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Parable of the Talents | [Octavia E. Butler]

Parable of the Talents

Environmental devastation and economic chaos have turned America into a land of horrifying depravity. Assault, theft, sexual abuse, slavery, and murder are commonplace. And a zealous, bigoted tyrant has won his way into the White House. Directly opposed is Lauren Olamina, founder of Earthseed - a new faith that teaches "God Is Change". Persecuted for "heathen" beliefs as much as for having a black female leader, Earthseed's followers face a life-and-death struggle to preserve their vision.
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Publisher's Summary

Environmental devastation and economic chaos have turned America into a land of horrifying depravity. Assault, theft, sexual abuse, slavery, and murder are commonplace. Taking advantage of the situation, a zealous, bigoted tyrant wins his way into the White House.

Directly opposed is Lauren Olamina, founder of Earthseed - a new faith that teaches "God Is Change". Persecuted for "heathen" beliefs as much as for having a black female leader, Earthseed's followers face a life-and-death struggle to preserve their vision.

Best-selling author Octavia Butler's fluid writing and keen observations about race, gender, politics, and religion make for a moving parable that will be pondered for generations. A powerful reading from three standout narrators captures the multi-generational sweep of this poignant tale.

Butler's acclaimed novels have won numerous awards, and she is a recipient of a "genius" grant from the MacArthur Foundation. Parable of the Talents was selected as one of the best books of the year by Publishers Weekly.

©2007 Octavia Butler; (P)2007 Recorded Books, LLC

What the Critics Say

  • Nebula Award, Best Novel, 1999

"Octavia E. Butler is one of the finest voices in fiction....period." (Washington Post Book World)
"These...are the keynotes of Talents: family and characters, warmth and endurance, hope and determination. It's a worthy book, well up to Butler's standard for thoughtfulness and insight." (Analog Science Fiction & Fact)
"Though not for the faint-hearted, this work stands out as a testament to the author's enormous talent, and to the human spirit." (Publishers Weekly)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.9 (276 )
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4.3 (130 )
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4.4 (127 )
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Performance
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  •  
    David 09-27-11
    David 09-27-11 Member Since 2010

    Indiscriminate Reader

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Powerful, dark sequel that stands on its own"

    This book is the sequel to"Parable of the Sower," but it stands up pretty well by itself, though I would definitely recommend reading the first book, because Butler is that good and these books are very powerful. In Parable of the Talents, Lauren Olamina, the protagonist of the first book, continues trying to build a community and a following devoted to her new religion, "Earthseed." Unfortunately, she is trying to found this new religion just when America, in the grip of a near-apocalyptic economic and environmental collapse, elects a witch-burning fundie Talibaptist for President. Lauren and her people are literally enslaved, and Lauren's infant daughter is taken away from her.

    This is a dark book, a truly horrific dystopia, but the rape and violence does not read like a gratuitous admixture the way it does in so many books. You know how some authors want to make their books extra dark to let you know that these are Very Bad Times and Very Bad People, so they toss in a little rape, a little dismemberment, like one of those buckets o' blood horror films that just wind up being too schlocky and over-the-top to really horrify you? Octavia Butler doesn't do that. Instead, Lauren tells us what happened to her and her people in very clear but non-graphic terms, and the impact is felt for the rest of the story because even though she is trying to start a hopeful new religion, she hates her abusers with the heat of a thousand burning suns and makes no bones about it. It's very refreshing. None of that "I have to get past this" or forgiveness bull. She does survive and eventually launch her movement, successfully, but it's not like "Oh, and along the way some bad stuff happened."

    Parable of the Talents is also, indirectly, a mother-daughter story. It's told in the past tense through the journals of both Lauren Olamina and her daughter, whom she never knew until her daughter reached adulthood. Her daughter has a very difficult time coming to terms with who her mother was, and so there are two very different narrative threads woven through the events described in the novel: Lauren, describing much of it as it was happening, and her daughter, commenting (and often, passing judgment) decades later.

    This is one of those science fiction books that really should be considered literature, and it's a shame Octavia Butler isn't more widely known. It's even more of a shame that she died before she could write the third book she planned. I give both of the Earthseed books a very high recommendation.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Margit D. Morawietz Albuquerque, NM United States 06-10-12
    Margit D. Morawietz Albuquerque, NM United States 06-10-12 Member Since 2003
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Visionary"

    Now this is why I became a Sci Fi fan; here you have a fully formed idea, how our present trajectory could look like. This is set in a very plausible story, with fully formed, engaging characters. It is told suspensefully, entertaining and thought provoking. You might not agree with the author at all levels, but at least it is a serious contribution to the discussion. The prose serves the story, does not get in the way of the story, the narration also works.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    K. Staples MD 10-20-12
    K. Staples MD 10-20-12 Member Since 2008

    Kelz

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    "Prophetic and Eye-Opening!"
    Would you listen to Parable of the Talents again? Why?

    I would definitely listen to Parable of the Talents again because it is such an amazing story about perseverance. Laure Olamina is an awesome young woman who is determined to survive in this post-apocalyptic time. And while her religion is not one I would choose, I understand why the Acorn community lives according


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    There is a moment in Parable of the Talents when the protagonist and her community are enslaved by a fanatical Christian group and it is such a defeating and hopeless moment. However, things do turn around for the Acorn community...


    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Alana Berkeley, CA, USA 12-04-07
    Alana Berkeley, CA, USA 12-04-07
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    "Intriguing & Insightful"

    A captivating and believable look into thirty years from now in Northern California. The planet's warmth pushes rich and poor north, religious extremism grows unchecked, and people are torn between individual survival and holding on to fragments of their humanity.

    This book may not satisfy hardcore sci-fi buffs. It's about individual and group struggle in the future, though, just as easily could have been set in any number of dark times in the past that were ruled by corruption, chaos, and spiritual discontent. Characters are well developed enabling the reader to understand and relate to actions and motivations, even when they are extreme. Brutality is rampant, though, rape scenes are thankfully referred to instead of described. An excellent exploration of trust, loyalty, faith, power, and destiny.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    James Portola Valley, CA, United States 10-17-07
    James Portola Valley, CA, United States 10-17-07 Member Since 2003
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    "Repetitive"

    I should have liked this book more – it has many great science fiction elements in it – an apolyptical future, religious cults, struggle to stay alive, etc. But it really seems more like a short story that’s been stretched into novel length by repetitive ramblings about the same or similar concepts over and over again. The story is somewhat interesting, but becomes tiring a third of the way through and never really improves that much.

    14 of 20 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Alysia Redondo Beach, CA, United States 01-27-14
    Alysia Redondo Beach, CA, United States 01-27-14 Member Since 2012

    Just another girl with too many books and not enough time for them all.

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    "A Look Into Our Future"

    This is the second book in the Parable series by Octavia Butler. I purchased a copy of this book from Audible.com to read and review for A More Diverse Universe blog tour (November 15 - 17th) As you can see I am just now getting to posting my review. I read the first book in January of this year as a book club book of the month selection. (Review here)
    In the first book, Lauren Olamina leaves her burning town and home to find a safe place to live and expand her new belief system called Earth Seed.
    In this book (I will try and not spoil it for you) Lauren's community has grown and is thriving. She has married and gives birth to a baby girl. All of this is happening in their small community, Acorn as the rest of the United States is completely falling apart. People are migrating to Alaska (the new promise land) due to climate changes. Political leaders who are extreme right-wing Christians create fanaticals who are burning non-believers a la Salem Witch Hunts. There are ramped lack of trials in court system. Slavery is back in and children are being bought and sold into the sex trade.
    This book is bleak to say the least. I was not really expecting it to be a feel good book after reading the first one. I knew things would get worse. I could see it coming. But the reason I liked this book so much is the bleakness. I know that makes no sense at all but it was. I think Octavia Butler shows her deep foresight into our future without really making things up. People are not super humans. People are not flying. She shows us as we are and what will happen if we stay on the course we are on now. It is smartly written with very probable situations and the author really put thought into all the details of our future.
    I thought it was perfect to have the chapters read by different voices. Lauren, her husband and daughter each write a chapter or have passages from their journals that tell their side of events. Each narrator did an excellent job.
    Due to the bleak nature of this book I would not recommend it to readers with a weak stomach and who are looking for a happy love story.
    But do read this one.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    james salem, OR, United States 12-23-07
    james salem, OR, United States 12-23-07 Member Since 2006
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    "worth reading"

    Not a really fast paced book, but the story does move along. In the middle of the book I was annoyed with the amount of time the author spent on theology, "Earthseed". But as the story progresses it does make more sense.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Marcia Irmo, SC, USA 09-19-08
    Marcia Irmo, SC, USA 09-19-08
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Depressing and lacking in real substance.."

    I was compelled by the title and summary and hoped for better than what I got. I found the futuristic world of chaos intriguing in that we could be headed for something like that with the state of our economy right now. The haves and the have nots.. But it was more like "what if everyone lost their minds" a bit too biazzare!

    I found the whole story line depressing and it reminded me of the guy who got all of his followers to kill themselves during the eclipse or comet sighting some years back. They poisoned themselves and had on purple sneakers and were going to ride the tail of the coment... or something, right?!! "Lauren" was overbearingly and simple minded. As noted by another reviewer, the characters are not very developed.

    The most important thing though was the narrator! Boy was her voice aggrevating and I could hear her swallow quite often throughout the text being read!

    I know there are a lot of long passages, however I have listened to many other books and this is the first time the narrator's voicebox expressed all of the annoyances that come with regular, non-professional exchanges, very fluid! Maybe it was the audio equipment that was not set properly, I am not sure. I just found that everytime I heard her swallow, I cringed..

    Sorry and better luck next time!

    6 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Julian New York, NY, USA 11-02-07
    Julian New York, NY, USA 11-02-07 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    8
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    "Fails Promise"

    The first few minutes of this were really intriguing, the rest of it couldn't hold my attention. Bad writing, a flaw you can skim over quickly in a print book if the plot is good enough, never works in an audible book. Don't waste your money or credits.

    8 of 14 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kathryn Bradley 01-22-08 Listener Since 2003
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Meh"

    Starting with an interesting premise, Butler squanders it with uneven story-telling, unlikable characters, and no true understanding of the world she has set them in.

    5 of 9 people found this review helpful
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