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`Download Kindle õ Parable of the Talents (Earthseed, #2) õ This Nebula Award Winning Sequel To Parable Of The Sower Continues The Story Of Lauren Olamina In Socially And Economically Depressed California In The S Convinced That Her Community Should Colonize The Stars, Lauren And Her Followers Make Preparations But The Collapse Of Society And Rise Of Fanatics Result In Lauren S Followers Being Enslaved, And Her Daughter Stolen From Her Now, Lauren Must Fight Back To Save The New World Order 4 and a half stars.I did not want to wait too long between my reading of Parable of the Sower and the sequel, Parable of the Talents The first book has a great momentum that made me very eager to find out the rest of Lauren s story even if the setting felt uncomfortably realistic.The manipulation of religion for the benefit of political advancement is something that has always been a huge problem for me, and when good speculative writers toy with that idea, it inevitably ends up freaking me out I m referring to The Handmaid s Tale , but also The Acolyte , which took that idea down a pretty terrifying road Using religion to exacerbate the worst sides of a group of people until they are riled up to the point where they forget their faith was supposed to be based on love and start hurting other people is the most egregious manipulation of a good thing I can think of The very word religion means to re link or re join it is supposed to bring people together, so as soon as it starts creating exceptions to ideas such as love one another , it s missing the point In the second book of her Earthseed duology, Octavia Butler drives that point home by adding two new voices to her narrative Lauren s husband Bankole, and their daughter Larkin Asha.We know early on that something terrible has happened to the small Earthseed colony founded by Lauren and her companion, and my interweaving her journal s, Bankole s notes and Larkin s own writing, Butler shows us a world that hasn t gotten better since the end of Parable of the Sower If anything, things have gotten much worse, and a hate mongering, religious fanatic new president works his followers into an increasingly violent frenzy I will not give any of the plot away, but this is a gripping story about resilience and survival in the face of oppression and destruction.I have to admit that I got kind of annoyed with the Earthseed gospel , or whatever you want to call those little poems and texts that punctuate the book There were fewer in Parable of the Sower , but here, it got on my nerves, as there are plenty and they are not especially well written, nor inspiring The religious system created by Lauren in and of itself doesn t really bother me, as it s based in practicality, and tangible reality things change constantly, and we must support each other through these changes That s a big fat duh for me, but I can also see why it bears repeating But her preachiness gets tiring, which is why this book is stronger for having than one narrator, who are well aware that Lauren s convictions were strong and important, but could also be rather grating Larkin s voice comes to balance out her mother righteousness with the wisdom of regrets and hindsight but also a certain admiration for the work done by this determined woman.The balance between hope and despair is not easy to maintain, but just as she did in the first tome of her duology, Butler doesn t let her readers sink, no matter how bleak things get In fact, as hard as it can be to read sometimes, it is also strangely comforting to think of Lauren s perseverance and strength.Does it freak anyone else out that Butler wrote this in 1998 Not unlike the aforementioned Handmaid s Tale , this work of fiction s prescience is alarmingly accurate we are currently experiencing the slow erosion of the world as we knew it, and we have no idea what the next few years have in store for us And her President Jarret might have brain cells to rub together than Trump does, but the tone is eerily alike I did find the way Lauren perceives Jarret s supporters, and what ultimately motivates them very interesting there are very thought provoking parallels to be drawn between them and a certain segment of American voters Just as good as its predecessor, this book is a must read, now than ever. God is change.Thus is presented Octavia Butler s brilliant and brutally powerful 1998 Earthseed novel Parable of the Talents.Taking its title from the Biblical parable from St Matthew, Butler describes a near future dystopian American society that has been decimated by apocalypse, The Pox, and is unraveling along socio economic and theological lines.Religion as powerSome religious critics will see this novel as an attack on religious fundamentalism, most specifically Christian extremism, as horribly exemplified by Christian America CA Crusaders Certainly, Butler s attack is focused on a Christian organization, but she is revealing a primary problem with lowest common denominators in fear and trembling before an angry God, and His hypocritical followers.Andrew Steele Jarrett, reminiscent of Berzelius Buzz Windrip, from Sinclair Lewis s 1935 It Can t Happen Here and also Robert A Heinlein s Nehemiah Scudder, is a populist, jingoistic preacher turned politician who is elected president and helps to transform the already fatally injured nation Under Steele s rule, the novel s protagonist Lauren Olamina, suffers dreadfully, as does the country.There is an old saying that religion has caused wars than anything else in history I ve never really believed that, it seems like land, money or power is always the real underlying cause In college, a professor taught us how the American Civil War was caused by cotton and the economics of cotton production rather than slavery and states rights War is caused by many factors, and frequently with a dogmatic face such as religion, nationalism or racism to provide an idealistic front.Steele s black clad crusaders made me think of the black clad and masked fundamentalist extremists we see on television these days as they behead orange clad victims Butler is showing us how nationalistic and religious fronts can hide gross and deplorable moves for power by playing on inner fears and prejudices.Religion as a spiritual movementButler describes a movement created by and championed by the protagonist Lauren Olamina Earthseed Comprising her writings in The Books of the Living and in her model community Acorn, Earthseed comes from the idea that the seeds of all life on Earth can be transplanted, and through adaptation will grow, in many different types of situations or places The Books of the Living is chosen in direct contrast to many other religions use of the phrase The Books of the Dead Earthseed, as defined by Olamina is a religion of the present and the future, of the living, not of the dead or the past partially from Wikipedia While Earthseed, as beginning in the American Pacific coast, is categorically opposed to the Christian America movement of President Steele, Butler s philosophy is a posthumanist statement intending and anticipating a radical change and a paradigm shift in the course of human evolution.Butler describes organized religion as hypocritical, corrupt and focused on worldly and individual power rather than eternal salvation or harmony Earthseed, by contrast is shown as a practical, if harsh, means to an end eschewing the religious structures and conventions of the past.Post Apocalypse Dystopian posthumanismSimilar in theme and scope to Arthur C Clarke s magnificent novel Childhood s End, Butler chooses to set her narrative close in time much of the action takes place in the 2030s Like much of Philip K Dick s work many now set in the recent past this decision creates a theatrical tension with the reader who is able to identify closely with the events in the novel This type of setting is in stark contrast to science fiction settings far, far in the future where speculative fantasy can have a freehand in developing the plot Butler, like Dick and Clarke I m shameless interprets her vision of the future through a glass darkly.A powerful, sometimes painful, journey through endurance, determination and ultimately atonement.
Much More Than Sci FiNeither nor the Library of Congress has a classification in which The Parable of the Talents fits easily So it typically gets dumped into science fiction by default But while the book does take place in the future, and extrapolates some of the possible consequences of things like climate change and computer controlled weaponry, there is nothing unrecognisable as probably existing on somebody s drawing board, somewhere There is certainly no typical sci fi bending of the rules of Newtonian physics, or speculation about time travel, or revolutionary technology The Parable of the Talents is in fact, as the title suggests, a work of theology, specifically political theology, the study of the link between community and individual belief And although it overtly criticises evangelical Christianity, particularly the militant American brand, its target is really the monotheistic religions of the world notably Judaism, Christianity, and Islam not because they are monotheistic but because they are dogmatic, and consequently sectarian, and therefore useful for political manipulation, especially in modern democracies The tale that Butler spins in 1998 is eerily prescient of not just Donald Trump and his collusion with the American evangelical Right, but of Vladimir Putin s manipulation of Russian Orthodoxy and any number of Muslim politicians tactics from Turkey to Indonesia Monotheism, at least in its dogmatic forms, is clearly susceptible to political co optation from Moses to Constantine to Khomeini It may not be obvious to those outside the theological community that the great monotheistic religions are heresies of each other All other religions are merely pagan The Christian Trinity is a polytheistic heresy to Judaism and Islam Muslim views of Jesus are variants of the Arian heresy of the 3rd century Jewish rejection of Jesus as than a not untypical rabbinic preacher is also a heretical rejection of the Christian doctrine of supersessionism which claims that the Christian Church is the true Israel The theological complexity of all dogmatic religion is such that each of these distinguishing heresies, as it were, promote further differences and ultimately conflicts and schisms within each major religion ad infinitum Butler is acutely aware of the role of monotheistic religion in the creation of her American dystopia, and in its reconstruction Her main character is descended from a fundamentalist Baptist minister her brother is a congenital religious fanatic It is the diversity of dogmatic views that has caused, in the first instance, the disintegration of the American polity, and is, in the second, the rationale for the election of a dictator and the violent persecution of all who do not the doctrinal position of this Trump like figure and his sympathisers.The spine of the novel, introducing each chapter and referred to continuously throughout, is the new faith of Earthseed, which is the invention or, if you prefer, the revelation, of the protagonist as an antidote to dogmatic monotheism and its consequences There are historical allusions to Ann Lee, the Shaker leader who brought that proto feminist faith of Northern England to America, and to Carl Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist, whose life long concern was the primal religion that appears perennially throughout the world in various symbolic manifestations But the main influence on Butler is clearly the so called Process Theology that was developed originally by Alfred Whitehead and Charles Hartshorne in the 1920 s and 1930 s The central insight of Process Theology, one can hardly call it a dogma, is that it is an essential attribute of God to affect and be affected by temporal processes Although not consistent with some developed theology, this insight is not at odds with the fundamental scriptures of any of the monotheistic religions, which all present an acting, feeling, mutable God who apparently learns about human beings as they learn about Him Process Theology does not deny various monotheistic tenets such as divine eternity, omnipotence or even the immutability of the core of God, as it were It just doesn t care about these dogmatic issues.Butler presents her theology in the form of a poem which develops as her story unfolds, a poem that Whitehead and Hartshorne would not, I am sure, be ashamed to have written A single verse is enough to give the substance of the piece All that you touch You change All that you Change Changes you The only lasting truth is Change God is Change Change for Butler is not a fetish such as that proposed by current day management consultants and psychological improvement merchants Change is simply that which is inevitable and necessary for life, divine as well as human We shape change which shapes us This includes of course the shape we mould God into, which certainly in turn affects the shape we assume.The fashion for Process Theology comes and goes with hemlines, but it has become an abiding force in academic religious thinking and affects many of the mainstream schools of theological thought The fact that it is a somewhat esoteric discipline means that its relevance for practical affairs isn t immediately apparent Quite apart from its literary value, which is considerable, Butler s work is important because it makes explicit both a fundamental issue in American, indeed modern European and Middle Eastern, society, namely the religious foundation of national unity, and a way in which that issue can be dealt with in an intellectual but practical way For this achievement alone her brilliance must not be under appreciated. The Bible s Parable of the Sower talks about seeds Seeds need to fall on good earth in order to grow into majestic trees Butler s Parable of the Sower told a similar tale The seeds of a new religion need to find fertile minds.The Bible s Parable of the Talents talks about talents that get buried in earth These hidden talents don t grow but become pointless and represent a significant waste Butler s Parable of the Talents told a seemingly totally unrelated tale Parable of the Talents continues the story of the birth of a religion and its evolution into a way of life, Earthseed Where its predecessor, Parable of the Sower , was set in a society damaged by chaos, violence and poverty, this installment looks at how the seeds of a religion fare under a biblically inspired totalitarian regime set on reinstating law and order.StyleThis book is written in the form of a diary and employs the exact same style as the first in this duology, bringing the same problems with it The protagonist has the propensity of distancing herself from what occurred to her through her diary writing as a way of self therapy Regardless of how therapeutic this kind of factual representation of events can be, it doesn t necessarily ensure an engaging read The experiences lived through make for a truly interesting story, but the tone just isn t there in order to sympathise with the person you re meant to be sympathising with.NarratorsThere is a silver lining however Where the first part of the series was a monologue of Lauren Olamina, new narrators are brought into this volume For starters, Lauren s husband gets a couple of pages and so does one of her brothers, but these contributions are so small they re actually quite pointless in hindsight The star narrator of this book is Olamina s daughter She provides a completely new and fresh perspective, which is not surprising considering she grew up without and far away from her mother This voice gives the reader a breather from Lauren s self indulgent narrative and, for those like me who had difficulties relating to the self declared Messiah, a voice of reason one could relate to A frightening futureHaving read the interviews with Octavia Butler at the end of the books, the main aim was to give an idea of the challenges that come with starting up a new religion This was done reasonably well, and basically boiled down to not knowing where to begin and looking for peoples support Because a story needs flesh than that, complications were thrown at it, in the form of chaos in the first book, and in the form of oppression in the second This added color came to dominate the central theme, however, and the main thing I praise in the Earthseed series is the dystopian setting it depicts The oppressive regime, the way it came about and operates was described supremely well, not just in its viciousness but especially in how close to home it all sounded Those who have been following my updates got a taste of how eerily close to reality these descriptions sometimes were A new religionThe reason Earthseed and her Messiah were so easily overshadowed is not only due to the strength of the dystopian element, I m sorry to say I can imagine it s not easy to come up with a new religion, but Earthseed and its cursed verses never said anything substantially new, insightful, or substantial That might be my fault, due to a personal difficulty with relating to abstract ideas which also hindered a pleasant experience with Hesse s widely lauded Siddharta As in Hesse s work, there s a lot of circular reasoning, wordplay hinting at symmetries and interconnections between lofty ideas, resulting in the equivalent of a rose scented burp There s a vague sense of something nice in there, but the actual flower is nowhere to be seen Every chapter starts with a verse like the one below We have lived before.We will live again.We will be silk,Stone,Mind,Star.We will be scattered,Gathered,Molded,Probed We will liveAnd we will serve life.We will shape GodAnd God will shape usAgain,Always again, Forever.To me, that sounds like a heap of drivel A big bag of airy nothing Not only does each chapter start with it, but there are numerous references to these verses throughout the story itself I think there s a little less than twenty verses in total over the two books, but they are repeated ad nauseam, ensuring that even the acceptable and inspiring poems made me sick in the end Again, I don t blame Butler for not having come up with a great new religion, but it made the whole thing harder to relate to, especially if, aside from the religion s fanatic founder, you see people in the book vehemently cling to these words and make them their own This led me to underestimate Butler herself for a while because she seemed to take herself and Earthseed too seriously In Butler s universe, universities and other intellectual societies were enraptured by the verses, giving the impression that not only Butler s protagonist but also the author herself was seemingly proud of those pompous poems Thankfully, as the story progresses, criticism on the religion grows and takes the same tone as the one in my mind I don t believe in Earthseed It s just a lot of simplistic nonsenseThe person uttering these words later goes on to become a missionary for Earthseed without any explanation for the change of heart, but fine, at least that wall between me and the author was broken for a bit The introduction of voices different to that of Olamina was what saved Butler s story in my view, and especially the daughter s voice further helped break down that wall and my image of an author who takes herself too seriously.CharactersAs this is a story about the birth and growth of a religion, it should also be about people touched by it, characters fighting against it At least in my book But not in this one It tries, but it fails And that s another element where Octavia Butler s Parables lose much of their appeal for me there are very few characters you can relate to There are a lot of names to plow through Olamina meets a great many people I guess that comes with the job but almost none of them left a mark Scores of people important to Olamina die and disappear, but it s all told in such an overwhelming context and in such a dispassionate way the emotional weight of these events falls short of what was intended Another orphan got raped A mother watched her husband die A girl is slowly tortured to death Oh well, nothing a little verse can t help us to deal with Purpose and powerAt its strongest, it s a story that brings up a lot of questions with regards to religion In essence it shows one religion at the height of its power in the form of a totalitarian regime that controls a whole society, on the other hand it shows a fledgling religion that exists only of ideals, fragile and easily crushed It s rather natural to sympathise with the latter, yet you can see how both are similar in potential and purpose Some interesting take aways People will follow people who seem to know where they re going.Emphasis on the seem , right Earthseed will force us to become than we might ever become without it.A great pick up line, apparently also valid for religions People need purpose as much as I need to give it to them.The protagonist s line of thinking and the cause of many problems, in my view Everyone looks for purpose Sources of inspiration aside, I tend not to outsource that quest, but many do That s where religion comes in That s where power comes in If you allow your purpose to be defined by others, you essentially become their slave I find it striking how such a deeply personal thing as purpose tends to be socialised, politicised, religionised, time and again These all seem like mechanisms that boil down to the same thing purposes being force fed to one another This story shows perfectly how, with good intentions, this all can come about ConclusionPros of this book are definitely there the setting, the idea of telling this kind of story and the questions it provokes Weaker points are the main narrator s voice, the aggravating repetitions of lofty verses and the lack of a connection with any of the characters These all come together in what became a mildly enriching, sometimes entertaining but ultimately mediocre reading experience The Destiny of Earthseed is to take root among the stars. I hope 3 will be enough.