Parable of the Talents by Octavia Butler. ★★★★
Trigger warning: Sexual assault
Parable of the Talents somehow manages to be even darker than the first book, Parable of the Sower. Of course, I knew it’d be dark. Octavia Butler’s work is always intense. But even prepared for it, Parable of the Talents was difficult to read in places.
Like it’s predecessor, Parable of the Talents follows Lauren, a young woman driven by her religious revelations of something she calls Earthseed. At the end of Parable of the Sower, Lauren had formed Acorn, a small community based around Earthseed. Six years later, the world is a less chaotic place than it was during Parable of the Sower. Things are still bad, but they’re bad in a different way. Mobs of arsonists and looters are no longer the main threat to Acorn. The danger is instead in growing religious intolerance and the rise of a far right Christian group, Christian America, that wants to make “America great again.” And by “great,” they mean their type of Christianity.
“Jarret condemns the burnings, but does so in such mild language that his people are free to hear what they want to hear. As for the beatings, the tarring an feathering, and the destruction of ‘heathen houses of devil-worship,’ he has a simple answer: ‘Join us! Our doors are open to every nationality, every race! Leave your sinful past behind, and become one of us. Help us to make America great again.”
In the growing climate of intolerance, Acorn is a target. Lauren and her community may face more danger than ever before.
After the election, I started hearing that Octavia Butler had written a book that felt eerily similar to America’s current events. At first I thought that it was Parable of the Sower they were referring to. Turns out it’s Parable of the Talents. Fanning the flame of intolerance is Jarret, a presidential candidate who’s supporters attack non-Christian groups. The populism, anger, violence and bigotry that Octavia Butler presents in her version of American during the 2030’s does have some similarities to the current day. This only makes her message more powerful. A good dystopia should act as a warning of what our society can become and encourages readers to change the course before its to late.
“Jarret’s supporters are more than a little seduced by Jarret’s talk of making America great again. He seems to be unhappy with certain other countries.”
I already mentioned that Parable of the Talents is a very difficult book to read. Among other things, it involves slavery, rape, violence, sexism, and homophobia. Probably the worst moment for me involved a f/f couple being tortured by the aforementioned Christian America. Parable of Talents is a book that will make you heart sick. While the scenarios Butler presents are gruesome, they are also disturbingly plausible.
Parable of the Talents is framed similarly to Parable of the Sower, with the majority of the book being told through Lauren’s diary entries. However, in this book, the entries are bridged by writing by Lauren’s daughter, who is skeptical of Earthseed and her mother’s obsession with it. I thought including the daughter point of view was a good choice, since it provides a larger perspective and keeps the novel from feeling too didactic when it comes to Earthseed. I kept skipping the Earthseed poems. They don’t do anything for me.
This duology is a couple of books that I’m going to remember for a long time to come. They are science fiction classics and rightly so. Octavia Butler is a true master of her craft.
I received an ARC in exchange for a free and honest review.