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A Reader of Fictions: Keep It Together - Guster

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Keep It Together - Guster

Parable of the Sower
Parable, Book 1

Author: Octavia E. Butler
Genre: dystopia
Pages: 329

Brief Summary:
Lauren Olamina, a preacher's daughter, does not believe in his God, although she would never tell him so, because she loves him too much to disappoint him. Instead, she believes in Earthseed, a religion built on her observations of the world, of which the fundamental idea is that God is change. Lauren's family lives in a walled neighborhood, kept mostly safe from the dangers outside the walls: theft, murder, rape and druggies that light fires that burn out of control in a world where water is scarce. Life is tough inside the walls and, as Lauren knows, it cannot last. When her dire predictions come true and the town is destroyed, she and a couple of survivors have to team up for survival and to search for a new place where life might be better. The roads are dangerous; no one can really trust any of the other thousands of people walking the highways, because they may be plotting your death or to steal your stuff. Lauren wants not only to survive, but to help others by spreading her vision for Earthseed and sowing the seeds of a better life in the world.

Unfortunately, much of this book was lost on me. I feel somewhat unqualified to make a judgment of its quality overall, given my own deficiencies which definitely colored my view of Parable of the Sower. I have never been religious and attended public school for most of my K-12 education, so I do not have much of a biblical foundation. I know the big stories, but a lot of the smaller, but still important, references go way over my head. This book is steeped in biblical references, which I cannot appreciate. Keep this in mind when choosing to read this book.

The dystopian future presented is truly terrifying. The environment has been totally screwed up; global warming definitely seems to be an aspect of that. Water is disappearing and rain is incredibly rare. What water there is tends to be polluted. Inflation runs rampant; a pair of boots (average ones, although in decent condition, but still used) are worth $1,ooo. Some are very wealthy, but most people can only get money by stealing, especially since jobs are nigh impossible to find. Because of the cost and danger of life, the nuclear family is a thing of the past and people now live with extended families. Of course, birth control is now rare and expensive, so even more children are being born, which exacerbates the problems. Even the 'safe' areas are so perilous that almost everyone who can afford to owns at least one gun. A drug called pyro, which makes watching flames dance feel better than sex, is circulating wildly and so are the fires which these addicts are setting. People flood north on foot, having heard rumors that things are better up there, where food and water are easier to come by, but this may be rumor alone. The hard economic times have also brought an end to protection for workers, so slavery has returned in many places.

The other thing I feel compelled to comment on is that Lauren Olamina, because of her mother's drug addiction during pregnancy, is a sharer. What this means is that she feels other people's pain. As a child, she would even begin bleeding when someone else was. This is, I believe, intended to make her somewhat Christ-like, because she is suffering other people's pain and also to give her the motivation to make life better for everyone, not just herself. The idea of a sharer is cool, but, again, I think my lack of biblical awareness may lessen my understanding of the intended implications.

I recommend this to dystopia fans primarily, but reiterate that it will be less enjoyable without a firm knowledge of the Christian religion.

"When we all had finally washed ashore
It was clear there was no one else around
We declared a national holiday
A chance to build it from the ground
So far away from everyone and everything starts today

Let's keep it together
Can we keep it together
We're singing a new song now and everything starts today"

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