Octavia Butler: Parable of the Sower
So I said a while back that I would recommend a book every now and then. Do my part to spread the word about wonderful writing and writers. You'll likely almost all know of Octavia Butler, but for those of you that don't I'd like to bring her to your attention. And if you know of her but haven't read her yet... well, I'd like to give you a push.
I'm putting out Parable of the Sower as a place to start, but that's really only because that's where I started with her. I've read more of her since, and every time I've been reminded how brilliant she is, how far-reaching her empathy. Her novels have great range, and I'm sure that as I read more of her over the years I'll discover new favorites.
But I really did enjoy Parable of the Sower. "Enjoy" is a strange word for it, of course, because the material she's writing about is grim in many ways. It's a near future that doesn't really look so unfamiliar. This isn't a novel of space travel and aliens - although Butler does those too. It's very much a version of our world just tweaked a bit. As such, it's frightening. I won't really go into the plot too much at all, except to say it involves the crumbling of our civil society, a collage of social conflicts, and a journey through a treacherous landscape of our own design. At it's heart is a young woman - a black woman, girl really - that dreams up a vision of a future she feels propelled to see made real.
Lest this all sound too depressing, do know that this novel is also filled with generosity and promise. Butler may be unwavering in her study of our crimes and passions, prejudices and fears, but she's also amazingly compassionate, and manages to convey the potential for love that's just as much part of our human nature.
So I recommend this one, or any other Butler book that looks interesting to you. She was a great writer, and I'm increasingly saddened that she passed away. Geez, I would've loved to have met her!
If you're interested in more information on her there are plenty of resources out there. A quick search brought me to this: New York Times Piece, Seattle Post Intelligencer, Seattle Weekly, Slate Obituary. Here's an NPR interview with Scott Simon and another with Jelani Cobb and another from CyberHaven/Amazon.com.