Title: Parable of the Sower
Author: Octavia E. Butler
Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopia
Summary (from www.amazon.com): Hugo and Nebula Award-winner Butler's first novel since 1989's Imago offers an uncommonly sensitive rendering of a very common SF scenario: by 2025, global warming, pollution, racial and ethnic tensions and other ills have precipitated a worldwide decline. In the Los Angeles area, small beleaguered communities of the still-employed hide behind makeshift walls from hordes of desperate homeless scavengers and violent pyromaniac addicts known as "paints" who, with water and work growing scarcer, have become increasingly aggressive. Lauren Olamina, a young black woman, flees when the paints overrun her community, heading north with thousands of other refugees seeking a better life. Lauren suffers from 'hyperempathy," a genetic condition that causes her to experience the pain of others as viscerally as her own--a heavy liability in this future world of cruelty and hunger. But she dreams of a better world, and with her philosophy/religion, Earthseed, she hopes to found an enclave which will weather the tough times and which may one day help carry humans to the stars. Butler tells her story with unusual warmth, sensitivity, honesty and grace; though science fiction readers will recognize this future Earth, Lauren Olamina and her vision make this novel stand out like a tree amid saplings.
Comments: Well, after my last book (which was totally lackluster), this was a breath of fresh air! This was my first read by Butler, and it's safe to say that I'll be returning to her work. This was an interesting take on a dystopian future. Technology isn't the enemy, but global warming and racial tension. Society has broken down into neighborhood and town warfare, and communities build walls and protect themselves with guns. Because people are afraid to go out, life has returned to a simpler form in some ways, with luxuries or even different kinds of food being unavailable. I loved the take on religion in this book. I like how the main character really thinks through religion and comes up with ideas that she is comfortable with, which I can totally relate to (although not in the "go start my own religion" way). The whole idea of experiencing the pain of others is a neat one, and it was interesting to think of. I flew through this book, barely wanting to put it down. The next one I pick up will be the sequel in this Earthseed set, Parable of the Talents, and I can't wait to read more in this set. It's interesting, because I didn't really feel like there was a climax in this book-- but the writing was so good and the ideas so intriguing, that it didn't really matter. I just wanted to read more about the experience. Overall, I would highly recommend.
(x-posted to cmmunchkin)