Dec 15, 2019

Advent Calendar: 14th Wormhole

Today, Marc is recommending an sf classic - and finds himself surprised in the end ...

Octavia E. Butler
The Parable Of The Sower
This was probably the most unexpectedly impactful book I've read this year. More fool me, of course, none of Octavia Butler's works have ever failed to make a deep impression. But I wasn't quite prepared to read a novel written in the 90s that so perfectly previewed some of the things we struggle with today.
Lauren Olamina, the main character of this book, is a fifteen year old girl living in a gated community of people barely getting by in Los Angeles of the mid 2020s. Violent crime is rampant on the streets outside. The only times she leaves their community is to go for gun target practice with her father. Lauren is convinced that they will not be able to sustain their safe space inside these walls, but her attempt to alert people to this reality is not tolerated.
Why would my Christmas recommendation be a dystopian story set in a society disintegrating because of climate change and rampant egoism? Don't we get enough of this in the news? The reason I am recommending this book is that it is an optimistic tale at heart (though you might have to stick out the second novel Parable Of The Talents to truly appreciate the optimism). Lauren is a person who improves her own fate and that of others around her through intelligence, perspicacity, and sheer bloody-minded unwillingness to give up. She bases her actions on her own idea of decency, not on far-fetched ideals, not on belief in this deity or that, but rather on the recognition of the inexorability of change, and the need to deal with life as it comes at you.
Octavia Butler wrote the best monsters in literature. You will find one (at least) of these in this book, and perhaps an idea on how to deal with them.

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