Monday, August 07, 2006

Book 61: Parable of the Talents

Monday, August 07, 2006

At the end of Parable of the Sower Lauren Olamina had founded her first Earthseed community: Acorn. She founded the community with those she found on the highways of California as she tried to find safety somewhere among the violence of the United States. A man who came to travel with Olamina, Bankole, allowed her to use land that he owned. Bankole and Olamina eventually married and she had been teaching the community Earthseed and raising the children in it, her alternate religion that she believes is truth. Now that she has founded Acorn Olamina needs for her community to grow. She needs to spread Earthseed to others, to teach, to preach, to help others to know the truth as she knows it. She also needs Acorn to remain safe and protected as any could be killed, captured into slavery, robbed, or raped. Or all of this could occur.

As in the first volume, Parable of the Talents is a novel told primarily in the voice of Lauren Oya Olamina through her journals. So, we are looking at what she wrote of herself and her surroundings from some point in the future. She may have neglected to write about certain events and everything is always from her perspective. This is the part of the format that is the same as Parable of the Sower. What is different is that the chapters include discussion and writing by her daughter, and her daughter has a completely different point of view than Olamina. Shortly after the novel begins we learn that Olamina is pregnant. For her daughter to be writing and writing this well, this has to be coming from at least twenty years in the novel's future if not longer. The daughter offers commentary on Olamina's writing and perspective and gives her own. She also includes brief passages by her father and the occasional passage by Olamina's brother. Together we get a much different view of Olamina as we did in Parable of the Sower. She is still the leader, but her family is resentful and angry. Her daughter comes off as very angry, so we are left to wonder why and we begin to discovery why.

The format change was a bit surprising but it was very well done. It is enough to say that Octavia Butler was one of the masters of speculative fiction and she is in complete control here. This harsh vision of our future and even harsher vision of what Olamina and Acorn undergoes is exceptionally moving and powerful and it is part of a brutal world that I didn't want to leave. Wherever I thought Octavia Butler might go with this novel, she went in a completely different direction but one that felt entirely authentic.


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