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The Quilty Reader

Lawyer, mother, avid reader. Game host extraordinaire! Partner in crime to Obsidian Black Plague! My bookish weaknesses include classics, fantasy, YA, and agreeing to read more books than is even remotely possible.

This is the way the world ends

Parable of the Sower - Octavia E. Butler

This isn't a review so much as it is my emergent thoughts on this book, which I read for a genre fiction challenge in one of my groups, where the eligibility characteristics were that the author had to be a woman and had to be deceased.

I'm not sure what to rate it, but it certainly had a "wow" factor for me, especially given its publication date of 1993, which seems to predate the resurgence of post-apocalyptic lit by close to a decade. I also thought it was pretty interesting that, like Orwell's 1984, it's set in the near-term future - society seems to begin its collapse with the presidential election of 2016, which may make the book worth reading for that reason alone.

I have so many remaining questions about Butler's world - what is it like in the rest of the world? There are no references to a big apocalyptic event - no war, no plague, no zombies (thank God - I hate zombie books), no nuclear winter, no asteroid hitting Earth. It seems it all just fell apart.


This is the way the world ends, not with a bang, but a whimper.


I don't mind that the questions went unanswered, in a way, it is like Doctor Zhivago, a story centered on a single ordinary person living through big events but only seeing what is within her immediate purview because mass communication seems to have collapsed. But I still have the questions.


I feel like Lauren's hyperempathy is really just a distraction, adding little to the story. I loved the Earthseed theme, though, and thought Butler used it really well. It would have been sort of cool if she had actually published Earthseed: The Book of the Living as a prologue to the book. I thought that the use of the poems to begin the chapters was pretty effective. Lauren is a seer, and maybe that is a side effect of the hyperempathy, but I don't think so. I think she's just one of those people who sees because she is paying attention.

Anyway, I read very little sci fi because I don't really like it, and even less dystopian, because I am usually irritated by it. I don't think I can say I "loved" it, because it really isn't my thing. But as far as books that are not my thing go, this one was terrific. I'm engaged enough to want to read the sequel, and I will definitely read more Octavia Butler.