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Literature / Parable of the Sower

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Parable of the Sower (1993) and its sequel, Parable of the Talents (1998), by Octavia E. Butler, take place in a near-future Earth devastated by economic collapse. Lauren Oya Olamina lives in a walled community with her family until the day it is attacked and burned to the ground. Along with a few survivors and the revelation that "God is change", Lauren must search for a safe place to live and eventually discover the means to fulfill the destiny of a new religion.

A third book was planned, Parable of the Trickster, but the author passed away before it was completed.

These novels contain examples of:

  • Bizarre Baby Boom: A drug designed to cure Alzheimer's has the unintended result of afflicting the children of users with "hyperempathy syndrome", which causes them to hallucinate feeling the pain of others.
  • Blessed with Suck: Those afflicted with hyperempathy syndrome. The problems with uncontrollable empathy are shown most strongly when discussing combat - shooting someone to wound can disable the empathic shooter with pain, making just killing people safer, and when Lauren is being raped and has to feel her pain along with her rapist's pleasure.
  • Corrupt Church: The dominant religion post-"Pox"; the Church of Christian America.
  • Crapsack World: The United States suffers from catastrophic economic collapse, gang violence and child prostitution is at an all-time high, and it's dangerous to even go outside.
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  • Cult: Lauren's religion Earthseed, based on the belief that change is God, though it later is considered a religion.
  • Cyberspace: Lauren meets a girl whose mother spends all her time in virtual reality.
  • Deadly Distant Finale: Parable of the Talents ends with Asha telling about Lauren's death and her last diary entry.
  • Death of a Child: Young teenagers, children, and babies die at an alarming clip.
  • Disaster Scavengers: The poor people who grab at everyone's belongings after Lauren's neighborhood burns. Also true for the "street poor" more generally throughout the books.
  • The Empath: Lauren and others who suffer from hyperempathy syndrome. The twist is that it's a neurological condition, not a psychic power. They feel only what they perceive others to be feeling; they can't feel pain they're ignorant of, and you can trick them into feeling pain by, for example, smearing yourself in red ink and screaming that you're bleeding.
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  • Fantastic Drug: In addition to the drug that causes hyperempathy in pregnant users' children, gangs also use a street drug dubbed "Pyro" because it causes a fascination with fire that is said to be more enjoyable than sex, and creates a desire to set things on fire in the user.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Lauren's search for her lost daughter in the second book is intercut with stories from that daughter talking about growing up in her adoptive home. So it's already completely obvious that the search will fail.
  • Glorious Leader: In Talents, the elected president of the United States is a radical preacher whose solution to the economic disaster is to persecute all non-Christians and anyone else he can use as a scapegoat.
  • Hell Hole Prison: The Camp Christian "reeducation facility". Lauren and her fellow inmates are regularly tortured and raped by the guards.
  • Literary Allusion Title: Both book titles are Biblical parables, Parable of the Sower is in Matthew 13:1-23 and Parable of the Talents is in Matthew 25:14-30.
  • Long-Lost Relative: Lauren's daughter Larkin is taken away and given to a Christian family, and is renamed Asha Vere.
  • Meaningful Name: Lauren's middle name is Oya, after the Yoruban goddess of fire and wind, who is associated with chaos, transition, and great changes.
  • Meanwhile, in the Future…: In Parable of the Talents, Lauren's storyline and Larkin/Asha Vere's storyline are told at the same time.
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: The Fundamentalist Christian America sect often puts "heathens" in concentration camps and allow rape to go unnoticed because they aren't seen as people.
  • Pervert Dad: Asha Vere's adoptive father is one.
  • Pyromaniac: Addicts of the drug Pyro will set fires just for the quasi-sexual pleasure it brings.
  • Scavenger World: Lauren and her followers must scavenge through the remains of California to survive and rebuild a community.
  • Shock Collar: Slavers use these to keep their prisoners in line. In the second book, Lauren and the survivors of Acorn have these put on them after their community is raided.
  • Solar Punk: The Earthseed ideology employs a lot of garden metaphors along with actually encouraging its adherents to garden. (When you consider that Earthseed was born in part out of resource scarcity, both of the above make sense.)
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: Lauren notes that she can pass for a man easily due to being tall and broad, and disguises herself when traveling alone.
  • 20 Minutes into the Future: Takes place in the early to mid 21st century, and Lauren was in fact born in 2009.

Alternative Title(s): Parable Of The Talents