Book Review: Chaos and Denial — Parable of the Sower

“When apparent stability disintegrates,  As it must — God is Change — People tend to give in  To fear and depression,  To need and greed.
When no influence is strong enough To unify people They divide, They struggle, One against one Group against group,  For survival, position, power,  They remember old hates and generate new ones,  They create chaos and nurture it. They kill and kill and kill,  Until they are exhausted and destroyed,  Until they are conquered by outside forces,  Or until one of them becomes  A leader Most will follow,  Or a tyrant Most fear.”

Octavia Butler, Parable of the Sower

I finished Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower this week! I genuinely cannot understand how I hadn’t read anything of hers until now. But trust me, I’m rectifying this horrible, horrible mistake and ordered the rest of her collection by page 100. 

In this outstanding novel, uncomfortably close to our current times, we meet Lauren Olamina, a precocious teenager living in California in 2024, when the terms young and old don’t mean too much anymore. Butler plunges us into a world of chaos, seen through the eyes of a young woman who refuses the treacherous, though comforting embrace of denial that most around her coddle themselves into. Though sheltered in a community that is precariously secure, behind walls and gates, away from the carnage outside, Lauren is worried that their system will not last forever. God is Change

“God is Change.” 

She makes a plan to leave and create a new community, Earthseed, until certain events send her on the road before she anticipated. On the road, towards an uncertain destination, Lauren starts to assemble Earthseed and shares her codified understanding of her world with her little group, bound by the fire of survival. At the end of the book, Lauren and the rest of Earthseed face a new beginning, to be continued in the second and final book of the series, Parable of the Talents. 

Let me just say, Octavia Butler is a genius. Her profound understanding of how chaos affects humans makes this book a call to order for our current world. Her passages from the Book of The Living, like the one quoted above, begin each chapter and are more than verses from Lauren’s makeshift Bible. They are poems of fundamental truths about Human nature. What even is that, Human nature?  That’s a glaring question throughout the book, never quite vocalized; it’s a question anyone who’s lived in any place or time where tomorrow is not promised has known not to ask. 

When I first read “God is Change”, I took a couple of hours to think about it. What doesn’t change? What remains constant? Life is Change. Everything is temporary, always. But we shape change, as much as change shapes us, and that’s a crucial lesson to remember. This story is about persistence and adaptability, showing that even through inescapable change, we always have Choices, only limited by the boundaries of our own thinking. 

This book really made me think about the clashing relationship between the past, present, and future. The space between the Before and the After can take us by surprise, and we never know that we’ll never get to go back until it’s much, much too late. The quicker you’re able to adapt, the less you deny your new reality, the faster you’ll be able to develop and execute a plan to survive. 

Lauren Olamina teaches us the importance of listening, taking notes, letting the story tell itself to you as you persistently continue to write it. That’s kind of how I read the book itself, full of nuggets of wisdom that I wanted to write down and come back to, but the story wouldn’t let me stop. This book was extremely hard to put down and my go-to productive procrastination tool in my final weeks of this semester from hell. It wasn’t really an escape from this world, but the world inside Lauren’s head was strangely comforting, showing me that “even the apocalypse is not the end”. 

My Rating

Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler is a definite 5 out of 5 Stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ for me, to keep it mathematically feasible. Octavia Butler has shot to the top of my fave list and I cannot wait to read Parable of the Talents this month, to see what else Lauren and her weird little group have been up to. I’ve also purchased her two other series, Lilith’s Brood and Seeds to Harvest. Of course, Kindred is included. 

If you’re reading this book during COVID19 and are interested in some nonfiction, check out The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein, who explains a little bit about what really happens when a shocking event like the pandemic hits the United States. Here’s her video from The Intercept discussing what fast changes might occur in politics and the economy while we’re in a state of shock and distraction. 

In Related News

Soooo I found out that “Bookstagram” is a thing and I’ve been really into it. I’m combining it with this blog’s own account @anraje and you can read more about what books I’m reading, what’s I’m writing, and of course any new posts and announcements from Anraje.

What are you excited about this summer? Do you have anything on your To Be Read list? Hit me up on social media, or via the contact page, let’s talk!

Don’t forget to check out 99 Percent Anomaly Podcast!

How was your 420? We celebrated with you by having special episodes about Cannabis with our first guest on the podcast! We’re available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and everywhere else you listen to podcasts!

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