Parable of the Sower & Parable of the Talents by Octavia E. Butler

new editions of the parable series by Octavia E Butler

Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents by Octavia E. Butler are a duo of books intended to have become a trilogy, though the third never came to be. Now that we inhabit the time in which the novels actually take place, they’re more eerily prescient than ever.

When Parable of Sower (1993) begins, Lauren Olamina is a young Black woman just emerging from her teens, navigating the apocalyptic world of Los Angeles in the 2020s. A fight — and flight — for survival leads to her create a new faith called Earthseed, in hopes of repairing the world.

We find Lauren once again at the center of Parable of the Talents, now a young mother and still fighting to salvage humanity with Earthseed, the new faith she founded. Now she’s battling violent bigots and religious fanatics.

Shading from dystopian literature to the kind of richly imagined science fiction Butler was known for, these award-winning novels contain the insightful social commentary that was this esteemed author’s hallmark.

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New editions of Octavia E. Butler’s works reissued by Grand Central Publishing
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Grand Central Publishing (a division of Hachette Book Group) has been keeping this important American author in the public eye by regularly reissuing her work in attractive contemporary editions. 

Here is a portion of N.K. Jemisin’s Foreword to the 2019 edition of Parable of the Sower:

“Butler does not appear to have intended the Parable novels to be a guidebook — and yet they are. That’s true for all of the most powerful science fiction novels: they offer not only accurate visions of the future, but also suggestions for coping with the resulting changes. We can only imagine what that vision might have included if Butler had been able to complete it; she apparently planned a third novel, Parable of the Trickster.

But maybe it’s just as well that she and Lauren were unable to “discover” that third book of Earthseed. Now, like the communities of Earthseed, it’s our job to create change in fiction and in life. Like Lauren, these days I am comforted not by the platitudes I was raised with, but by the idea that change is a tool I can shape to my advantage, if I am clever and lucky. Claiming the future will be an ugly, brutal struggle, but I’m prepared to go the distance in that fight. The future is worth it.”

(Excerpted from The Parable of the Sower, reissue, April 2019, foreword by N.K. Jemisin, 2018, copyright © 2019 by Hachette Book Group, Inc.)

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Parable of the Sower (1993)

Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler

From the 2019 Grand Central Publishing / Hachette edition: From the “grand dame” of science fiction, a dystopian classic of terror and hope about a teenage girl trying to survive in an all-too-real future. When unattended environmental and economic crises lead to social chaos, not even gated communities are safe.

In a night of fire and death, Lauren Olamina, an empath and the daughter of a minister, loses her family and home and ventures out into the unprotected American landscape. But what begins as a flight for survival soon leads to something much more: a startling vision of human destiny and the birth of a new faith, as Lauren becomes a prophet carrying the hope of a new world and a revolutionary idea christened “Earthseed.”

First book in the Parable series, also known as Earthseed. Originally published in 1993, reissued April 30, 2019.

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From the original 1993 Four Walls Eight Windows edition of Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. ButlerParable of the Sower is the odyssey of one woman who is twice as feeling in a world that has become doubly dehumanized.

The time is 2025. The place is California, where small walled communities must protect themselves from hordes of desperate scavengers and roaming bands of  “Paints,” people addicted to a drug that activates an orgasmic desire to burn, rape, and murder. When one small community is overrun, Lauren Olamina, an 18-year-old back woman, sets off on foot, moving north along the dangerous coastal highways.

She is a “sharer,” one who suffers from a hereditary trait called “hyperempathy,” which causes her to feel others’ pain as well as her own. Parable of the Sower is both a coming of age novel and a road novel, set in the near future, when the dying embers of our old civilization can either cool or be the catalyst for something new.

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Parable of the Talents (1998)

Parable of the Talents by Octavia E. Butler

From the 2019 Grand Central Publishing / Hachette edition: The follow-up to Parable of the Sower, this shockingly prescient novel’s timely message of hope and resistance in the face of fanaticism is more relevant than ever.

In 2032, Lauren Olamina has survived the destruction of her home and family and realized her vision of a peaceful community in northern California based on her newly founded faith, Earthseed.

The fledgling community provides refuge for outcasts facing persecution after the election of an ultra-conservative president who vows to “make America great again.” In an increasingly divided and dangerous nation, Lauren’s subversive colony, a minority religious faction led by a young black woman becomes a target for President Jarret’s reign of terror and oppression.

Years later, Asha Vere reads the journals of Lauren Olamina, a mother she never knew. As she searches for answers about her own past, she also struggles to reconcile with the legacy of a mother caught between her duty to her chosen family and her calling to lead humankind into a better future.

Second book in the Parable series, also known as Earthseed. Originally published in 1998, reissued August 20, 2019. Butler intended Earthseed to be a trilogy, but it was never completed.

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From the original  1998 Four Walls Eight Windows edition of Parable of the Talents by Octavia E. Butler:  Parable of the Talents celebrates the usual Butlerian themes of alienation and transcendence, violence and spirituality, slavery and freedom, and separation and community, to astonishing effect in the shockingly familiar, broken world of 2032.

A continuation of the travails of Lauren Olamina, the heroine of the 1994 Nebula Award finalist Parable of the Sower, Parable of the Talents is told in the voice of Lauren’s daughter Larkin, also called Asha Vere — from whom she has been separated for most of the girl’s life — with sections in the form of Lauren’s journal.

Against a background of a war-torn continent, and with a far-right religious crusader in the office of the U.S. presidency, this is a book about a society whose very fabric has been torn asunder.

As Ms. Butler explains, “Parable of the Sower was a book about problems. I originally intended that Parable of the Talents be a book about solutions. I don’t have solutions, so what I’ve done here is look at the solutions that people tend to reach for when they’re feeling troubled and confused.”

And yet human life, oddly, thrives in this unforgettable novel. And the Lauren of Parable of the Sower blossoms into the full strength of her womanhood, complex and entirely credible.

An incredible passage from Parable of the Talents:

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 who 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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