Parable of the Talents share button
Octavia E. Butler
Format Paperback
Dimensions 5.25 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 1.25 (d)
Pages 464
Publisher Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date January 2000
ISBN 9780446675789
Book ISBN 10 0446675784
About Book

Lauren Olamina's love is divided among her young daughter, her community, and the revelation that led Lauren to found a new faith that teaches "God Is Change". But in the wake of environmental and economic chaos, the U.S. government turns a blind eye to violent bigots who consider the mere existence of a black female leader a threat. And soon Lauren must either sacrifice her child and her followers — or forsake the religion that can transform human destiny.


From Barnes & Noble

A powerfully wrought novel describing an America permeated with violence, religious persecution, and the will to overcome such adversity, Octavia E. Butler's Parable of the Talents explores the large and small social ramifications of a group of survivors banding together in faith to prevail against anarchy. Butler gives us a well-proportioned fusion of near-future struggle and subtle science fiction, all layered upon an engaging groundwork of human courage, spiritual doctrine, enslavement, and savagery in an anarchistic America.

In 2032, five years after losing her family and setting out on a quest to find peace in a chaotic land, Lauren Oya Olamina has gathered more than 60 people in the self-sufficient community called Acorn. Olamina, an African-American hyper-empath (a person who can feel others' pain so intensely it is often incapacitating), is the creator and prophet for the new religion called Earthseed. "God is Change" is Earthseed's basic belief; the religion teaches personal harmony and the hope of one day reaching the stars. To that end, the verses in Olamina's "Books of the Living" give understanding to a perpetually shifting world of mistrust, slavery, disorder, and government sanctioned witch-hunts.

After years of separation, Olamina discovers that her teenage brother, Marcus, has also survived; she immediately welcomes him to Acorn. As an unseasoned Christian preacher, Marcus is suspicious of the cultlike aspects of Earthseed and grows more and more distant from its ideals. Now that Olamina is newly pregnant, Bankole, Olamina's much older physician husband, wishes to find a more established township in which to practice medicine and protect his family.

However, soon a fundamentalist Christian named Jarret is elected president of the United States, and his insistence on burning non-Christian churches and murdering those of other faiths becomes very popular. Acorn is attacked, the women raped, the men killed, and all survivors are enslaved. But Olamina eventually escapes and sets out to recover her friends and family and rebuild Earthseed.

Parable of the Talents is written in a composite of narratives from Olamina's journals, Bankole's memoirs, and Marcus's own accounts. Just as importantly, there are sections from Olamina's unborn daughter who writes commentary at a much later date; this allows for a more complete vision of Earthseed as religious, political, and humanistic methodology. Olamina is willing to put the destiny of Earthseed above her own life and the lives of her family, which at times makes her nearly the single-minded zealot that Jarret is. Rather than presenting Olamina as a perfect spiritual leader, Butler allows us multiple outside points of view -- as well as Olamina's own self-doubts and insecurities -- to present a much fuller and well-rounded character and story.

Here, once again, is Octavia E. Butler's enticing stew of varied human needs, capacities, weaknesses, and enigmatic doctrines born from a constantly changing world. The author knows how to compound elements into an intricate mixture of personal and civil uncertainties, as well as ethical and emotional dilemmas. Sociological situations underpinning science fiction have always been Butler's forte, and this novel admirably continues that tradition.

The author is wonderfully skilled at capturing several underlying, intertwined subtexts at once: We are witness to a culture that is well acquainted with high-technology but has great difficulty in replacing or producing anything new. We visit a land that is familiar yet alien, and in continuous flux. There is real unease for the reader while waiting for the inevitable assault upon a new faith as the ugly, bigoted era becomes even more intolerant. In Parable of the Talents, the reader will discover an America that relies heavily on a past it can barely recall, and behold the arrival of a horrifying but intriguing new dawn. Octavia E. Butler evokes a frightening future that eventually sprouts the compassion, mercy, and beauty of Earthseed.

--Tom Piccirilli

Washington Post Book World

Octavia E. Butler is one of the finest voices in fiction....period.

Publishers Weekly

Lauren Olamina, a black teenager, grew up in a 21st-century America that was tearing itself apart. Global warming, massive unemployment, gang warfare and corporate greed combined to break down society in general and her impoverished southern California neighborhood in particular. A victim of hyperempathy syndrome, a disorder that compels its victims to believe they feel others' pain, Lauren found herself homeless and alone in a violent world. Escaping from the urban jungle of Los Angeles, Lauren founded Acorn, a hard-working, prosperous rural community based on the teachings of Earthseed, a religion she herself created and centered on the ideas that God is Change and that humanity's destiny is to go to the stars. Butler's extraordinary Parable of the Sower (1996) detailed the aforementioned events. In this equally powerful sequel, Acorn is destroyed by the rising forces of Christian fundamentalism, led by the newly elected U.S. president, the Reverend Andrew Steele Jarret. A handsome man and persuasive orator, seemingly modeled in part on Pat Robertson, Jarret converts millions to his sect, Christian America, while his thugs imprison, rape and murder those they label "heathens," all the while kidnapping their children in order to raise them in Christian households. The narrative is both impassioned and bitter as Butler weaves a tale of a frighteningly believable near-future dystopia. Lauren, at once loving wife and mother, prophet and fanatic, victim and leader, gains stature as one of the most intense and well-developed protagonists in recent SF. Though not for the faint-hearted, this work stands out as a testament to the author's enormous talent, and to the human spirit.. Author tour. (Nov.) FYI: In 1995, Butler received a MacArthur Foundation ("genius") Award.

Library Journal

In this brilliant sequel to Parable of the Sower (LJ 10/15/93), Nebula and Hugo Award winner Butler continues the compelling story of Lauren Olamina, chronicling her struggle for survival in a socially and economically depressed California in the 2030s. Lauren has founded a quiet community called Acorn, where she teaches people about Earthseed, her belief that God is simply another name for Change. Her community of believers is threatened, however, by the election of an ultraconservative president opposed to any religion not his own. Among his followers are fanatical terrorists who will stop at nothing to destroy what Lauren has built, including forcibly separating parents from their children. Butler tells this story through Lauren's journal entries, her poetry, and commentary from her daughter. Powerful, moving, and beautifully written, this book belongs in every library.--Laurel Bliss, New Haven, CT

Gerald Jonas

Butler's narrative skills are impressive....Conceding that Earthseed 'isn't a very comforting belief system,' Olamina achieves prophetic stature by insisting that in the long run the true test of a religion is whether the solace it offers conforms with the nature of the universe we live in. -- The New York Times Book Review

Analog Science Fiction & Fact

These...are the keynotes of Talents: family and characters, warmth and endurance, hope and determination. It's a worthy book, well up to Butler's standard for thoughtfulness and insight.

Fred Herman

Parable of the Talents is a fine sequel to Octavia Butler's earlier Parable of the Sower, which followed Lauren Oya Olamina'a escape from the destruction of her walled-in neighborhood, her trek across much of California in a collapsing near-future America, and her establishment of a small group centered around her invented religion of Earthseed. Earthseed's central tenets&#8212that God is Change, and that humanity (or at least Earthseed) much colonize the stars&#8211are hardly unfamiliar ideas for science-fiction readers; the awareness of change and the desire to move beyond Earth have been at the core of the sf genre since its inception. It's fascinating to see these ideas, which have arguably always been religious, overtly presented as religious tenets within a work of sf.