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text 2017-04-08 11:30
Book Haul
The Steerswoman (The Steerswoman Series) - Rosemary Kirstein
Parable of the Sower - Octavia E. Butler
City - David W. Wixon,Clifford D. Simak
The Art of Racing in the Rain - Garth Stein
Memory of Water: A Novel - Emmi Itäranta
Dream London - Tony Ballantyne
Someday, Someday, Maybe - Lauren Graham
Roter Drache In Aspik: Das Fantasy Kochbuch - Sascha Storz

Remember when I told you about my last book haul? Yes, the one that made Lina so happy? Now you'll finally get to know the titles. :D

For the convenience of our international community I have chosen the English editions where available (one of the books I have actually bought in English).

Wishing you all a wonderful weekend!

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review 2016-03-29 00:00
Parable of the Sower
Parable of the Sower - Octavia E. Butler I only gave this book 2.5 stars but rounded it up to 3 stars on Goodreads due to Goodreads not having half stars available.

So I always hate it when I notice friends who I follow and trust for book recs loved a book and I ended up disliking it. I feel badly about it and then I feel guilty because I write a review talking about things that they really enjoyed.

I read this book as part of Dead Writers Society Genre Challenge for the month of March. I can say I loved the other book I read and thought this one was...problematic.

Taking place in 2025, we follow the character of Lauren Olamina and her family that are living in what remains of areas around Los Angeles. Told in the first person, we get Lauren's "insights" into her family, friends, community, and what the world is turning into.

Let's get it out of the way. Lauren bugged the crap out of me.

Being stuck in her head from beginning to the end of this book sucked. She is emotionless which doesn't make any sense at all because of her hyper empathy ability. I get she had to train herself to not show anyone besides her family about her ability (which still makes no damn sense...at all) but wouldn't you be feeling more than everyone else, or at least not come across as robotic when we read her diary entries and we get actually dialogue between her and other characters? Don't get me started at how sometimes it seemed to be "on" and other times "not."

I can't even get into the problems I found with anyone sitting around and following a character her age while she decides to go forth and spread her religion she has made up that she calls Earthseed.

The whole Earthseed thing didn't even fit since at one point Lauren's character was focused on being self reliant because she fears the walled neighborhoods she has lived in with her family is eventually going to be overrun. I have no idea why all of a sudden this turned to a whole Earthseed is the way thing and other religions have failed because they are not practicing what they are preaching and she has found flaws in other religions.

The other characters in this book are not developed enough beyond Lauren's father. Everyone else is just a cliche or there to move the plot forward. For example, the character of Keith I thought would have a huge role to potentially play maybe in the latter part of the book. We focus on him for a minute and then events happen, yadda yadda yadda we don't need to follow Keith anymore. Same thing when I thought we would get some friction and maybe some honesty between Lauren and her stepmother Cory. That was a nope again.

There is another character introduced in this book named Bankhole and his relationship with Lauren. Nope. There scenes together gave me the shivers. Not in the good way. Once again he's not developed enough for me to care about and is only used to shove the plot forward in the case of Lauren's ultimate goal of spreading the word about Earthseed.

My other problem is that the main plot just shifted too many times for me to care. First, it seemed to be about surviving in this post apocalyptic world. Than it was about Lauren deciding to escape up north where things are better. Then it became about establishing Earthseed. I mean what the hell?

The writing wasn't great. I think my issue was that each chapter started off with some writing from Lauren regarding Earthseed.

"The Self must create
Its own reasons for being.
To shape God,
Shape Self."

“The essentials," I answered, "are to learn to shape God with forethought, care, and work; to educate and benefit their community, their families, and themselves; and to contribute to the fulfillment of the Destiny.”

“God is Change."


Did I maybe have some wine yesterday after finishing up this book. Yes. Yes I did.

We also skip over time a lot for most of the book which I wish we had not. It didn't make any sense. Frankly the book could have been split pre-community breakdown and then after the community breakdown. I was honestly ever really interested in the community that lived there and wish that we had focused more on them, their lives, what they were dealing with, and how they were getting by. I thought the story became more unfocused when we had Lauren going outside the walls.

The flow was a mess too. At one point we had a diary entry that read as one really long day (which I know wasn't possible) so it didn't work for me at all.

The setting of Los Angeles in 2025 is a mess. I already went through this in my status updates. Both for those who skipped my rage updates as I started calling them to myself yesterday, there didn't seem to be much thought behind the world is in a bad state and that was it.

We have discussions and asides thrown out about how people are still paying there property taxes on homes. That people still possess life insurance. That the National Guard does still exist. Um excuse you? Why the hell are people than going around willy nilly and slaughtering neighborhoods? Where the hell are the police in this? It doesn't make sense you have to pay them to investigate crimes! You either have a totally destabilized federal, state, and local government or you don't. You can't sorta have things still exist and handwave it away that only the rich are able to protect themselves.

Also what the hell caused all of this? There is an allusion made about climate. But that doesn't even begin to explain how society broke down enough to just get walled neighborhoods up and people having to grow their own food, purchase it for extremely high prices, and buy water. Or why there are still drug pushers developing drugs that apparently make people want to start fires.

The ending was a total non-starter for me. I didn't care about Earthseed, and Lauren's supposed wisdom was bullshit. It's the kind of crap I used to spout when I was a teenager after thinking I was the shit after reading Anyn Rand. I was in a word, an asshole. I would never follow teen me any damn where so yeah as a 36 year old I would have scoffed at Lauren's ass and went my own way.
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review 2016-03-08 01:33
The Parable of the Sower
Parable of the Sower - Octavia E. Butler

"I stared down the hill from our camp where just a glint of water was visible in the distance through the trees and bushes. The world is full of painful stories. Sometimes it seems as though there aren’t any other kind and yet I found myself thinking how beautiful that glint of water was through the trees."
 

There is only one word to describe the world that Butler built in Parable of the Sower and that word is

 

BRUTAL.

 

I recently read a review of one of her other books, Kindred, in which the reviewer used the same word, and I was wondering if that really could be an appropriate description because, after all, a book is just words on a page right? What could possible be so bad about that?

 

And then I started reading The Parable of the Sower, Butler's story set in California in 2024, where communities rely on walls to keep them safe from wild animals, robbery, rape, and murder. But of course, walls are made to crumble. Communities disperse or are erased, and all that is left is a dog eat dog world.

 

"Civilization is to groups what intelligence is to individuals. It is a means of combining the intelligence of many to achieve ongoing group adaptation."

 

What made this book special for me was its immediacy. The book was published in 1993, but is set in a 2024 that is not all that futuristic. There are no clocks striking thirteen. The only thing that has advanced are drugs. I was going to add 'human atrocities' but they have remained the same throughout time, they just disappear from focus, are kept outside the walls of social order. In this sense, The Parable of the Sower, tears down the illusion that social order is ever stable and that social constructs that are based on ideologies or intangible ideas are of any use to man when faced with a battle for survival.

 

I guess from the setting, the description of looting and arson, and the depiction of the police as corrupt and untrustworthy, that Butler may have drawn some inspiration from the 1992 Los Angeles riots. Remembering the images of the time and having seen similar events unfold in more recent years, Butler really captures the volatility of society in this novel.

Fortunately, however, in her motley crew of main characters, Butler also captures some of that human spirit that fights against this brutality and that has compassion for its fellow beings and draws strength from the support of and belief in mankind. There may be few of them, but given a chance they are set to thrive, much like the seeds that hit a fertile ground.

 

I am sorry if I have waffled my way through this review but The Parable of the Sower was one of those books that just provides so much food for thought. For all its brutality and distressing scenes and descriptions, it was a gripping read and I am looking forward to reading more by the author.

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review 2016-03-05 16:29
This is the way the world ends
Parable of the Sower - Octavia E. Butler

This isn't a review so much as it is my emergent thoughts on this book, which I read for a genre fiction challenge in one of my groups, where the eligibility characteristics were that the author had to be a woman and had to be deceased.

I'm not sure what to rate it, but it certainly had a "wow" factor for me, especially given its publication date of 1993, which seems to predate the resurgence of post-apocalyptic lit by close to a decade. I also thought it was pretty interesting that, like Orwell's 1984, it's set in the near-term future - society seems to begin its collapse with the presidential election of 2016, which may make the book worth reading for that reason alone.

I have so many remaining questions about Butler's world - what is it like in the rest of the world? There are no references to a big apocalyptic event - no war, no plague, no zombies (thank God - I hate zombie books), no nuclear winter, no asteroid hitting Earth. It seems it all just fell apart.

 

This is the way the world ends, not with a bang, but a whimper.

 

I don't mind that the questions went unanswered, in a way, it is like Doctor Zhivago, a story centered on a single ordinary person living through big events but only seeing what is within her immediate purview because mass communication seems to have collapsed. But I still have the questions.

 

I feel like Lauren's hyperempathy is really just a distraction, adding little to the story. I loved the Earthseed theme, though, and thought Butler used it really well. It would have been sort of cool if she had actually published Earthseed: The Book of the Living as a prologue to the book. I thought that the use of the poems to begin the chapters was pretty effective. Lauren is a seer, and maybe that is a side effect of the hyperempathy, but I don't think so. I think she's just one of those people who sees because she is paying attention.

Anyway, I read very little sci fi because I don't really like it, and even less dystopian, because I am usually irritated by it. I don't think I can say I "loved" it, because it really isn't my thing. But as far as books that are not my thing go, this one was terrific. I'm engaged enough to want to read the sequel, and I will definitely read more Octavia Butler.

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review 2015-07-10 00:00
Parable of the Sower
Parable of the Sower - Octavia E. Butler When I started reading this book I immediately felt inclined to rate it five stars even before finishing the first sentence. Hardly fair or reasonable I know, but that's love. I have loved Octavia Butler since reading [b: Wild Seeds|20202752|Reap The Wild Seeds|Loyd E. Hill and Marvin R. Query|https://s.gr-assets.com/assets/nophoto/book/50x75-a91bf249278a81aabab721ef782c4a74.png|28043575] a couple of years ago, I went on to read [b: Kindred|60931|Kindred|Octavia E. Butler|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1339423248s/60931.jpg|1049657] and the [b: Lilith's Brood|60926|Lilith's Brood (Xenogenesis, #1-3)|Octavia E. Butler|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1439247785s/60926.jpg|3739] trilogy which only solidified my love for this dear departed lady and all she stood for.

Having said that, I initially felt a little disappointed with the first chapter of Parable of the Sower because the setting is rather mundane, not fantastical like the other Butler novels that I have read. Butler had such an immense imagination that her sci-fi books are always full of a sense of wonder, but Parable of the Sower’s setting seems like a typical dystopian scenario, nothing very outlandish walk the Earth. However, once I settle into the book and became familiar with the characters I was swept away by the storytelling and it no longer matters what the setting is, what genre is, or even what the basic plotline is. I was there with the characters, the only thing that matters is what is happening to them on the current page.

Parable of the Sower is a dystopian novel set in what seems like a post-apocalypse America but there was never a single apocalyptic event, no nuclear war and blasted irradiated landscape. It seems that the world just went down the toilet of its own accord. If I can just steal this line from Octaviabutler.org: “When unattended environmental and economic crises lead to social chaos, not even gated communities are safe.” The central character is Lauren Olamina, an eighteen-year-old girl, at the beginning of the novel she lives a stable and relatively safe life with her family but one day her family and the entire community is destroyed by drug crazed pyromaniac raiders. Lauren – the smartest character in the book – anticipated such a disaster from the current state of affairs so she was able to grab a prepared emergency pack and hit the road (her family is all killed though). Lauren has a long-term ambition to found a community and a religion of sorts which will ensure the survival, recovery and even progress of mankind. A project she calls “Earthseed”. So after the destruction of her family the story is of her trek with across America – with a few friends she meets along the way – to find a place where they can settle in and start building a meaningful life.

Parable of the Sower is a very bleak yet optimistic novel. The story is driven by Lauren’s indomitable will and her grace under pressure.

“The weak can overcome the strong if the weak persist. Persisting isn’t always safe, but it’s often necessary.”

Lauren’s only weakness is her "hyperempathy", a condition that causes her to feel the pain of any person she perceives to be feeling pain (not by any kind of telepathy, it is more of a psychological condition from a birth defect). This makes fighting and self-defense very difficult, but she always does whatever she has to do to survive. The US depicted in this book is mostly in a state of anarchy, there is some kind of ineffective government in place and the police are mostly as bad – or worse – than the savages, robbers, rapists and cannibals roaming the land.

As I expected, the book is powerfully and beautifully written (in epistolary format). The characters are complex, vivid and entirely believable. If you are particularly squeamish some violent parts can be hard to read, though it is nothing compared to modern day “grimdark” fantasy like [b: A Game of Thrones|13496|A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, #1)|George R.R. Martin|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1436732693s/13496.jpg|1466917]. Though the book’s title is taken from the New Testament Parable of the Sower is not a religious novel, much less a Christian one though Lauren’s Earthseed concept uses aspects of religion to inspire potential followers. More importantly it is a moving and thought provoking story about what makes living worthwhile. There is a sequel called [b: Parable of the Talents|60932|Parable of the Talents (Earthseed, #2)|Octavia E. Butler|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1170553715s/60932.jpg|249012] which I will read fairly soon, I intend to read all her novels anyway, unfortunately, there are only a few left that I have not read.

________________________
Update Dec 2015: I have read the sequeal Parable of the Talents, it does not disappoint!
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