I’ve been immersed lately in the near future America depicted in Octavia E. Butler’s Parable series. After practically inhaling the first of the novels, Parable of the Talents, I immediately downloaded the second book, Parable of the Sower.
The books’ heroine is a strong, intelligent, teenaged girl named Lauren Oya Olamina. In the year 2024 Lauren turns fifteen. She lives a relatively protected life in a walled community outside of Los Angeles.
Life outside the wall is chaotic. Society as Lauren’s parents knew it has broken down. While communities like the one in which Lauren lives are not uncommon, they aren’t the norm. Even though her family has to conserve resources and take turns keeping watch at night, she’s one of the lucky ones.
But one day that all changes. First her father goes missing, then fire-loving druggies burn her sheltered neighborhood, scattering Lauren’s family. There are no safety nets. The police and fire departments cannot be counted on for aid. Lauren is on her own.
This tale could have merely chronicled Lauren’s journey to safety, but in addition to being a vagabond teenager she has started a religion, Earthseed, and she builds her congregation from her fellow refugees as she founds the community they name Acorn.
I’m still reading the second book, and the situation seems dire. Once again Lauren is on the run, but there’s much more at stake at this point. The newly elected president of the United States ran on a theme of “Make America Great Again.” He’s instituted American Christianity as the national religion, and his supporters are capable of unthinkable atrocities in their quest to wipe out any belief systems other than theirs. It’s a chilling look at what might be in store for our future.
Lauren is a fascinating heroine. Her single-minded drive to complete her grand mission is inspiring, but also frustrating. I want her to be safe, but safety is not her goal.
If you’re into dystopian fiction give Ms. Butler’s books a try. Just let me know what you think.