Paradise is one’s own place,
One’s own people,
One’s own world,
Knowing and known,
Loving and loved.
Yet every child
Is cast from paradise-
Into growth and new community,
Into vast, ongoing
Here’s the story: the world is falling to bits, wracked with economic and environmental crises. People are starving in the streets. A new drug creates an underworld of fire-starting addicts; watching things burn is said to feel better than sex, on the drug. Money is nearly worthless, and communities that cannot afford to erect a razor-wire-covered wall are helpless to protect themselves against theft and fire. Eighteen-year-old Lauren is one of the lucky ones, even though she suffers from a rare condition called hyperempathy, where she physically feels the pain of others-a side effect of the drugs her mother took before she has born. While her condition is disabling, dangerous, and painful, Lauren is safer than most. She has a home, a wall, and an education. While she doesn’t share the faith of her minister father, she is far from faithless. In fact, she has been developing her own religion, in response to the chaos and uncertainty of the world she lives in. She calls it Earthseed.
When Lauren loses her home and family, she must set out on the treacherous journey north, in search of food and shelter. The trip is immensely difficult: she and her companions must fight off fire-crazed addicts and potential thieves, carefully preserve what little food and water they have, and be constantly vigilant. It’s not easy, but they don’t have a choice.
Now, this might sound like the plot of a lot of dystopias out there, right? Disaster + Must Flee Home = Dystopic Adventure. The special thing, though, is the way this is written. It is a compelling, breathtaking adventure story, yes. However, it’s also a treatise on race and economy, community and compassion. Butler points an incriminating finger at exploitative corporations and indifferent governments; at the same time, she explores the intersections of gender, race, and social status. It’s a phenomenal story with a built-in social commentary, and it is definitely going on my favorites list.
Author’s website: http://octaviabutler.org/
If you liked this book, you might want to read on! Octavia Butler’s second Earthseed book is called Parable of the Talents.