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Parable of the Talents Paperback – January 1, 2000

123 customer reviews
Book 2 of 2 in the Parable Series

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Editorial Reviews Review

Octavia Butler tackles the creation of a new religion, the making of a god, and the ultimate fate of humanity in her Earthseed series, which began with Parable of the Sower, and now continues with Parable of the Talents. The saga began with the near-future dystopian tale of Sower, in which young Lauren Olamina began to realize her destiny as a leader of people dispossessed and destroyed by the crumbling of society. The basic principles of Lauren's faith, Earthseed, were contained in a collection of deceptively simple proverbs that Lauren used to recruit followers. She teaches that "God is change" and that humanity's ultimate destiny is among the stars.

In Parable of the Talents, the seeds of change that Lauren planted begin to bear fruit, but in unpredictable and brutal ways. Her small community is destroyed, her child is kidnapped, and she is imprisoned by sadistic zealots. She must find a way to escape and begin again, without family or friends. Her single-mindedness in teaching Earthseed may be her only chance to survive, but paradoxically, may cause the ultimate estrangement of her beloved daughter. Parable of the Talents is told from both mother's and daughter's perspectives, but it is the narrative of Lauren's grown daughter, who has seen her mother made into a deity of sorts, that is the most compelling. Butler's writing is simple and elegant, and her storytelling skills are superb, as usual. Fans will be eagerly awaiting the next installment in what promises to be a moving and adventurous saga. --Therese Littleton --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Lauren Olamina, a black teenager, grew up in a 21st-century America that was tearing itself apart. Global warming, massive unemployment, gang warfare and corporate greed combined to break down society in general and her impoverished southern California neighborhood in particular. A victim of hyperempathy syndrome, a disorder that compels its victims to believe they feel others' pain, Lauren found herself homeless and alone in a violent world. Escaping from the urban jungle of Los Angeles, Lauren founded Acorn, a hard-working, prosperous rural community based on the teachings of Earthseed, a religion she herself created and centered on the ideas that God is Change and that humanity's destiny is to go to the stars. Butler's extraordinary Parable of the Sower (1996) detailed the aforementioned events. In this equally powerful sequel, Acorn is destroyed by the rising forces of Christian fundamentalism, led by the newly elected U.S. president, the Reverend Andrew Steele Jarret. A handsome man and persuasive orator, seemingly modeled in part on Pat Robertson, Jarret converts millions to his sect, Christian America, while his thugs imprison, rape and murder those they label "heathens," all the while kidnapping their children in order to raise them in Christian households. The narrative is both impassioned and bitter as Butler weaves a tale of a frighteningly believable near-future dystopia. Lauren, at once loving wife and mother, prophet and fanatic, victim and leader, gains stature as one of the most intense and well-developed protagonists in recent SF. Though not for the faint-hearted, this work stands out as a testament to the author's enormous talent, and to the human spirit.. Author tour. (Nov.) FYI: In 1995, Butler received a MacArthur Foundation ("genius") Award.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 424 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; Reprint edition (January 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446675784
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446675789
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (123 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #47,901 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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

108 of 112 people found the following review helpful By NappyGirl on May 2, 2000
Format: Paperback
I've read reviews of this series that have criticized Ms. Butler for having such a bleak view of the future and I agree that her vision for the next 50 years isn't easy to swallow. She tends to focus her work more on societal deterioration and not so much on technological advances like so many other sci-fi writers. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy novels like Neal Stephenson's "Diamond Age" but it didn't encourage me to run out and get a Computer Science M.A., reading this book by Ocativia Butler made me think about my community and scrutinize the things I wasn't doing to improve it. Yes, at times "Parable" is hard to read, but it has a big enough dose of reality to serve as a much needed wake-up call to humanity. There is definitely more to life than IPOs and open source software! As a Black woman I also enjoyed that Butler is the ONLY sci-fi writer I've read that knows the meaning of the word DIVERSITY. The main characters in her books are always Black women but they don't live in an all-Black world. Butler is always careful to include characters of all hues and nationalities. I can't recommend this book enough. Go for it!
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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Lori Cheatham on January 27, 2000
Format: Paperback
I read Parable of the Sower and I felt overwhelmed with thought and visions of the future and I didn't want it to end. I was so happy to follow up with Parable of the Talents. Wonderful book. Octavia Butler does an excellent job at forcing us to view our patterns and choices and the way we are currently dealing with human and social conditions. I strongly recommend this book to everyone but especially if you are looking for a read that will feed your mind and stimulate you intellectually.....
One complaint since the main character Lauren was creating a new way of thinking via Earthseed at times I felt as if I were reading one of those "power for living type books" and it got to be a bit much at times.... Enjoy
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 15, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Like many others I anxiously but patiently (if that is possible) awaited Octavia's latest novel, this follow-up to her "Parable of the Sower." Knew I wouldn't be displeased and was correct. Strangely, however, it took me 4 weeks to read, partially because it is a painful rendering of a very plausible future and partly because my life does not allow for much leisure reading. She takes you down and down and down with always glimmers of hope through Earthseed which is a perfect description of human beings struggle to understand life and spirit and hope and what the future holds. A necessary multiple read as there are so many parables and parallels with other literature and real life events. I appreciate the integrity she apparently puts into the writing . A must read!
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Sci-Fi Nut on January 10, 2008
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
The book is set in the post-SHTF world, action taking place in the Pacific Northwest/Northern California. It describes United States in a such a way that Germany leading up to the Second World War comes to mind. Violence, poverty, unemployment, inflation and a general sense of despair pervades the world of this book. Simple existence and the sense of humanity is not taken for granted, as characters in this book are forced to fight for their place under the sun.

Protagonist of this novel is a remarkable woman striving to establish her own identity, and community in a world that seems very scary to us, yet hauntingly plausible. She is a visionary, able to influence those around her through her writings and through preaching of her own religious/moral views.

During times of despair, tough, fanatical leaders often emerge and people tend to follow them blindly, while creating even more havoc in the process. (Hitler and Stalin come to mind) This book is no exception. A militant Christian preacher is elected to be the President of the United States, with disastrous results to follow: more war, persecution and poverty.

Many times I have read posts and emails with their main line of reasoning going something to the extent of: "When SHTF, I will head for the hills and tough it out with my buddies and weapons..."
After reading this book, I realized that it is not going to be an easy task by any means. Even if you manage to establish a community of like-minded individuals. Even if you are well armed and self-sufficient, you are still not going to be safe from heavily armed fanatics bent on enforcing the "Will of God".

This is a painful book to read. Main character and those around her go through some hellish events in the course of this book.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Parker McWilliams on March 29, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents are without a doubt the finest examples of framed narrative I have read, period. I name them both in this review because they are essentially the same book broke up into two parts. The nebula award wouldn't have been awarded to Talents as a stand-alone book so be certain read the Parable of the Sower first.

In a nation recovering from vast economic, environmental, and social upheavals the main-character's life is presented via her daughter who has obtained copies of her mother's personal journals. It chronicles the creation of "Earthseed" a religious movement (cult) whose beginnings originate from the mother's childhood musings from within the walled community of her home presented in the Parable of the Sower. The musings can most easily be summarized by the oft repeated phrase "God is Change". From the mother's perspective Butler makes a variety of cultural and political statements denouncing the dangers of religious fundamentalism, laissez faire economic policies, and the sort of intentional ignorance humanity uses to protect itself from unsettling truths (poverty, slavery, war, etc.). She also promotes amongst other things universal education (no school vouchers for her) and a world-view completely devoid of faith in the supernatural and centered around the need for humanity to colonize space, this being the only real "heaven". My favorite quote from the second book comes from Lauren (the mother) in chapter twenty: "The truth is, preparing for interstellar travel and then sending out ships filled with colonists is bound to be a job so long, thankless, expensive and difficult that I suspect that only a religion could do it.
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