Parable of the Talents review · 103

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Parable of the TalentsPoints of view as well as Olamina's own self doubts and insecurities to present a much fuller and well rounded character and story Here once again is Octavia E Butler's enticing stew of varied human needs capacities weaknesses and enigmatic doctrines born from a constantly changing world The author knows how to compound elements into an intricate mixture of personal and civil uncertainties as well as ethical and emotional dilemmas Sociological situations underpinning science fiction have always been Butler's forte and this novel admirably continues that tradition The author is wonderfully skilled at capturing several underlying intertwined subtexts at once We are witness to a culture that is well acuainted with high technology but has great difficulty in replacing or producing anything new We visit a land that is familiar yet alien and in continuous flux There is real unease for the reader while waiting for the inevitable assault upon a new faith as the ugly bigoted era becomes even intolerant In Parable of the Talents the reader will discover an America that relies heavily on a past it can barely recall and behold the arrival of a horrifying but intriguing new dawn Octavia E Butler evokes a frightening future that eventually sprouts the compassion mercy and beauty of Earthseed Tom Piccirilli. 4 and a half starsI did not want to wait too long between my reading of “Parable of the Sower” and the seuel “Parable of the Talents” The first book has a great momentum that made me very eager to find out the rest of Lauren’s story – even if the setting felt uncomfortably realisticThe manipulation of religion for the benefit of political advancement is something that has always been a huge problem for me and when good speculative writers toy with that idea it inevitably ends up freaking me out I’m referring to “The Handmaid’s Tale but also “The Acolyte” which took that idea down a pretty terrifying road Using religion to exacerbate the worst sides of a group of people until they are riled up to the point where they forget their faith was supposed to be based on love and start hurting other people is the most egregious manipulation of a good thing I can think of The very word “religion” means to “re link” or “re join” it is supposed to bring people together so as soon as it starts creating exceptions to ideas such as “love one another” it's missing the point In the second book of her “Earthseed” duology Octavia Butler drives that point home by adding two new voices to her narrative Lauren’s husband Bankole and their daughter LarkinAshaWe know early on that something terrible has happened to the small Earthseed colony founded by Lauren and her companion and my interweaving her journal’s Bankole’s notes and Larkin’s own writing Butler shows us a world that hasn’t gotten better since the end of “Parable of the Sower” If anything things have gotten much worse and a hate mongering religious fanatic new president works his followers into an increasingly violent frenzy I will not give any of the plot away but this is a gripping story about resilience and survival in the face of oppression and destructionI have to admit that I got kind of annoyed with the Earthseed “gospel” or whatever you want to call those little poems and texts that punctuate the book There were fewer in “Parable of the Sower” but here it got on my nerves as there are plenty and they are not especially well written nor inspiring The religious system created by Lauren in and of itself doesn’t really bother me as it’s based in practicality and tangible reality things change constantly and we must support each other through these changes That’s a big fat “duh” for me but I can also see why it bears repeating But her preachiness gets tiring which is why this book is stronger for having than one narrator who are well aware that Lauren’s convictions were strong and important but could also be rather grating Larkin’s voice comes to balance out her mother righteousness with the wisdom of regrets and hindsight – but also a certain admiration for the work done by this determined womanThe balance between hope and despair is not easy to maintain but just as she did in the first tome of her duology Butler doesn’t let her readers sink no matter how bleak things get In fact as hard as it can be to read sometimes it is also strangely comforting to think of Lauren’s perseverance and strengthDoes it freak anyone else out that Butler wrote this in 1998 Not unlike the aforementioned “Handmaid’s Tale” this work of fiction’s prescience is alarmingly accurate we are currently experiencing the slow erosion of the world as we knew it and we have no idea what the next few years have in store for us And her President Jarret might have brain cells to rub together than Trump does but the tone is eerily alike I did find the way Lauren perceives Jarret’s supporters and what ultimately motivates them very interesting there are very thought provoking parallels to be drawn between them and a certain segment of American votersJust as good as its predecessor this book is a must read now than ever

Octavia E. Butler ä 3 characters

Mes him to Acorn As an unseasoned Christian preacher Marcus is suspicious of the cultlike aspects of Earthseed and grows and distant from its ideals Now that Olamina is newly pregnant Bankole Olamina's much older physician husband wishes to find a established township in which to practice medicine and protect his familyHowever soon a fundamentalist Christian named Jarret is elected president of the United States and his insistence on burning non Christian churches and murdering those of other faiths becomes very popular Acorn is attacked the women raped the men killed and all survivors are enslaved But Olamina eventually escapes and sets out to recover her friends and family and rebuild Earthseed Parable of the Talents is written in a composite of narratives from Olamina's journals Bankole's memoirs and Marcus's own accounts Just as importantly there are sections from Olamina's unborn daughter who writes commentary at a much later date; this allows for a complete vision of Earthseed as religious political and humanistic methodology Olamina is willing to put the destiny of Earthseed above her own life and the lives of her family which at times makes her nearly the single minded zealot that Jarret is Rather than presenting Olamina as a perfect spiritual leader Butler allows us multiple outside. There are times when I wish I believed in hell other than the hells we make for one another I meanThese are tough books to review and I'll just use this space to talk about both of themButler unflinchingly looks at the effect the steady deterioration of society would have on women and the economically marginalized I love thisShe also has a strong female character making her way through this world in a believable way I love this tooThis female character slowly gathers a band of survivors who take care of one another who rescue orphaned children and who eventually put together a new home based on communitarian values of sharing and mutual support I love thisShe does this though by espousing this bizarro humanistmaterialist religion that basically boils down to the assertion that God is Change Get used to that phrase if you read these books you'll encounter it hundreds of times often in the middle of some truly execrable poetic scripture that this character Lauren has written After about 20 pages of the first book I uickly learned to skip anything in italics to avoid throwing the book down in disgust Then when she was on the road I learned to do the same any time Earthseed the religion was mentioned in any kind of proximity to truth or discover In the second book I added Destiny to the list the Destiny of Earthseed being to colonize the stars further weakening and trivializing Lauren's commitment to building some sort of post capitalist communitarian society here ughButler almost ALMOST redeems this stuff in the second book by expanding the number of POV characters from one to four and having all of the new ones react to this religion with varying degrees of scorn The first book left me with the uncomfortable feeling that we were supposed to find this religion appealing and to view Lauren's domineering personality as simply the result of someone who had in fact discovered the TRUTH I think we were still supposed to sympathize with Lauren the most and you do at the end in particular which is truly emotionally jarring for reasons I don't want to spoil but it was still gratifying to have an acknowledgment of the fact that she consistently bullied or seduced people into embracing her religionTo be fair I am only being so critical of this stuff because Butler came so close to writing a post apocalyptic story that was totally on point with regard to the creation of a better post capitalist society in the ashes of the old avoiding the libertarianhyper individualist bent that afflicts so many stories of this genre She never stops hammering home the point that no one could survive this on their own and even if she falls just short of expanding that into exactly the message I wanted her to I think it was closer than anyone else has gottenMore negativity I also think the hyper empathy stuff is baloney but it's much less irritating than the religion While we're at it I also hated that the 18 year old Lauren ended up marrying a man who was almost 60

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Parable of the Talents review · 103 ¶ A powerfully wrought novel describing an America permeated with violence religious persecution and the will to overcome such adversity Octavia E Butler's Parable of the Talents explores the large and small social ramifications of a group of survivors banding together in faith to prevail against anarchy ButleA powerfully wrought novel describing an America permeated with violence religious persecution and the will to overcome such adversity Octavia E Butler's Parable of the Talents explores the large and small social ramifications of a group of survivors banding together in faith to prevail against anarchy Butler gives us a well proportioned fusion of near future struggle and subtle science fiction all layered upon an engaging groundwork of human courage spiritual doctrine enslavement and savagery in an anarchistic AmericaIn 2032 five years after losing her family and setting out on a uest to find peace in a chaotic land Lauren Oya Olamina has gathered than 60 people in the self sufficient community called Acorn Olamina an African American hyper empath a person who can feel others' pain so intensely it is often incapacitating is the creator and prophet for the new religion called Earthseed God is Change is Earthseed's basic belief; the religion teaches personal harmony and the hope of one day reaching the stars To that end the verses in Olamina's Books of the Living give understanding to a perpetually shifting world of mistrust slavery disorder and government sanctioned witch hunts After years of separation Olamina discovers that her teenage brother Marcus has also survived; she immediately welco. The Bible's Parable of the Sower talks about seeds Seeds need to fall on good earth in order to grow into majestic trees Butler's Parable of the Sower told a similar tale The seeds of a new religion need to find fertile mindsThe Bible's Parable of the Talents talks about talents that get buried in earth These hidden talents don't grow but become pointless and represent a significant waste Butler's Parable of the Talents told a seemingly totally unrelated taleParable of the Talents continues the story of the birth of a religion and its evolution into a way of life Earthseed Where its predecessor Parable of the Sower was set in a society damaged by chaos violence and poverty this installment looks at how the seeds of a religion fare under a biblically inspired totalitarian regime set on reinstating law and orderStyleThis book is written in the form of a diary and employs the exact same style as the first in this duology bringing the same problems with it The protagonist has the propensity of distancing herself from what occurred to her through her diary writing as a way of self therapy Regardless of how therapeutic this kind of factual representation of events can be it doesn't necessarily ensure an engaging read The experiences lived through make for a truly interesting story but the tone just isn't there in order to sympathise with the person you're meant to be sympathising withNarratorsThere is a silver lining however Where the first part of the series was a monologue of Lauren Olamina new narrators are brought into this volume For starters Lauren's husband gets a couple of pages and so does one of her brothers but these contributions are so small they're actually uite pointless in hindsight The star narrator of this book is Olamina's daughter She provides a completely new and fresh perspective which is not surprising considering she grew up without and far away from her mother This voice gives the reader a breather from Lauren's self indulgent narrative and for those like me who had difficulties relating to the self declared Messiah a voice of reason one could relate to A frightening futureHaving read the interviews with Octavia Butler at the end of the books the main aim was to give an idea of the challenges that come with starting up a new religion This was done reasonably well and basically boiled down to not knowing where to begin and looking for peoples' support Because a story needs flesh than that complications were thrown at it in the form of chaos in the first book and in the form of oppression in the second This added color came to dominate the central theme however and the main thing I praise in the Earthseed series is the dystopian setting it depicts The oppressive regime the way it came about and operates was described supremely well not just in its viciousness but especially in how close to home it all sounded Those who have been following my updates got a taste of how eerily close to reality these descriptions sometimes were A new religionThe reason Earthseed and her Messiah were so easily overshadowed is not only due to the strength of the dystopian element I'm sorry to say I can imagine it's not easy to come up with a new religion but Earthseed and its cursed verses never said anything substantially new insightful or substantial That might be my fault due to a personal difficulty with relating to abstract ideas which also hindered a pleasant experience with Hesse's widely lauded Siddharta As in Hesse's work there's a lot of circular reasoning wordplay hinting at symmetries and interconnections between lofty ideas resulting in the euivalent of a rose scented burp There's a vague sense of something nice in there but the actual flower is nowhere to be seen Every chapter starts with a verse like the one below We have lived beforeWe will live againWe will be silkStoneMindStarWe will be scatteredGatheredMoldedProbed We will liveAnd we will serve lifeWe will shape GodAnd God will shape usAgainAlways again ForeverTo me that sounds like a heap of drivel A big bag of airy nothing Not only does each chapter start with it but there are numerous references to these verses throughout the story itself I think there's a little less than twenty verses in total over the two books but they are repeated ad nauseam ensuring that even the acceptable and inspiring poems made me sick in the end Again I don't blame Butler for not having come up with a great new religion but it made the whole thing harder to relate to especially if aside from the religion's fanatic founder you see people in the book vehemently cling to these words and make them their own This led me to underestimate Butler herself for a while because she seemed to take herself and Earthseed too seriously In Butler's universe universities and other intellectual societies were enraptured by the verses giving the impression that not only Butler's protagonist but also the author herself was seemingly proud of those pompous poems Thankfully as the story progresses criticism on the religion grows and takes the same tone as the one in my mind I don't believe in Earthseed It's just a lot of simplistic nonsense The person uttering these words later goes on to become a missionary for Earthseed without any explanation for the change of heart but fine at least that wall between me and the author was broken for a bit The introduction of voices different to that of Olamina was what saved Butler's story in my view and especially the daughter's voice further helped break down that wall and my image of an author who takes herself too seriouslyCharactersAs this is a story about the birth and growth of a religion it should also be about people touched by it characters fighting against it At least in my book But not in this one It tries but it fails And that's another element where Octavia Butler's Parables lose much of their appeal for me there are very few characters you can relate to There are a lot of names to plow through Olamina meets a great many people I guess that comes with the job but almost none of them left a mark Scores of people important to Olamina die and disappear but it's all told in such an overwhelming context and in such a dispassionate way the emotional weight of these events falls short of what was intended Another orphan got raped A mother watched her husband die A girl is slowly tortured to death Oh well nothing a little verse can't help us to deal with Purpose and powerAt its strongest it's a story that brings up a lot of uestions with regards to religion In essence it shows one religion at the height of its power in the form of a totalitarian regime that controls a whole society on the other hand it shows a fledgling religion that exists only of ideals fragile and easily crushed It's rather natural to sympathise with the latter yet you can see how both are similar in potential and purpose Some interesting take aways People will follow people who seem to know where they're goingEmphasis on the seem right Earthseed will force us to become than we might ever become without itA great pick up line apparently also valid for religions People need purpose as much as I need to give it to themThe protagonist's line of thinking and the cause of many problems in my view Everyone looks for purpose Sources of inspiration aside I tend not to outsource that uest but many do That's where religion comes in That's where power comes in If you allow your purpose to be defined by others you essentially become their slave I find it striking how such a deeply personal thing as purpose tends to be socialised politicised religionised time and again These all seem like mechanisms that boil down to the same thing purposes being force fed to one another This story shows perfectly how with good intentions this all can come about ConclusionPros of this book are definitely there the setting the idea of telling this kind of story and the uestions it provokes Weaker points are the main narrator's voice the aggravating repetitions of lofty verses and the lack of a connection with any of the characters These all come together in what became a mildly enriching sometimes entertaining but ultimately mediocre reading experience The Destiny of Earthseed is to take root among the stars I hope 3 will be enough