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Parable of the Talents [Paperback]

Octavia E. Butler
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Jan. 1 2000
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.

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From Amazon

Octavia Butler tackles the creation of a new religion, the making of a god, and the ultimate fate of humanity in her Earthseed series, which began with Parable of the Sower, and now continues with Parable of the Talents. The saga began with the near-future dystopian tale of Sower, in which young Lauren Olamina began to realize her destiny as a leader of people dispossessed and destroyed by the crumbling of society. The basic principles of Lauren's faith, Earthseed, were contained in a collection of deceptively simple proverbs that Lauren used to recruit followers. She teaches that "God is change" and that humanity's ultimate destiny is among the stars.

In Parable of the Talents, the seeds of change that Lauren planted begin to bear fruit, but in unpredictable and brutal ways. Her small community is destroyed, her child is kidnapped, and she is imprisoned by sadistic zealots. She must find a way to escape and begin again, without family or friends. Her single-mindedness in teaching Earthseed may be her only chance to survive, but paradoxically, may cause the ultimate estrangement of her beloved daughter. Parable of the Talents is told from both mother's and daughter's perspectives, but it is the narrative of Lauren's grown daughter, who has seen her mother made into a deity of sorts, that is the most compelling. Butler's writing is simple and elegant, and her storytelling skills are superb, as usual. Fans will be eagerly awaiting the next installment in what promises to be a moving and adventurous saga. --Therese Littleton --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From 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.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Using one's talents July 26 2003
Format:Hardcover
Continuing from "Parable of the Sower", this book finds Lauren and her followers in Earthseed as they struggle to make their small community thrive in the time of chaos in what's left of the United States of America. Actually, this is all told through the eyes of Lauren's daughter Asha, who, through her mother's journals and teachings, tries to understand the mother she hardly knew. A religious zealot became President of the country, and Lauren's community was destroyed for its heathen views and all the children were placed with other families, so Asha grew up never knowing her mother. Asha weaves together her own story with that of Lauren's struggles to rebuild her Earthseed community, and she tells of how she finally met her birth mother with the unwitting assistance of Lauren's estranged gay brother. The first half of the book is a bleak report of the atrocities done by men to women and by zealous humans in the name of religious beliefs. It nearly overwhelms the story and detracts from what Butler is presenting, but eventually this improves and it becomes the compelling story that it ought to be, although overall it's not as potent as "Parable of the Sower". Like the first book (and books by Margaret Atwood, Sally Miller Gearhart, and Marge Piercy), Butler expresses a fascinating feminist view of the political, social, and personal turmoil our country faces, and the potential path that could be taken.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing Feb. 3 2003
By dummy
Format:Paperback
The Parable of the Talents is the story of a woman attempting to maintain stability in a world of anarchy. I found it to be at first intriguing and promising, then it became absolutely unbearable, and then refreshing, surprising, and enlightening. Although Butler is a powerful storyteller, she lacks in several areas and this novel is significantly flawed.
My problem with Parable of the Talents wholeheartedly began and remained with the people of Acorn, and with Acorn itself. There were way too many characters and families that Butler threw in the story purely for exemplification-they offered absolutely nothing else. Instead of trying to unsuccessfully weave all of these characters into the story, it would have been better to read into a few more well developed characters, leaving the majority of the group nameless. I've noticed that Butler does this in her other work as well and can't understand why. The characters are neither allegorical nor satirical, just a jumble of names and brief physical descriptions that add absolutely nothing to the story.
The very long-winded narrative of the Acorn's daily activities served no other purpose than to show Acorn's philosophy and way of life, which could have been done in a few chapters. The endless chapters narrating the Acorn lifestyle certainly didn't broaden or flesh out any of the other characters, including Olamina. In addition, the never-ending focus on the doctrines of Earthseed for the first 200 hundred or so pages became very preachy and didatic. The excessive lyrics from 'Earthseed' were completely uneccessary. Butler even admits in her afterword that she had to keep "rewriting the first 150 pages or so of Talents and heading up one blind alley or another...I couldn't seem to tell Olamina's story no matter how hard I tried.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Acorn Head Woman May 4 2003
Format:Paperback
Not necessarily a better read than Parable of the Sower, but more cleverly crafted. Interspliced with Olamina's journal entries is input from her adult daughter which adds a perspective not available in the first book.
To me Parable of the Sower had a greater feeling of urgency. Wondering how Olamina would survive propelled me through the pages. Parable of the Talents feels slower and more repetitive. I lost count of how many characters were raped or molested. The majority of characters feel so flat and insignificant, it's hard to be concerned when tragedy finally catches up with them. But I don't think that hurts the novel. At heart it's an examination of what could happen after an economic collapse, how different classes struggle to maintain what they have, and how opportunists try to take even more for themselves. More importantly it looks at how religion can become a trap for the desperate or a tool for setting them free.
While individual characters feel flat, the society Butler shows us feels very real. Clearly she's a well educated author, alert to the trends in modern politics and where they might be leading us. If you have any interest in anthropology, sociology, or politics you'll enjoy Parable of the Talents.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A book worth teaching . . . April 8 2003
Format:Paperback
Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents are the best written of Butler's books. Stylistically, she just keeps improving as a writer. I understand sci-fi fans might want more science, but thse books are really morality tales about the path she sees our country taking--- and it's not for the faint of heart. Be forewarned, a point in the middle is so depressing I could barely keep reading, and I find the end heartbreaking despite the utopian possibilities offered by the end of Lauren's story. This book is most extraordinary because she frames Lauren's writing with her daughter's observations of her life, and readers are forced to interrogate Lauren's kind of new age spiritual politics with her daughter's embittered, ambivalence to religion and politics. Butler is always interested in how and how much people resist power, and in examining how people survive by doing things that no one would have imagined as a productive possibilities before. This book is worth teaching, as you can explore contemporary political conflict but also think about the allegory of resistance Butler presents here--- something revolutionary as opposed to something that accomodates old systems. I can't wait for the next one.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, but not one of her best
I'm a huge Octavia Butler fan but this is not one of my favorites of hers.
Published on Jan. 29 2003
4.0 out of 5 stars The nightmare continues in a worthy sequel
One of those rare sequels that is better than the original (which itself was amazingly good), Butler continues the story of Lauren Olamina and her attempts to establish Acorn, a... Read more
Published on Nov. 27 2002 by D. Cloyce Smith
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating!
I love this book. It shows all of human nature: the good, the bad, the chaos, the order-- and how one community can survive anything together. Read more
Published on May 30 2002 by "quusta"
5.0 out of 5 stars The Conclusion of Octavia Butler's Masterpiece
This is one of the very best novels ever written; it ranks right alongside Edgar Pangborn's "Davy." The sequel to "Parable of the Sower," it is that rarity: a sequel even better... Read more
Published on May 23 2002 by watzizname
4.0 out of 5 stars Switch U.S. with Middle East and you've got something
I can see why a black female author can have it in for the white, right, Christian fundamentalist movement. Read more
Published on April 30 2002 by elvistcob@lvcm.com
4.0 out of 5 stars Uneven but solid critique on Religious Fundamentalism
I can't say that I found Parable of the Talents as thrilling as Wild Seed, but Butler's vision of an America that so easily slides into facism is especially chilling in light of... Read more
Published on March 23 2002 by Cecily Walker
4.0 out of 5 stars Best yet?
This is a book in a by now well-known format, with Octavia Butler's Xenogenesis trilogy and Suzette Haden Elgin's Eartsong trilogy the parallels that come to mind immediately. Read more
Published on Jan. 19 2002
5.0 out of 5 stars Speeking of talents...
This book hurts. It has the potential to do so, because the scenario presented is a very plausible one indeed. Read more
Published on Oct. 26 2001 by Llariam
5.0 out of 5 stars Speeking of talents...
This book hurts. It has the potential to do so, because the scenario presented is a very plausible one indeed. Read more
Published on Oct. 26 2001 by Llariam
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