In near-future California, things are slowly falling apart. Water is a commodity rarer than oil, which is so expensive nobody drives actual cars anymore. Temperature and food prices rise. Companies offer safety in exchange for labor. Arsonists using addictive drugs light fires and watch the flames to get a high. Is there any hope?

“Freedom is dangerous, Cory, but it’s precious, too. You can’t just throw it away or let it slip away.”

page 109

Lauren Olamina plans for survival, knowing that the safety provided by the walls of her community is only a thin illusion. Soon she will face the near-anarchy outside.

Why is this on our bookshelf?

Octavia E. Butler is a celebrated science fiction author and Parable of the Sower is one of my personal favorites. Written in 1993, Parable of the Sower epitomized near-future dystopian science fiction before it was cool.

Rating (5 stars)

I read this book back when I was a young teenager and had never read the like of it before. I was fascinated by the realistic, although completely horrifying, future richly described in the novel. However, I’ve found over the years that it’s not the dystopia that was compelling, but the thread of hope that forms the basis of the novel.

Lauren Olamina may be the daughter of a Baptist minister, but much of the book follows her creation of a new religion, a philosophy that concentrates on a person’s power to shape change. Olamina harnesses that power and shares it with others while facing the reality of her crumbling world.

Although Parable of the Sower was written in 1993, I found it still held up today. One thing I noticed that I had missed when I was younger, was the discussion of race and personal freedoms. It isn’t that subtle, I just didn’t see it aside from a vague surprise that a mixed-race couple would have troubles in a future.

I guess that was a quick lesson that not all fictional futures are utopias.