In Parable of the Talents Octavia Butler fulfills reader hopes. Review by Violet Kane

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As a sequel to Butler's Parable of the Sower, this novel recreates all of the best parts of its predecessors. As a stand alone, new readers will find this book absorbing on its own.

When the novel opens, we find Lauren Olamina and her Earthseed community, Acorn, five years after its founding. The community is growing slowly, but persistently. The success of their community has allowed them, not only to support and feed themselves, but to start families and even become entrepreneurs, bringing more revenue and greater hopes for growth. The near future Earth dystopia introduced in Parable of the Sower is becoming less dystopic. But while the economy is remotely stronger, and crime has somewhat decreased, the members of the Acorn community are by no means safe. An extreme right-wing minister is running for President, and some of his devotees are intent on staging their own incarnation of the witch-hunt—at the top of their hit list are those people perceived as belonging to non-Christian cults. As Earthseed grows, they are less able to stay "under the radar."

One needn't have read Parable of the Sower to read Parable of the Talents. Butler writes this novel as if it were a stand-alone, providing needed background for new readers. But my opinion is: Why wouldn't you? Butler's works are some of the most skillful and nuanced character studies in modern science fiction. The Parable books are—to their credit—more about the characters than the concept. And yet, Butler masterfully develops both. It is difficult to have any qualms with these books, but I do have one qualm with Parable of the Talents. I found her villainization of right-wing Christians at little too familiar. Her development of the right-wing antagonists is two dimensional, and struck me as liberal soap-boxing, at times. Which is to say, liberal readers will happily cheer against them, while conservative readers may be off-put. These "villains" as a group, are not completely without moral ambiguity, but reading this book, the political agenda struck me as too obvious in this respect. Don't get me wrong, the story is infinitely more worth reading than 90% of fiction. But I regret that the political sentiments may alienate a significant group of readers along party lines—storytelling of Butler's quality is too rare to miss.

The debate over the place of personal politics in fiction is a tricky one, and I do not want it to overshadow my heartfelt recommendation of these books. Butler's writing is at the forefront of alternative reality literature, and these stories ought not to be missed for any reason.


Violet "Violanthe" Kane is the Webmaster and Founder of ARWZ.com. She is an editor of ARWZ Literary Zine and is currently pursuing a Master's degree in Medieval studies.