NESFA Members' Reviews

Parable of the Talents

by Octavia E. Butler

Seven Stories Press, 1998, ISBN 1-888363-81-9

A book review by Elisabeth Carey

This is the sequel to Parable of the Sower, which recounted the struggles of Lauren Oya Olamina, a young black Californian, as the USA staggered toward near-disintegration under the stresses of global warming and social change in the 2020s. Talents takes up the tale in the early 2030s, when Olamina (as she is generally called), her husband Taylor Bankole, and their assorted friends, adopted family, and followers are starting to make a real success of Acorn, the settlement they've built on Bankole's land in northern California. Olamina is also hoping to spread her new religion, Earthseed, but so far has not yet fully converted even all of the inhabitants of Acorn. Then disaster strikes, in the form of the unofficial army of the religious fanatic who has recently been elected President of the United States. Acorn is captured, the children are taken away to be raised in "good Christian American families", and Acorn becomes Camp Christian, a reeducation camp for the adults that survived the attack. They are effectively slaves until they can find a way to overcome their guards and the electronic slave collars.

The story is told in alternating passages from Olamina's journal, the self-centered narrative of Olamina's adult daughter sixty years later, and a few passages from the books written by Bankole and by Olamina's brother Marcus. It's an interestingly layered account of some very complicated people, and of an America slowly and painfully rebuilding, after the collapse in the previous book. Recommended.

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