"As are most odysseys, these two books were difficult to read but more difficult to put down!"

In "Parable of the Sower", Lauren Oya Olamina--the oldest child of five and a preacher's daughter in twenty-first century America--is a youth of vision and destiny approaching womanhood amidst desperate and violent times. She has experienced a sheltered existence, literally, growing up behind bars in Robledo, California where, beyond her walled community, social and political anarchy rage.

Lauren is also hyperempathic, or what's known as a "sharer", and has the ability to experience the pain and pleasure of others as intensely as if it is hers. This ability is a danger and more a curse than a gift in a world where human depravities and misery reign supreme, and particularly in a household where sibling rivalry and childhood taunting have been taken to new heights by a sociopathic brother.

However, inside the walls is a far safer bet than anywhere outside could ever be. Outside the walls exists a world where the police and fire departments have been privatized, employing not civil servants, but workers for hire more accessible to the well-to-do than the average citizen who cannot afford the fees for services rendered. Outside lurk the disenfranchised, the uneducated, the envious and a general assortment of vicious malcontents with easy access to firearms and new destructive drugs. One group, the "paints"--young skin- head types from "good" families, what we might now call "Goths", but far more predatory--is a particular danger to the unprotected, unarmed or unprepared.

Though the Olaminas and the citizens of their Robledo settlement are none of these, it does not save them when a strung-out mob of "paints" and their brethren crash a truck through the outside gates and invade the community on a barbaric spree of murder, rape and arson.

Separated from her remaining immediate family in the fray, Lauren survives and escapes the raid. She returns home after her first of what will become many nights of vagrancy to retrieve her homemade emergency pack and salvage what other belongings she can from the rubble. Among the dying embers and carnage, she is miraculously reunited with two residents from her community. Harry Balter a young white man she has known since both were in diapers; and Zahra, a young black woman sold by her mother and recently brought to the community to live as one of several "wives" to the Robledo resident who purchased her.

Worlds apart in ideologies, education and experience, the trio have one thing in common that drives them on a treacherous cross-country trek north with only Lauren's gun, money and foodstuffs between them: the will to survive. The three gain several companions along the way, others lost and destitute heading north, far from their current situations. All are survivors of one horror or another--abuse, rape, prostitution, indentured servitude, even slavery--all are searching for and determined to make a better way for themselves. They are the beginnings of "Earthseed", a belief system based on co-operative living, faith in self rather than a higher being, and each-one-teach-one principals similar to those found in Buddhism. Earthseed, however, is primarily rooted in Lauren's writings-"The Books of the Living"--and her one basic conviction: God is Change.

What Lauren and her fellow refugees do not know is that their trials have just begun. "Parable of the Sower" is an excellent introduction to Lauren's world and the characters who will play a major role in the development of Earthseed. This book is a fast-paced gripping piece that admirably sets the stage for what is to come in "Parable of the Talents

Reviewed for PNR Reviews by Gracie McKeever, Author

Reviewed by Gracie McKeever
Posted December 7, 2003


Parable of the Sower
by Octavia E. Butler

Warner Books
February 7, 1998
ISBN #0446601977
352 pages
Paperback (reprint)
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