As I’ve mentioned before, I pick up a lot of the books I read from the GoodWill … usually at 50% off. The thing with that is that finding those gem books is few and far between. So imagine my surprise when I found a copy of Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Talents.
I’d been meaning to read some of Butler’s work for years and her Parable books were tops on my list.
Parable of the Talents is a sequel to Parable of the Sower, but I didn’t remember that until after I had read the book. So, I can safely say that you needn’t read the latter to enjoy the former.
In Parable of the Talents, you follow the journey of Lauren Oya Olamina Bankole through excerpts of her journals and the eyes of the child that was stolen from her and she never really got to know.
Butler weaves a dark, terrible and all too possible world where Christian fundamental fanaticism empowers people to enslave others … steal their children, rape the women and work them all until they die.
It’s really quite a dark book. But it is compellingly well written. Olamina (that’s the name the lead character goes by) is a strong-willed and compassionate woman who has a very large vision for humanity. This vision is called Earthseed.
Earthseed is a combination of spiritual path, pragmatic way of life and hope for the future of human kind. And the verses that fill it’s core teachings, Earthseed: The Books of the Living, are filled with truisms that work as well in the real world as they do the book.
All that you touch
All that you Change
The only lasting truth
“God is Change” informs the underlying message of the book. And change is neutral … it can be good, it can be bad, but it always is.
Do you believe?
Belief will not save you.
Guided and shaped
By belief and knowledge
Will save you.
Initiates and guides action–
Or it does nothing.
Through out the novel you see the contrast of how belief shapes action. Olamina’s belief guides her to create Acorn, a small Utopian community. The beliefs of the followers of Christian America (the fundamentalist group in the novel) guide their actions to kill “heathans” and take their children away.
I found Parable of the Talents a moving and evocative read. But it is not light reading … this is the type of book I can see writing essays about in school. This is deep stuff. This is the stuff science fiction was born to do … make social commentary palatable.
The back of the book I picked up says this about the novel: “… in the wake of environmental and economic chaos, the U.S. government turns a blind eye to violent bigots who consider the mere existence of a black female leader a threat.” However, I don’t believe the color of Olamina’s skin had anything to do with it. Whites were treated just as badly as she.
However, the fact that she had a different way of approaching life, did. They called her heathen and claimed she and her followers worshiped trees. But their own blind devotion to a belief caused their own destruction.
The Parable of the Talents has so many nuances to it, I can’t possibly cover them all in this post. I invite you to pick up a copy yourself and see what beliefs the novel challenges in you.
To shape God
With wisdom and forethought,
To benefit your world,
SCORE: 5 out of 5 Palm Trees Possible