octavia’s writing really is outstanding & I can’t wait to read more of her work.
If you couldn’t already tell, I really loved this series, for Octavia’s intelligence & ability to predict the future, for the hope it gives me that we may recover from the mess our world is currently in, for the emotion I felt throughout the whole story & for the clever writing that made me, the reader, think about & feel everything. I desperately wish that this series had been made up of two much bigger books because I would’ve soaked up every single extra detail & scene. Even though book one & book two were different from one another, both were exquisite & hypnotic – I cannot fault them at all! Please do consider reading this series because, as I said, I don’t think it’s ever been more relevant than it is right now (I’ve also just discovered you can get the story as graphic novels)!
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