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Publisher's Summary

Hugo and Nebula Award-winning author Octavia E. Butler paints a stunning portrait of an all-too-believable near future. As with Kindred and her other critically-acclaimed novels, Parable of the Sower skillfully combines startling visionary and socially realistic concepts.

God is change. That is the central truth of the Earthseed movement, whose unlikely prophet is 18-year-old Lauren Olamina. The young woman's diary entries tell the story of her life amid a violent 21st-century hell of walled neighborhoods and drug-crazed pyromaniacs - and reveal her evolving Earthseed philosophy. Against a backdrop of horror emerges a message of hope: if we are willing to embrace divine change, we will survive to fulfill our destiny among the stars.

For her elegant, literate works of science fiction, Octavia E. Butler has been compared to Toni Morrison and Ursula K. LeGuin. Narrator Lynne Thigpen's melodious voice will hold you spellbound throughout this compelling parable of modern society.

©1993 Octavia E. Butler (P)2000 Recorded Books, LLC

Featured Article: 10 Best Dystopian Audiobooks with Unsettling Alternate Realities


Though the dystopian genre focuses on the world’s degeneration, these fantastical, exploratory, and poignant titles often have the power to reveal something significant about the world listeners live in now. No matter the dystopia conjured in a selection, their creators enable us to explore human nature and safely reflect on our own reality. Here are the 10 best dystopian audiobooks to transport, unsettle, and perhaps even inspire.

Editor's Pick

What expert dystopian fiction sounds like
"We lost the genius Octavia Butler far too soon, as evidenced by the close-to-home and all too imaginable dystopian future imagined in the Earthseed duology. Lynn Thigpen’s performance is a work of pure art. As one Audible listener (Amber) put it: "Her voice is raw silk, and her pacing and inflections are perfection, adding layers of meaning to a single word of dialog." Shivers."
Sam D., Audible Editor

What listeners say about Parable of the Sower

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Best Distopian Future Novel

What did you love best about Parable of the Sower?

Much of what Butler says about the world in this book, you can clearly see coming towards us in our times now. This book may, border on prophetic. LOL

What about Lynne Thigpen’s performance did you like?

Probably one of the best, if not THE best reading I've heard.
Perfect presentation of the story.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

I wanted to listen to it all at once but, spread it out to make it last longer.

28 people found this helpful

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Dystopia before dystopia was cool...

Love, love narrator Lynne Thigpen. LOVE HER. While hers is plainly the voice of a mature woman and not a teenager, she perfectly channels Lauren’s “old soul” persona. A few reviewers have complained that she’s too slow, but poetry is not improved by speeding it up, and Thigpen’s reading is just that—pure poetry. Her voice is raw silk, and her pacing and inflections are perfection, adding layers of meaning to a single word of dialog. I hung on every sentence, every word, and was happy to be carried along at the story’s natural pace. Hungry for more of her work, I looked her up. It’s clear that she has been pigeonholed into only reading audiobooks with black protagonists, and a small number of those, which I think is a gross under-appreciation of her talents.

On its face, there’s nothing that extraordinary about the plot—it’s a classic dystopian/post-apocalyptic future story, in which a band of survivors travels a ruined country, fending off bandits and natural disasters, searching for a safe haven in which to build a secure new home. If any of it seems clichéd, bear in mind it was first published in 1993, before dystopia became trendy and the genre became so glutted.

Butler first sets the scene, in a grim near-future that’s all too easy to imagine- America’s (and perhaps the world’s--that is left purposely vague) economy and government have become moribund, leaving thousands unemployed, homeless and desperate. While familiar institutions like police and fire departments and federal and state governments still exist, they are ineffectual, and violence and vigilante justice have become the law of the land in most places. Lauren Olamina is one of the relatively lucky ones—a member of a shrinking middle class, living in an armed, walled neighborhood in the outskirts of Los Angeles, drifting closer to poverty every year as the times grow leaner, the climate grows drier, and the thieves outside grow more desperate. Blessed with a dream and a gift for oratory, Lauren leaves the smoking ruins of her home and sets forth with a gun, a few hundred dollars, two traveling companions, and little else but her own determination to survive. Adventure ensues.

It’s Lauren’s philosophical ideas, not the plot, that captivated me. Lauren, a young woman of passing vision and resolve, daughter of the neighborhood’s Baptist minister, has been observing the decline of society her whole life, and concluded at the tender age of 15 that the religion of her father has no place in this tempestuous new world. The idea of God as a sort of super-person in the sky who cares individually about every soul and patiently waits to hear and answer humanity’s prayers is patently false to her… and more importantly, of no real use in this world. Her parents’ generation are doggedly waiting and praying for the good old days to return, but Lauren knows praying to the old gods won’t help – any good times which may lie ahead will have to be seized and built anew by those of her own generation. She invents—or discovers, depending on your point of view—a new religion for the new world she is determined to build, and calls it EarthSeed.

The principles of EarthSeed are simple, but profound. Its most basic, most often repeated tenet is,

“All that you touch, you Change.
All that you Change, Changes you.
The only lasting truth is Change.
God is Change.”

This may seem strange to those who are used to thinking of God as a person, or at least a consciousness. But if one defines God as simply that ultimate, most pervasive truth in the universe over which no higher power or truth can be found to hold sway, it makes perfect sense. When Lauren was questioned by her traveling companions, she answered simply, “Then show me another force that is more pervasive than change.” Everything changes, even the universe itself. Nothing is immune.

Like some of the characters in the book, I question whether Lauren’s ideas are truly a religion—after all, her philosophy doesn’t attempt to answer any of those fundamentally unanswerable questions that are the unique province of religion, such as, “Where do we come from?” “Where are we going?” or “Why are we here?” And it doesn’t appear to facially impose a moral code of behavior, at least not as it’s developed in this book. However, at least one verse from the Book of the Living hints at a moral code:

“Any Change may bear seeds of benefit. Seek them out.
Any Change may bear seeds of harm. Beware.
God is infinitely malleable. God is Change.”

Lauren’s character and ideas appeal to me on many levels. At the age of 15, she had the strength of will to challenge and reject as false and useless the religion practiced by the person she loved and respected most in the world. That’s not an easy thing, and it takes some very deep convictions. Her religion, such as it is, appeals to me as an atheist because it doesn’t require belief in or worship of anything supernatural or mystical—it is quite simply an acknowledgment of and respect for a natural truth of the universe. It is immanent rather than transcendent. Most importantly, it’s useful and helpful both in Lauren’s world and ours. It recognizes the spark of divinity in each of us—we can all be agents of Change. We can all be mini-deities and alter reality to create better or worse outcomes for ourselves and those around us. And we are all subject to the power of Change, and we must be prepared to face the consequences of our behavior and our environment. In EarthSeed’s credo, to plan, build, work, support your community and be supported by it, prepare for change and be ready for it, are sacred acts, or as close to sacred as Lauren is willing to offer. I suspect I’ll be thinking about these ideas for a long time to come and pondering how they apply to everyday life in this world rather than Lauren’s.

80 people found this helpful

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Seeds among the Bitter Earth

This is the first half of Octavia Butler's Earthseed series. It is a coming of age story of a young girl surviving in a rapidly deteriorating world ravaged by unchecked corporate greed, open government corruption, and rampant crime. Rape, torture, and mutilation fairly common outside of walled communities. But not content to simply survive, our heroine grows a new religion, known as "Earthseed," to give hope to an almost hopeless world. Fair warning, this is the grimmest vision of the future I've read since The Road and this actually might be worse.

Also, special praise must be reserved for Lynne Thigpen. She is absolutely flawless in this production and I can't wait to listen to her again. Very highly recommended!

15 people found this helpful

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A dystopian vision of collapsed America

Lauren Olamina, a minister's daughter, lives in a gated community that falls prey to the violence and anarchy that's been eating away at the edges of civilization for years. It's a brutal novel, as everyone Lauren loves dies, and the deaths are often gruesome. Lauren herself suffers from a condition called hyper-empathy, which causes her to feel what people around her feel... a very bad thing when people around her are being attacked, raped, and killed.

But Lauren is anything but a fragile helpless character. She carries the seeds of a new religion, and she's been planning for the collapse since she was a child. This novel has a lot in common with similarly-themed SF where the protagonist is a "chosen one" destined to lead his or her people out of chaos and barbarism, except that no one has "chosen" Lauren. She's decided for herself that this is something she has to do.

The story takes us on Lauren's journey up the coast of California, as its highways are flooded with refugees and its cities burn (thanks in large part to a drug which turns people into psychotic pyromaniacs). What is most interesting is not Lauren's "adventures" (which are mostly just a series of tense encounters fraught with dangers, as she constantly has to weigh the need for allies against the hazards of trusting unknown people on the road) but the brutal laying bare of certain truths beneath our capitalist society. Lauren's father foresaw the coming collapse and tried to keep his family from being lured into company towns that were economic traps, but even he didn't foresee how bad things would really become. Lauren discovers that slavery is real, and has been real and common, right here in the U.S., for quite some time.

It's a cynical and pessimistic view of the future, but it's not far from how many people live today. Ultimately, the book gives some hope for the future, but there is certainly going to be more blood and tears along the way.

41 people found this helpful

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AMAZING Read!!!

This storyline was so enchanting and hypnotizing. I couldn't stop until I reached the end, and then grew upset because I wanted more, I went through every emotion, my eyes swelled up with tears more than once and despite the horrid conditions, there were moments I smiled in joy for Laura. This book makes you go into deep thought of social and environmental problems of today and what our future will look like if we continue. Amazing, amazing book. I must read more by Octavia Butler.

10 people found this helpful

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The Road meets the Celestine Prophesy

A lovely book and performance. Duskilly read and occasionally soft and tough to hear on a drive, but entrancing and worth stretching to listen.

I now want to read a Book Of The Living, and this book is responsible for that.

9 people found this helpful

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Wonderful, terrifying, riveting

A bleak and so very plausible vision of what our future might hold. Yet, hope is never lost. we can change. Change is everything. Wonderfully read.

7 people found this helpful

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Compelling, Inspirational, Smart Dystopian Tale

I loved the pacing of the performance, the narrator seemed to embody the character of Lauren Olamina. The imagery was engaging, and the geography tested my mental map of California (I've lived in both L.A. and the Bay Area). The theology of Earth Seed had me thinking of the Process Theology I've studied in classes.

Highly recommended Spec Fic!

7 people found this helpful

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A Bit Dark but Beautiful

This is the second book I have read by Octavia Butler. And I have to say that this one was darker than Kindred. This book was dark yet gripping.
This book is was written in a journal style of a teenager named Lauren Olamina. The only daughter of a neighborhood preacher in 2024, California. The world has changed and violence, poverty, hunger is everywhere. Did I say violence? Wheww! I had to take a minute and stop here and there due to the graphic nature of the violence in this book. I think I am kinda ok with a bad guy (character) getting murdered, raped, or burned but when it happens to children in a book it seems to take my breath away. And not in a good way. The violence in 2024 does not discriminate at all. Young, old, men and woman are victims in this book.
But for some reason I was hooked to find out what happens to Lauren in this desperate landscape. Lauren's dream of creating an Earthseed community builds up as she travels from her home to a new Northern community. This is the backbone and the silver lining in the book that keeps the reader interested. I found myself worrying for Lauren and the people she meets along the way.
I really enjoyed the thoughtfulness of Octiavia Butler's writing. As I was listening to the book I could sense Octavia was giving us a glimpse of the future with a dose of the extreme terrible on top. What would happen if the $4.00 a gallon gas jumped to $40.00 a gallon? I for one would have to quite my job. Then what?
If you have a strong constitution and can handle violence in all forms then you might find this a great read.

7 people found this helpful

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A good story, a little preachy

I can't decide if the author intends us to take seriously the religion developed by the main character. It's pretty lightweight stuff. But the tale of survival in 2025 California is entertaining. It's not America in the post-apocalypse, exactly, but in the middle of new Great Depression as it is becoming a corrupt violent dangerous capitalist country like Brazil or India.

Some of the dialogue is embarrassingly stilted--audio books bring that out, and the reader is very, very slow--I listened on my iPhone in 2x speed, and I do believe that helped the pace.

22 people found this helpful

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  • Kevin Brown
  • 01-20-21

Excellent excellent excellent

Fell in love with this book. I can't wait to read the next one.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Mrs. C. A. Wynne
  • 06-01-21

Post-Apocalyptic gloom

I enjoyed the narration and it vividly portrayed a post-apocalyptic society. I wanted more. But it was pretty bleak and not much hope or light in view...
Depends on your mood if you’ll enjoy this!

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  • Diane Severson
  • 05-02-21

Another meaningful novel by OEB

I have read several books by Butler and have been moved by them all. This is no exception. There are bits that are really hard to listen to, but it is ultimately hopeful. There is a fair bit about the religion the MC has “received”. It is always in context also serves to bring the group of stragglers encountered together. The initial set up is slow and seems more like slice-of-life than a plot, but then it morphs into a road trip, which gives the story more direction.

I will read the sequel soon.

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  • Isabel
  • 03-19-21

Beautiful reading of a powerful book

The reader is understated but all the more powerful for it. This story feels more timely than ever and a stark warning of what’s in store for us if we do t change our ways. But there is also real hope in it and such a beautiful account of the power of nature. Can’t wait to check out Parable of the Talent next!

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  • Claire
  • 03-08-21

The logical conclusion to unfettered late stage American capitalism

Powerfully written and narrated. A dark but very very real vision of the future if things continue as they are. Quite amazing that this was written in the 80s. Haunting, daunting and yet somehow hopeful. All the trigger warnings. Butler was a visionary.

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  • Amy
  • 07-29-20

This was written in 1993!!!

A very interesting and well constructed read. It touched on topics which are becoming more and more relevant to today's society. Octavia was way ahead of the curve on these insights. the book occasionally lost me with the slightly preachy tone it took when the main character went off on one about earthseed, but that could be the point. Definitely worth a read!

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  • PrinceOfCats
  • 04-05-20

Fantastic - my first Butler novel

This was a wonderful introduction for me into the world of earth seed! I’ve read short stories by Butler before but this is the first novel. I can’t wait to read more.

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  • Rose
  • 03-03-20

Exceptional. Can’t believe I’ve not listened to it before!

What an excellent writer. This is the first book of hers I’ve ever read but it won’t be the last. She’s so bold yet so subtle in her storytelling. The plot rips along like a blockbuster movie but it never feels contrived or unrealistic. The characters are beautifully drawn and the themes are nuanced, yet it’s pretty shocking and terribly exciting. Don’t listen before bed! One of the best audiobooks I’ve listened to in a while. The only downside is the terrible cover, which nearly put me off buying it!

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  • Georgina B.
  • 09-19-19

Beautiful story

This is an apocolyptic story of a young girl, personal and written with an incredible depth of thought of where our world might go one day in the not so near future. It has tragedy, tenderness, hope and promise delivered with a haunting reality. Gives one a lot to think about

I have am about to start Mrs Butler's Parable of Talents having just finished listening to this one. Can't wait.

The narration fit well with the subject and was pleasing in tone. Happily Recommended and am now a big fan of Octavia Butlers writing.

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  • jasmine
  • 08-25-19

Fantastic

I've been meaning to read more classics and Octavia butler lives up to her name as a literary master. Really enjoyed the story and finished this audio book 3 times as fast as I usually do. The voice actress also has a beautiful voice

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 02-27-21

A timeless, brutal classic

You'd think that a story that includes brutal violence, multiple horrific murders, cannibalism and heartbreaking slavery against a backdrop of global destruction and horrifying social collapse would be soul destroying but this is so beautifully told and the protagonist is such a queen that somehow it seems as though there might be some hope for us all. I can't wait to read the second book immediately.

1 person found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • SW TUBBS
  • 07-04-19

Doom and Gloom

The storyline is unending gloom and doom and as such, it is wearing on the listener.

1 person found this helpful

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  • MrMagoonz
  • 05-08-21

Dystopia

What a chilling yet timely novel. A view of the not too distant future of the USA. This is a more optimistic novel than The Road by Cormac McCarthy but was written many years before.

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  • Max Bladel
  • 02-10-20

Great book, Well read

Wonderful poignant book.
More relevant today than ever. Really puts you in the world of post crash California. Great thought experiment and worth the time for anyone who wonders what they’d do if civilisation as we know it collapsed.
Narrator has an expressive yet soothing voice and reads well.

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  • Kitty Hawkins
  • 01-28-20

Gut wrenching amd timely

A beautiful, brutal story about the break down of society. Especially prescient reading at the height of the Trump era.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 07-05-19

disappointed

disappointed that I purchased this it was not what I expected it to be like