Book Review 23: Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower

How would you feel about a book that you re-read twenty years later?

Would it still fascinate you like it did before?

Would it bore you?

Would it show how much you have mature since the first time you read it?

Well, I decided to answer those questions by re-reading Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler. It was published in 1993 and I read the novel at that time.  It fascinated me.  I had not read any book that grim and dark at that point in my early 20’s.

Now in 2012, I’ve read it again and I will admit upfront the novel didn’t fascinate me like it did in 1993.  However, I still found Parable of the Sower an interesting, thought-provoking story.

Octavia Butler (whom died in Feburary 2006) was considered as one of the great female science-fiction authors mentioned in the same breath as Ursula LeGuin, Andre Norton, Marion Zimmer Bradley, and James Tiptree Jr (real name Alice Sheldon). Butler’s novels explored gender and racial themes in a science-fiction context and Parable of the Sower continued in that tradition.

The story is about Lauren Olamina, a teenage girl growing up in a grim, dystopic Los Angeles suburb where their gated community provided some semblance of a normal life while anarchy reigned outside of it.

Lauren lived with her father, a minister, her step-mother, Corazon, and her brothers, Marcus and Keith. Her father was doing everything he could to provide for the family and raise his children in a chaotic situation. Well, the gate to their community was finally destroyed after repeated attempts and all hell broke loose which ended up ripping the family apart for good.

Meanwhile, Lauren (who is an empath) had a sense her home and family would be destroyed has decided to create a religion called Earthseed, and was forced to leave home and travel north to fulfill her vision for this new religion .

Butler’s lean, spare prose creates a stark, brtual story and it was closer to The Road by Cormac McCarthy or even the movie, Book of Eli staring Denzel Washington than a traditional science fiction novel.

Moreover, there were a couple of things that caught my attention:

All that you touch,

You change.

All that you change,

Changes you.

The only lasting truth

Is change.

God

is change.

This was one of the basic beliefs of Earthseed.  God is change.  Since change is inevitable, we must to yield to it or never truly understand who God is.

Well, when I first read this back in 1993, I found that concept fascinating and interesting. Now, I must admit it is half-baked at best and naive at worst.

I’m reminded of this verse of scripture:

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” {Hebrews 13:8 ESV Bible}

The writer of Hebrews was explaining how Christ was the same in his position as high priest and Son of God throughout his earthly ministry and his place in Heaven seated next to the Father.

I know I just probably scared some of the non-religious folk out there.  But, I want to add this if I was not religious why would I worship or believe in a God who changes all the time.  Isn’t God to suppose to be higher than humankind? Why would he need to change? I might as well be an atheist and believe in myself.

Here’s the other thing that caught my attention:

“But there’s hope in understanding the nature of God-not punishing or jealous, but infinitely malleable. There’s comfort in realizing that everyone and everything yields to God. There’s power in knowing that God can be focused, diverted, shaped by anyone at all.”

That was from a conservation Lauren had with one of the travelers with her and a future convert to Earthseed.

Again in 1993, I was fascinated by this concept of God being shaped by anyone.  Now in 2012, I found it shallow and underdeveloped and frankly dead wrong.  But, it did reveal something currently going on in our culture.

We want to shape God in our own image.  Both religious people and non-religious people want to shape God into their liking or disliking. However, if I can shape God or focused God into what I believe or want…why should I worship or believe in him?

As you have read, I was glad that I re-read this story even though it didn’t feel same as it once did.  In the end, Parable of the Sower revealed a lot about myself, my beliefs, and even my maturity.

I would recommend all readers at least once go back re-read a novel from years ago and see what it will bring to light for you.

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