Parable of the Sower, Octavia Butler

Lauren’s
life is constrained to the total square footage of the cul-de-sac in which her
family has lived her whole life. 
Lauren’s community is lucky, though.  They have a wall. 
They have guns.  They have
each other.  In a narrative that is
eerily familiar to our modern world, Lauren tries to navigate a world that
would kill her as soon as look at her, a world in which dogs have gone from
family pets to merciless predators, a world in which the government doesn’t
even make a pretense of caring for its citizens.

Parable of the Sower is a classic work
of science fiction that will probably always have resonance with the world in
which we live, precisely because it embraces the themes of change and human
compassion.  Though it depicts a
world in which humans seem to have lost all sense of their humanity—hoarding
food, murdering for the merest scrap, abusing drugs that turn them into violent
animals—there are those tiny sparks of kindness and joy that make every
dystopia compelling.

The
novel is written as a compilation of journal entries that Lauren keeps over a
short period of her life.  Butler
displays a stunning mastery of narrative, creating a personal dialog that
embraces all the naïveté of an eighteen-year-old woman, but written in the
matter-of-fact tones of one who has seen far too much in her short life.  Though the reader meets many of the
other residents of Lauren’s community only briefly, Butler imbues them with
that individual spark of humanity that turns each into a living, breathing
person.  Butler doesn’t shy away
from harsh realities, and neither does Lauren, but the precision and deft
touches with which the author distinguishes her intent from the narrative of
her character is not often matched in fiction.

Anyone
looking for a master dystopia that exemplifies the metaphor of modern life
needs to read Parable of the Sower.  Those interested in novels that
speculate on the philosophical, as well as physical ramifications of societal
collapse will be intrigued by Lauren’s interpretation of religion and what it
means to a people under duress. 
This novel is a modern classic that treats with issues of poverty, race,
and community, and should be required reading for every U.S. citizen.

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