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Parable of the Sower (Earthseed, #1)
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Group Reads Discussions 2018 > "Parable of the Sower" - Full Discussion *Spoilers*

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message 1: by Allison, Fairy Mod-mother (new)

Allison Hurd | 13034 comments Mod
Thanks for waiting! What questions do you have about this book? Do you think it's a prescient warning, a brilliantly dark bit of fiction or just plain messed up?


message 2: by Allison, Fairy Mod-mother (new)

Allison Hurd | 13034 comments Mod
Phil, please don't spoil future books!


message 3: by Allison, Fairy Mod-mother (new)

Allison Hurd | 13034 comments Mod
Where the heck is everyone? Are you all too sad now? Raise your hand timidly if you'd like one of my limited edition tin foil hats!


Gabi | 3405 comments ;D Tbh I hope for somebody else to start, since I have such problems to express my thoughts in English. So it's always easier for me to wait for another comment and go from there. (But tomorrow I will try to get something together, promise)


Karin | 773 comments Thanks, I already have a tin foil hat ;). I was waiting for someone else to start!

It is dark and the writing strong, but I'm not sure if I'd use the word brilliant. I have read so many dystopian and post-apocalytpic books that I'm a big jaded in my response. The first few chapters were such that I was sure the best it would get was 2 stars, but I gave it 4. I was not going to read the sequel but am reconsidering. But I prefer to have my memory jogged a bit for details since I read this in March, 2017--too recently for a reread, but many books ago so the names of characters are not fresh at all.


message 6: by Allison, Fairy Mod-mother (new)

Allison Hurd | 13034 comments Mod
You do great, Gabi! I very much enjoy your thoughts, and I'm impressed in general with your insight, but to think you often read in a secondary language is extremely cool. That said, I understand. I still have this sitting on my counter waiting for me to be zen enough to try it, so I can't really be of help, aside from offering moral support, leading questions, and, of course, fashion statements ;-)


message 7: by Allison, Fairy Mod-mother (new)

Allison Hurd | 13034 comments Mod
Karin wrote: "Thanks, I already have a tin foil hat ;). I was waiting for someone else to start!

It is dark and the writing strong, but I'm not sure if I'd use the word brilliant. I have read so many dystopian ..."


FWIW Anna says Talents is even scarier. That's interesting, it feels like a "regular" dystopia to you? What threw you out/felt derivative/didn't land for you?


Karin | 773 comments Allison wrote: "Karin wrote: "FWIW Anna says Talents is even scarier. That's interesting, it feels like a "regular" dystopia to you? What threw you out/felt derivative/didn't land for you?."

Define regular ;).

Okay, things it has in common with a number other things I've read (not all of them, and I won't recall all titles as I've been reading these sorts of novels since I was a kid and that was ) l.

1. no single organized government, but a bevvy of them, along with vast ungoverned area.

2. breakdown of control in formerly civilized areas, but we see at least one highly controlled, well defended community where the main couple end up.

3. Very dark--that is quite common for post-apocalyptic and dystopian novels, even if it appears not to be so at the start.

4. I can't remember all of it and am waiting for more comments to a. remind me of who is who by name and b. nuances I have forgotten. I remember primarily broad strokes.


Gabi | 3405 comments You sure as hell know how to motivate, Allison! So instead of going to bed, here are some thoughts of mine.

In contrast to Karin I usually don’t read dystopian novels (I like my future bright), so my impression is from a dystopian-newbie point of view.

First of all, I love her narrative style. In some sense it reminded me a bit of that of Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy. Not only the perspective but the feeling is very feminine (I hope I make sense). She writes about brutal events, but she never gets too graphic. What happens, happens in my head and only as far as I let it happen. I very much appreciate this style.

The scenario feels all too real, so that I could not escape to the feeling of „nah, this happens to somebody else, it’s fiction“, but had me constantly thinking about what I would do in this situation, which path I would choose. When she talks to her friend, i.e., about the necessity to be prepared I had to admit that I would have very much reacted the same way the other girl did – and I felt somehow ashamed about that while reading.
Or another example: I always deemed myself a pacifist, who can’t even kill a fly. But when I thought about the situation, me, having two young boys myself, I realised that I would be able to kill another person on purpose. I absolutely didn’t like this insight, but I was fascinated by it. So on some level this book was extremely personal for me. It made me think a lot and I guess that’s the main reason why I was so fascinated by it.

What else did fascinate me was to witness the beginning of a new religion. Not some early point in a community, but the ultimate beginning, the thought, the one person. It starts so plain, but it makes sense for Lauren, especially in this situation.
In the first impression thread a deleted post asked if it was believable that a child at that age would start her own religion. And I’d say from personal experience: absolutely yes. This is the age where I started to question the religion of my parents, where I sought answers and tried to find them somewhere else. What Lauren does seems very realistic to me, especially given the dour situation, where the need for a religion is so much greater than during my privileged youth.

So I guess I can say that I loved this book, because it hit home with me.
(and now I wait for other comments, cause I sure as hell forgot a lot of stuff)


Sabrina | 365 comments Just finished, but I think I have to sleep over it. I found the future and world building very authentic, but the new religion did not convince me. The drug pyro and hyperempathy were also a bit too much: almost as if natural disasters and human violence was not enough. I liked the thread of hope though...


Sabrina | 365 comments On the brink of going to bed: I agree with Gabi. This author has a way to make you feel the story!


message 12: by Megan (new) - added it

Megan (gentlyread) | 85 comments I finished this yesterday! I don't read a lot of dystopic fiction, but I thought this had a lot of interesting elements.

I'm still not sure how I feel about hyperempathy. It interested me that, near the end of the book, Lauren is adamant that hyperempathy is all bad and wouldn't wish it on others ("Self-defense shouldn't have to be an agony or a killing or both"), while Bankole suggested that "it might not be so bad a thing if most people had to endure all the pain they caused."

I'm still thinking that over. Mostly because I can believe how terrible of an experience hyperempathy is, especially in survival situations and in slavery situations like Mora's, but like Bankole, I'm kind of stuck on the idea that man, if more people felt the pain they caused, wouldn't that prevent them from causing so much pain? I'm curious about what other people think about that.

(And I also thought it was interesting in contrast to the pyro drug, which was all about causing more pain and not feeling it.)


Karin | 773 comments Gabi wrote: "What else did fascinate me was to witness the beginning of a new religion. Not some early point in a community, but the ultimate beginning, the thought, the one person. It starts so plain, but it makes sense for Lauren, especially in this situation.."

Yes, as a newbie this would be fascinating. This is not as common as some of the things I mentioned, but Margaret Atwood had one in her dystopian trilogy, it was in the City of Ember (a children's dystopia) and I've seen it from time to time. I can't remember the other books where I've seen this, but it does come up from time to time. I am not particularly keen on that plot device in general, but I have now forgotten much about that religion Lauren was making up. It was not as annoying as Atwood's was, though, I am sure of that.

I agree with Sabrina about the hyperempathy being too much--I just double checked my review now and had mentioned that.

What I liked were her ability to write well and to spin a story such that I kept reading past the point where I was sure it wouldn't get more than 2 stars.


message 14: by Megan (new) - added it

Megan (gentlyread) | 85 comments Gabi wrote: "In the first impression thread a deleted post asked if it was believable that a child at that age would start her own religion. And I’d say from personal experience: absolutely yes. This is the age where I started to question the religion of my parents, where I sought answers and tried to find them somewhere else. What Lauren does seems very realistic to me, especially given the dour situation, where the need for a religion is so much greater than during my privileged youth."

Yes! I was really interested in this aspect, too. And while I thought Lauren was precocious, her development of Earthseed felt believable enough to me: a homebound teenager who read voraciously, who had keen observation skills, who had a lot of practice hiding her pained reactions and her questioning of her father's religion, it made sense to me that her journals (poetry and all!) would be used to chronicle the start of some serious thinking about how to explain the world, and how to live in it.


message 15: by Anna, Circadian heretic (new) - rated it 5 stars

Anna (vegfic) | 9629 comments Mod
Allison wrote: "Anna says Talents is even scarier."

I don't know if scarier is the best way to put it, but it's terrifying in new and different ways. So yay, look forward to another blast of sob inducing feels if you continue. I do think you should continue, it's worth it. I am somewhat emotionally recovered now that it's been a little over a week since I finished both books.

I thought the hyperempathy angle was absolutely fascinating! I didn't remember it from the blurb, and it came as a complete surprise. I was so excited at that point. I'm almost sure I've mentioned this somewhere in this group, but I've always had this thing where I feel physical pain if I see others hurt irl or in movies. Not every single time, and obviously not as much as it would hurt to be actually injured, but I do feel a sort of empathetic echo of what I think the person is feeling. This means I can't watch violent movies without some distress at the very least. So to me that was a great way to pull me in to the story immediately. I completely understand why some people may find it unnecessary, there are enough horrors in Lauren's world without having to feel everything herself. And I agree completely with Bankole, truly knowing/feeling what you're doing to someone else would hopefully make them less likely to turn to violence. Empathy in general would be a nice trait in more people.

I also didn't know about the religious aspect, I usually avoid books with this much religion. It was very interesting to see how it formed in Lauren's mind though. The most fascinating thing was how she was able to convert everyone almost instantly. I find it hard to believe that people would so readily accept such a different religion. It's a straight up cult, and maybe these desperate people are looking to whatever they can find to give them some hope. I also think none of the people Lauren gathered around her were very religious before, so maybe that made it easier to join her. I mean it's a godless cult, not really a religion as I see it.

I wish this trilogy had been completed, I would have loved to see where the third book was going! The end of the second book is satisfying enough, though, so no need to avoid reading it in fear of cliffhangers.


message 16: by Anna, Circadian heretic (new) - rated it 5 stars

Anna (vegfic) | 9629 comments Mod
Since this was our clifi pick, I'm interested in hearing what everyone thought about that aspect of the book? It's true that climate change wasn't the only thing going wrong in this future, but there was a water shortage for one thing. I keep wondering how the gated communities were able to get enough clean water for all their needs, even frequent bathing. Is having money enough to keep you 'watered' in a crisis? Surely the rich will be better off at first, but clean water doesn't magically appear when you throw money at the tap.

We read Memory of Water last year, where water usage was controlled by the government. Which scenario do you think is more likely? Or something completely different?


Bonnie I loved this book but think the hyperempathy things detracted from the overall end of civilization themes. Adding a magical component to dystopian science fiction takes away from the real life challenges and hoped IMO.


Bonnie Anna wrote: "Since this was our clifi pick, I'm interested in hearing what everyone thought about that aspect of the book? It's true that climate change wasn't the only thing going wrong in this future, but the..."

I can see water- and breathable air- being expensive commodities in the future and can imagine big corporations and power politicians taking advantage of it to the point crime goes rampant.


message 19: by Anna, Circadian heretic (new) - rated it 5 stars

Anna (vegfic) | 9629 comments Mod
Bonnie wrote: "Adding a magical component to dystopian science fiction takes away from the real life challenges"

I don't think it was meant to be magical? She explains it's completely psychological. I did find it more unbelievable that a lot of people had the same symptom as a result of their birth mother's drug abuse, but it's not completely impossible. We already have things like Highly Sensitive People (HSP) and Sensory processing sensitivity (SPS).


Bonnie Anna wrote: "Bonnie wrote: "Adding a magical component to dystopian science fiction takes away from the real life challenges"

I don't think it was meant to be magical? She explains it's completely psychologica..."


It did add a layer of difficulty in surviving. I personally think the book would be stronger without it though. Still it is was a favorite book for me.


message 21: by Gabi (new) - rated it 5 stars

Gabi | 3405 comments I read that hyperempathy exists as a symptom. Not to the extent to actually cause physical pain, but I thought this aspect quite believable. We have the mirror neurons, and I'm ready to believe that some drug may take this to the next level.

As for the water aspect, I imagined that the closed communities maintained their wells better.


message 22: by Anna, Circadian heretic (new) - rated it 5 stars

Anna (vegfic) | 9629 comments Mod
Bonnie wrote: "I personally think the book would be stronger without it though."

I completely understand that, and many reviews say exactly this, but for me it was perhaps the most interesting part. At least until lots of people with hyperempathy started popping up. It did sort of make sense that this would be another way to make the slaves suffer and keep them in control. But I do agree that it could easily have been left out, maybe we could have had another Butler book all about hyperempathy.


message 23: by Anna, Circadian heretic (new) - rated it 5 stars

Anna (vegfic) | 9629 comments Mod
Gabi wrote: "As for the water aspect, I imagined that the closed communities maintained their wells better."

Interesting. If my neighborhood, which isn't gated or closed in any way, had to start relying on a natural water source, I have no idea how that would work! I live right next to the sea, but I'd need to get my hands on some sort of desalination gear.

Do I need to start putting together a doomsday kit? I need to learn how to dig wells!


Sabrina | 365 comments Anna wrote: "Since this was our clifi pick, I'm interested in hearing what everyone thought about that aspect of the book? It's true that climate change wasn't the only thing going wrong in this future, but the..."

I really liked the climate aspects in this book and wish they would have been further explored. I did not have any previous knowledge about this book and I guess, I expected this to major more, because of our monthly theme. This is probably also the reason why the hyper-empathy and the emerging new religion quite surprised me and did not really fit in my mind. I would probably have liked the book even if both were completely missing. Still, I’m not sorry that this book got chosen.

Regarding water supplies, I was a bit surprised that there was any water to wash on the road as well (except at the lakes / ocean), but I really liked how she described the difficulties with the water handlers (3 persons to get water and to safeguard it) or the problems with polluted water.


message 25: by Anna, Circadian heretic (last edited Aug 10, 2018 12:07PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Anna (vegfic) | 9629 comments Mod
Sabrina wrote: "I did not have any previous knowledge about this book and I guess, I expected this to major more, because of our monthly theme. This is probably also the reason why the hyper-empathy and the emerging new religion quite surprised me and did not really fit in my mind. I would probably have liked the book even if both were completely missing. Still, I’m not sorry that this book got chosen."

This was my nomination, I went back and forth for days because I didn't feel that this was clifi enough. I couldn't find a better option I was completely happy with, so I decided to nominate this, thinking it wouldn't even make it to the poll. I was so surprised it won! But I'm very happy it did. It would otherwise have been the last Butler book I'd have read, because I knew the third book was never published. Like I said previously, there was no reason to not read this for that reason, but I'd somehow got the idea that there was going to be a massive cliffhanger.

That's why I wanted to try and squeeze some opinions about the clifi aspect out of people, because I feel like it's my fault we're not reading something with more emphasis on climate change :D It's hard to know unless you've already read the book, and I've always only nominated things that are still on my TBR. You can only do so much research into a book without spoiling it for yourself.


Sabrina | 365 comments Anna wrote: "I feel like it's my fault..."

Oh, I’m completely happy with the choice as well, I voted for it :-) So thank you!

I was just thinking about reasons really, why I was bothered by these themes. In the end, I guess it could have been anything because really, there are so many themes and concepts in this book you could write endlessly. Maybe it was just too much of everything (e.g. hyper-empathy versus lack of feeling, drug abuse, anarchy and corruption, slavery both modern and old and on top of that the world finally failing)


Karin | 773 comments Anna wrote: "Gabi wrote: "As for the water aspect, I imagined that the closed communities maintained their wells better."

Interesting. If my neighborhood, which isn't gated or closed in any way, had to start r..."


You are unlikely to get good water from a well close to the sea unless you are far enough above it. If you have a house close to sea level, you are less likely to get one. Most of the wells were I grew up were not on waterfront lots.


Miranda (mirandaio) | 11 comments Hi everyone, sorry to be a bit late to the discussion. I’ve been away, but not able to put down the book! In my edition there’s also a conversation with Octavia Butler at the back, which is really interesting.

In case you don't know, I'm also a social researcher interested in sf reading group discussions, and following a few threads on SFFBC with your permission - Allison introduced me here: https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/...

More info on the project, a downloadable info sheet & a consent form is here: http://unsettlingscientificstories.co...

Thanks for having me :)


message 29: by Tomislav (last edited Aug 11, 2018 07:17AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tomislav | 134 comments I finished my re-read (review at https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...), and have immediately started my re-read of sequel Parable of the Talents. It is somewhat difficult to talk only about the first book, because with time my memories have blurred the two together.

I found the climate change science to be very rudimentary, as the book was written 25 years ago, and really just background for the decaying social milieu that stressed Lauren into the development of Earthseed. I might also mention that while I am a retired biomedical engineer, my wife is a Unitarian Universalist parish minister. In my opinion as a "second-hand seminary listener", Earthseed seems to be a form of religious naturalism (non-supernatural religion) that emphasizes continuous change, rather than ultimate and permanent truths as in traditional religions. That's not as unusual as some might assume; the Parable of the Sower was required reading in one of my wife's seminary classes. While I appreciate the Earthseed perspective, especially for times of great change, I think it elevates one particular aspect of religious experience, at the expense of others. Personally, I probably identify most strongly with the views of Bankole.


message 30: by Megan (new) - added it

Megan (gentlyread) | 85 comments I did think the climate change part was background, not foreground. But I think there were still some thematic echoes that felt "in conversation" with how we talk about and deal with (or not) climate change today. Like, Lauren trying to build/share a mental framework that rejected the possibility of supernatural invention, and the difficulty of getting people to confront their denial.

Lauren's inability to persuade her friend Joanne--smart like her, raised the way she was--to not deny the precariousness of their existence, to think about how to survive the future, I found that so tense! And it was something that felt enduringly relevant: people are in denial because they hate acknowledging helplessness, but Earthseed--as Lauren was developing it--offered both an acknowledgment of helplessness and a way to push past that, without relying on the hope of outside intervention.

It's not solely specific to climate change, but I think it gets to the psychological (or emotional) part of how we comprehend it. Or don't.


Bonnie Karin wrote: "Anna wrote: "Gabi wrote: "As for the water aspect, I imagined that the closed communities maintained their wells better."

Interesting. If my neighborhood, which isn't gated or closed in any way, h..."

there are ways to separate saltwater into salt and water (as you noted.) This kind of machine/knowledge might do you more good than the well :)


Karin | 773 comments Bonnie wrote: "Karin wrote: "Anna wrote: "Gabi wrote: "As for the water aspect, I imagined that the closed communities maintained their wells better."

Interesting. If my neighborhood, which isn't gated or closed..."


I agree, and it's easier than sun distillation. But then you'd need some kind of generator. There are bicycle powered ones, and someday I hope to get one. They will run a fridge and the old kind of 100 watt bulb for 8 hours, or so I recall.


Anthony (albinokid) | 1471 comments I just finished this book and I’m very moved and stirred in my soul. I had expected brutality and violence, given the trigger warnings (which I didn’t read cause I’m virulently anti-spoiler), but I hadn’t expected such a string thread of hard-earned hope coursing through it. Butler said she was a voracious student of history in an interview I read, and it seemed to me she had deeply considered how often human beings had survived horrifyingly difficult ordeals — slavery, plagues, wars, the Holocaust — and found a way to depict how that might be the case in her grim, vividly-imagined dystopian future. As terrible as things get, somehow we may survive them. Somehow we *have* survived them through the millennia...

I loved how clear and unsentimental and muscular her prose in this book was. I loved how she didn’t always feel compelled to reveal what happened to the people who went missing. I think lesser authors wouldn’t have trusted the instincts of allowing outcomes to by uncertain and mysterious. But of course in the world she created, it was wholly believable that people would go missing. For them to turn up somehow would feel contrived.

I loved the conversation between Lauren and Bankole about the need to have a funeral for all of the people those in the group had lost.

A remarkable novel.


message 34: by Beth (new) - rated it 4 stars

Beth (rosewoodpip) | 1685 comments Anna wrote: "I don't think it was meant to be magical? She explains it's completely psychological."

It seems like she has to see the suffering person/creature in order for the hyperempathy to kick in, so this argues for it being psychological. It doesn't entirely explain away why she bled in response to her (friend? brother?) trolling her with a fake bleeding injury, or why the bleeding response would have stopped when she started menstruating.

Anthony wrote: "I loved how clear and unsentimental and muscular her prose in this book was."

I am usually one who needs a little bit of sentiment to get by, but I'm loving it, too. It also isn't self-congratulatory about its lack of sentiment, or too indulgent in the horrors that its main character sees. It's a delicate balance that Butler is handling well.


message 35: by Allison, Fairy Mod-mother (new)

Allison Hurd | 13034 comments Mod
Hmm

You're all making me think maybe it'd be okay to try it.

Hmmmm....

In the meantime, there was some discussion in the impressions thread about plausibility. I know we briefly touched on the cli-fi elements, but what parts of this book felt prescient or clever in response to the circumstances presented, and which felt totally improbable to you?


Anthony (albinokid) | 1471 comments Well this book was written before the advent of cell phones or smartphones, and social media, so there’s material about how information is disseminated that doesn’t feel as realistic in a certain sense, but it does feel realistic relative to the technology that was available at the time.

And the action takes place in the 2020s, so in a few years it will be officially outdated, but that doesn’t bother me either.


message 37: by Allison, Fairy Mod-mother (new)

Allison Hurd | 13034 comments Mod
It sounds like she's closer to accurate than a lot of doomsday proclaimers, so that's pretty impressive!


Sabrina | 365 comments Allison wrote: "In the meantime, there was some discussion in the impressions thread about plausibility. I know we briefly touched on the cli-fi elements, but what parts of this book felt prescient or clever in response to the circumstances presented, and which felt totally improbable to you?"

For me this world felt fully realistic: long draughts with water shortages, violent gangs full of drug addicts, desperate homeless and struggling communities trying to retain their humanity. This world was all about survival and rang just too true for some parts of the world. I also loved how expertly she balanced desperation with hope or how violence, like Beth said, is not too “self-congratulatory” . I guess this was also the reason why I feel that hyper-empathy or the religion-theme were just not needed anymore (I guess not fully implausible), but somehow distracted me from her “awesomeness”.


message 39: by Gabi (new) - rated it 5 stars

Gabi | 3405 comments To me the whole background sounded plausible. Butler didn't go for a the-whole-world-is-doomed scenario, but more for a local problem. There was not much information about the rest of the world, cause we experience everything through Lauren's POV, but there was mentioning of Alaska doing better and some overseas probably as well (when she talked about the consortium that set up those "privileged" colonies). All the time while reading I felt the set-up quite believable.
Although I had the feeling that the climatic problems were only the background noise for the theme of the foundation of the religion. Which was okay for me.


Travis Foster (travismfoster) | 1154 comments Tomislav wrote: "In my opinion as a "second-hand seminary listener", Earthseed seems to be a form of religious naturalism (non-supernatural religion) that emphasizes continuous change, rather than ultimate and permanent truths as in traditional religions.."

I had this thought as well. It reminded me also of mid-nineteenth-century American Transcendentalism as well as womanist theology like that Shug introduces to Celie in Alice Walker's The Color Purple.


Travis Foster (travismfoster) | 1154 comments Anthony wrote: I loved the conversation between Lauren and Bankole about the need to have a funeral for all of the people those in the group had lost. "

Yes! So beautiful. I also agree completely about how moving the book manages to be in spite of the dire setting. Like Tomislav, I found I had to pick up Parable of the Talents immediately after finishing.


Travis Foster (travismfoster) | 1154 comments Sabrina wrote: "For me this world felt fully realistic: long draughts with water shortages, violent gangs full of drug addicts, desperate homeless and struggling communities trying to retain their humanity.."

Me too. I also found totally plausible the argument that capitalism left unchecked and unregulated will quickly slide into new forms of enslavement.


Tomislav | 134 comments Travis wrote: "Yes! So beautiful. I also agree completely about how moving the book manages to be in spite of the dire setting. Like Tomislav, I found I had to pick up Parable of the Talents immediately after finishing."

I know it's a little off-topic for the current discussion, but I've posted my review for my re-read of Parable of the Talents as well, at https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

However, I will directly mention here that while Parable of the Talents does reach a satisfying ending, Butler had intended for Earthseed to be a trilogy, or perhaps a longer series. She was hit by depression and writer’s block in her later years, and then died unexpected in 2006. Her notes indicate the next volume would be entitled Parable of the Trickster, and if you are curious about where the series was going, you could read this article: https://electricliterature.com/now-mo...


Tizzy | 7 comments I finished reading this last night (ok, two nights ago, but whatever. Sue me.)

I really liked it, although I found it quite different from contemporary fiction. I'm not quite sure what to say (I mean, I wrote a review and all) other than this is one dense tome, but one I considered very much worth reading. I didn't really judge whether the doomsday-like scenario with climate change was plausible or not, as I felt the main goal was to depict society under extreme duress rather than portraying a believable future under climate change. And I felt that that goal was very well accomplished.


Karin | 773 comments Travis wrote: "Me too. I also found totally plausible the argument that capitalism left unchecked and unregulated will quickly slide into new forms of enslavement.."

I think most forms of control unchecked and unregulated slide into forms of enslavement--world history is rife with this. So, yes, that part was very believable.


Oleksandr Zholud | 831 comments I finished this book just a few days ago. I’m quite impressed and, what is more important for me, emotionally touched by it. The idea of ‘soft apocalypse’, when there is no single catastrophic event, but just a downward trend is sometimes more interesting than a sudden shock with a meteorite or nuclear war or plague.
From what I’ve read above, many readers view hyperempathy as unnecessary. I disagree. It is a great [for plot reasons] idea for post-apocalypse, where usual protagonists have no qualm for hurting people. And from what I know from psychology it is quite possible, so it isn’t magic. There are several well documented cases of stigmata, among others.
I think that the novel is the product of its time: crack-cocaine gangs in the USA and the peak of homicides in metro-areas; even action movies of the period are famous for their death count. As a prediction of the near future it failed but for me, SF is about ideas, not forecasts.
What seemed strange for me is that walled towns were so unprepared to attack from outside: you have automatic weapons and you know [and even can/should design the place with attack in mind] thus almost any assault of even larger force can be repulsed. Classical 3:1 advantage needed to an attacker should be even greater. Yes, fires do make a difference, but this eventuality had to be thought over, it is after all known by inhabitants.
Two things that irked me a bit are that all female bodies they see are raped [while rape in civil war/other disaster is commonplace it is not ubiquitous] and the slave theme. The latter may be a problem for me as a white male from the Eastern Europe because where I live non-Caucasians are quite rare, there never was a African slavery and my own ancestors [as with most other people around] were serfs, which is ‘slavery, light version’ with extra-legal physical punishments, splitting families for sale etc. But I admit that my experience is limited.


message 47: by Tomislav (last edited Aug 17, 2018 10:26AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tomislav | 134 comments Oleksandr wrote: "The latter may be a problem for me as a white male from the Eastern Europe because where I live non-Caucasians are quite rare, there never was a African slavery and my own ancestors [as with most other people around] were serfs, which is ‘slavery, light version’ with extra-legal physical punishments, splitting families for sale etc. But I admit that my experience is limited.

Well, both of the English words "slave" and "slav" derive from the same Medieval Latin root word "sclava" meaning "captive." I think the name was first applied to us in the Balkans during the Crusades - but the words have evolved in different directions since then. This has been in my mind in the past few days, because I'm now reading Death's End by Liu Cixin, and it briefly mentions the Fourth Crusade.

Although I did not grow up here, I now live in the US South, where the echoes of the slavery are still very present in both Black and White culture. I'm not equating Slavic history to this, but it bears remembering that history is long.


Oleksandr Zholud | 831 comments Tomislav wrote: "Although I did not grow up here, I now live in the US South, where the echoes of the slavery are still very present in both Black and White culture. I'm not equating Slavic history to this, but it bears remembering that history is long..."

I don't criticize, for I'm an outsider, but I'm just curious while instead of focusing on real racial inequality [as an economist I am well aware that it exists] but about the past, when there are no living people, who were slaves.
Emancipation of serfs in the Russian empire happened in 1861, i.e. roughly the same time as the US Civil war. However, here there is almost no talks about how serfdom shaped the society.

Another point regarding the book - I cannot see how they can sustain themselves within the town. Yes, fruit trees and gardens can supply you with food, but not for the whole year. Yet there is no mention about constant inflow of food, instead there is acorn bread and dried fruits and rabbits... where they get enough grass to feed rabbits?


Anthony (albinokid) | 1471 comments @Oleksandr I think it’s really interesting to talk to folks like yourself who didn’t grow up in the US about our country’s peculiar and profoundly dark legacy of slavery and how that legacy has haunted our history and how it continues to shape our national conversations about race.

The entire economy of half of our country — the South — was built around and sustained by the horrors of slavery. When slavery was finally abolished after the US Civil War, (which was in itself a particularly destructive and violent — but altogether necessary — conflict), there was enormous strife in the Southern states for the newly-freed slaves, and tremendous, systemic efforts made on the part of the local and state governments (run by white people) to continue to marginalize, demean, prohibit the employment of, and diminish the rights of their former slaves and the slaves’ descendants. This continued to be the case for about 100 years; as recently as 50 or so years ago, there were still draconian and harmful laws that separated black people from white people in former slave-owning Southern states. Even though those laws were ultimately declared, at long last, unconstitutional, their horrifying legacy continues to have an effect.

There’s an incredibly powerful documentary directed by Ava Duvernay called The 13th that goes into great depth about all of this, which I would highly recommend.

At any rate, I don’t know enough about how slavery or serfdom has affected marginalized people in your nation or other European nations where it existed, but I do think our country is sort of a unique example of the long term, sinister, systemic issues that slavery can engender, issues that are still getting themselves worked out in our collective psyche.

I can’t help but think that this legacy was among the many aspects of American life and history that Octavia E. Butler was sorting through and reckoning with as she was imagining writing a novel dealing with what life might be like for a young black woman trying to survive in an America that was falling apart at the seams. I felt she did a wonderful job of filtering all of that into her narrative in a powerful manner.


message 50: by Karin (last edited Aug 17, 2018 06:18PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Karin | 773 comments Oleksandr wrote: "I finished this book just a few days ago. I’m quite impressed and, what is more important for me, emotionally touched by it. The idea of ‘soft apocalypse’, when there is no single catastrophic even..."

Did you know that the word slave comes from the word Slav and dates from when Scandinavians conquered part of what is now called Russia and took local white slaves? Or that Icelanders are 60 percent Norse and 40 percent Irish genetically and that most of this Irish came as slaves?

While I agree that both of these are overdone in fiction, rape is common in war and anarchy, and slavery is not as unusual as we like to think.

As a Canadian who is now a dual citizen, I do agree, though, that Americans have held onto this far more strongly than many other nations. I think it has a lot to do with racism and what happened after. I highly recommend the book The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration. BUT, racism and the enslavement of others is not unique to white people or the States--just look at the slavery of the Bushmen by other Africans in Africa that existed into the latter half of the 20th century, for just one example.


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