Title: Parable of the Talents
Author: Octavia E. Butler
Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopia
Summary (from www.amazon.com):
Lauren Olamina, a black teenager, grew up in a 21st-century America that was tearing itself apart. Global warming, massive unemployment, gang warfare and corporate greed combined to break down society in general and her impoverished southern California neighborhood in particular. A victim of hyperempathy syndrome, a disorder that compels its victims to believe they feel others' pain, Lauren found herself homeless and alone in a violent world. Escaping from the urban jungle of Los Angeles, Lauren founded Acorn, a hard-working, prosperous rural community based on the teachings of Earthseed, a religion she herself created and centered on the ideas that God is Change and that humanity's destiny is to go to the stars. Butler's extraordinary Parable of the Sower (1996) detailed the aforementioned events. In this equally powerful sequel, Acorn is destroyed by the rising forces of Christian fundamentalism, led by the newly elected U.S. president, the Reverend Andrew Steele Jarret. A handsome man and persuasive orator, seemingly modeled in part on Pat Robertson, Jarret converts millions to his sect, Christian America, while his thugs imprison, rape and murder those they label "heathens," all the while kidnapping their children in order to raise them in Christian households. The narrative is both impassioned and bitter as Butler weaves a tale of a frighteningly believable near-future dystopia. Lauren, at once loving wife and mother, prophet and fanatic, victim and leader, gains stature as one of the most intense and well-developed protagonists in recent SF. Though not for the faint-hearted, this work stands out as a testament to the author's enormous talent, and to the human spirit.. Author tour. (Nov.) FYI: In 1995, Butler received a MacArthur Foundation ("genius") Award.
Comments: Well, I am definitely sold on Octavia Butler and these Earthseed books. This book continues the dystopia we are presented with in Parable of the Sower, but quickly gets into more action than the first book. Lauren Olamina is an intriguing protaganist-- I feel as though I know her very well. And while I don't necessarily agree with her all the time, I can understand her rationale and why she is doing things. This book presents an intriguing look at how religious fervor, when blindly accepted and pushed, can have massive, frightening impacts on society. We learn more about Earthseed in this book, and the religion makes sense to me. It was interesting seeing how Lauren's daughter reconciles the parts of her life-- the Christian upbringing she has, and the Earthseed legacy of her mother. And although Lauren worked all her life, she never fully received happiness. I liked reading the different viewpoints in the book. Up until that point, I had generally viewed Lauren in a positive light, but her daughter brought a new perspective. The book also makes points about embracing diversity, being self-reliant, wisely using resources, developing relationships, and making priorities. I also appreciated seeing the turmoil through which Marcus goes as he is presented with negative evidence against something he cares deeply about.
These Earthseed books are wonderful and thought provoking, but don't reside so strongly in science fiction and dystopia that they won't appeal to all readers. I would highly recommend them.
(x-posted to cmmunchkin)