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Parable of the Sower Mass Market Paperback – February 1, 1995

4.3 out of 5 stars 315 customer reviews
Book 1 of 2 in the Parable Series

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Octavia E. Butler, the grande dame of science fiction, writes extraordinary, inspirational stories of ordinary people. Parable of the Sower is a hopeful tale set in a dystopian future United States of walled cities, disease, fires, and madness. Lauren Olamina is an 18-year-old woman with hyperempathy syndrome--if she sees another in pain, she feels their pain as acutely as if it were real. When her relatively safe neighborhood enclave is inevitably destroyed, along with her family and dreams for the future, Lauren grabs a backpack full of supplies and begins a journey north. Along the way, she recruits fellow refugees to her embryonic faith, Earthseed, the prime tenet of which is that "God is change." This is a great book--simple and elegant, with enough message to make you think, but not so much that you feel preached to. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Hugo and Nebula Award-winner Butler's first novel since 1989's Imago offers an uncommonly sensitive rendering of a very common SF scenario: by 2025, global warming, pollution, racial and ethnic tensions and other ills have precipitated a worldwide decline. In the Los Angeles area, small beleaguered communities of the still-employed hide behind makeshift walls from hordes of desperate homeless scavengers and violent pyromaniac addicts known as "paints" who, with water and work growing scarcer, have become increasingly aggressive. Lauren Olamina, a young black woman, flees when the paints overrun her community, heading north with thousands of other refugees seeking a better life. Lauren suffers from 'hyperempathy," a genetic condition that causes her to experience the pain of others as viscerally as her own--a heavy liability in this future world of cruelty and hunger. But she dreams of a better world, and with her philosophy/religion, Earthseed, she hopes to found an enclave which will weather the tough times and which may one day help carry humans to the stars. Butler tells her story with unusual warmth, sensitivity, honesty and grace; though science fiction readers will recognize this future Earth, Lauren Olamina and her vision make this novel stand out like a tree amid saplings.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Aspect; First Thus edition (February 1, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446601977
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446601979
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.8 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (315 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #577,399 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Octavia Estelle Butler, often referred to as the "grand dame of science fiction," was born in Pasadena, California on June 22, 1947. She received an Associate of Arts degree in 1968 from Pasadena Community College, and also attended California State University in Los Angeles and the University of California, Los Angeles. During 1969 and 1970, she studied at the Screenwriter's Guild Open Door Program and the Clarion Science Fiction Writers' Workshop, where she took a class with science fiction master Harlan Ellison (who later became her mentor), and which led to Butler selling her first science fiction stories.

Butler's first story, "Crossover," was published in the 1971 Clarion anthology. Patternmaster, her first novel and the first title of her five-volume Patternist series, was published in 1976, followed by Mind of My Mind in 1977. Others in the series include Survivor (1978), Wild Seed (1980), which won the James Tiptree Award, and Clay's Ark (1984).

With the publication of Kindred in 1979, Butler was able to support herself writing full time. She won the Hugo Award in 1984 for her short story, "Speech Sounds," and in 1985, Butler's novelette "Bloodchild" won a Hugo Award, a Nebula Award, the Locus Award, and an award for best novelette from Science Fiction Chronicle.

Other books by Octavia E. Butler include the Xenogenesis trilogy: Dawn (1987), Adulthood Rites (1988) and Imago (1989), and a short story collection, Bloodchild and Other Stories (1995). Parable of the Sower (1993), the first of her Earthseed series, was a finalist for the Nebula Award as well as a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. The book's sequel, Parable of the Talents (1998), won a Nebula Award.

In 1995 Butler was awarded a prestigious MacArthur Foundation fellowship.


1980, Creative Arts Award, L.A. YWCA
1984, Hugo Award for Best Short Story - Speech Sounds
1984, Nebula Award for Best Novelette - Bloodchild
1985, Science Fiction Chronicle Award for Best Novelette - Bloodchild
1985, Locus Award for Best Novelette - Bloodchild
1985, Hugo Award for Best Novelette - Bloodchild
1995, MacArthur Foundation "Genius" Grant
1999, Nebula Award for Best Novel - Parable of the Talents
2000, PEN American Center lifetime achievement award in writing
2010, Inductee Science Fiction Hall of Fame
2012, Solstice Award, Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
I started reading Octavia Butler's book when I was at school in Atlanta. A friend lent me a copy of "Wild Seed" and I was riveted from page one and could not put it down. Octavia Butler is one of the best science-fiction writers to come out of the 20th century. Her pages are filled with characters that are believable even though she often puts them in `out-of-this-world situations.' In "Parable of Sower" she introduces the reader to Lauren, a young girl with the unenviable ability to feel the pain of others. A "talent" her father has taught her to hide from others outside her family. The world Lauren is living in is slowly descending into anarchy and Lauren, is living with her family in a small enclave, protected by her Minister father, who thinks one day everything will go back to normal. Lauren however knows that the walls that protect them will not stand forever, and she prepares to leave before it is too late but it is already too late and her family and friends are raped, murdered and mutilated by a vicious gang of drug-addicts. With two fellow survivors Lauren sets off on a quest that will lead them halfway across America, gathering others along the way, such as two young prostitutes on the run from their pimp father, a middle aged Academic, an orphaned child but to name a few. A tentative alliance is forged, one that will enable them all to live through the dreadful times ahead. Lauren carries with her a strange new belief, that of Earthseed, a creed that will one-day lead to the stars and a life beyond a corrupted earth. As she and her slowly growing band of followers' search for sanctuary she preaches Earthseed to them, and soon begins to recruit coverts among her fellow travellers.Read more ›
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I don't often read science fiction, but the recommendation of several readers and its inclusion on our local public radio "Readers and Writers on the Air" series caused me to pick up, with some trepidation, Octavia E. Butler's 1993 sci-fi novel Parable of the Sower. Set just twenty-five years from now, Butler imagines a California beset by severe global warming, with the government virtually collapsed and anarchy run amuck. Written in the first person, Butler's narrator, Lauren, is a young woman who begins the book living in a walled community with her family. Life outside the walls is total chaos, and much effort is spent keeping the "barbarians" - people who have been dispossessed of home or property - on the outside. When her town's security is breached and her entire family murdered, Lauren finds herself on the road, where she eventually gathers a group of people with her, all journeying to the north. Lauren is unique and memorable in a couple of respects: first, a preacher's kid, she sets out to define and found a new religion, which she calls Earthseed, and which takes both the moral precepts of Christianity and the unique creed that "God is change." Second, Lauren has "hyperempathy syndrome", which causes her to feel as her own the pleasure and pain of those around her. Thus, if she sees someone critically injured and in pain, she will herself feel that person's conscious pain. Not a good condition to have when living under circumstances where one must fight to survive, and kill or be killed!
While I found at times the Earthseed material to be a bit "over the top," overall this is a provocative and excellent novel. Butler writes extremely well, and she made the hellish world in which her characters find themselves absolutely believable.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Some writers have a talent for describing current reality in the guise of science fiction. Octavia Butler was one of the best at this. Her dystopia in this and the sequel Parable of the Talents is so close to our own reality that it is quite scary. It is also a quick read. Her work has always been good reading and this is no exception. Want to see the end product of rampant corporatism? Read the book. The way things are going in the US of A, we may well need a leader like the heroine Lauren Olamina Bankole but you can get some of Lauren's wisdom from reading Octavia's Parable books for yourself. You won't regret it. A few of her words below.

"Choose your leaders with wisdom and forethought

To be led by a coward is to be controlled by all that the coward fears.

To be led by a fool is to be led by the opportunists that control the fool

To be led by a thief is to offer up your most precious treasures to be stolen

To be led by a liar is to ask to be told lies

To be led by a tyrant is to sell yourself and those you love into slavery."
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I read this as part of reading Butler's entire oeuvre in preparation for an essay that I was writing about a common theme in her work. With some authors such a task would be daunting, either because of the volume of writing or the disparate nature of their output. So far, as I can tell, Butler's limited publications fall into four distinct groups: her early novels in the Patternist series; Kindred, a standalone novel of time travel and slavery; the Xenogenesis trilogy; and the current group of books, likely to go by the heading of Earthseed. The new novel, Parable of the Talents, is the second in the series, which I have on my shelf to be read, but I wanted to make sure I started at the beginning.
In 2030 the U.S. is a nation under siege from within. Violence and new drugs have combined to make the cities war zones, where the citizens live in suburban walled enclaves and must go out in groups or well-armed to shop or work. One drug in particular, which causes the user to find fire so fascinating that he or she immediately turns to arson, wreaks total havoc. This is a post-apocalyptic society, but instead of following a nuclear war or a plague, it is an implosion of the tensions that we have in society today magnified enormously.
I don't care much for post-apocalypses, and it really doesn't matter if it happened because of war or drugs or plague. It is a setting that seems as if ordered from central casting. I've read it so many times that there is nothing new about it. Unfortunately, Butler does not change my opinion with this book.
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