Parable of the Talents by Octavia Butler

Parable of the TalentsOK- so this is the second and final novel of Butler’s Parable books. The first is The Parable of the Sower and I’m 99% sure there are some old reviews of that in SMCM summer reading blogs past. It’s a great book. Check it out. But that’s that, and this is Parable of the Talents [published in 2000], which I recommend, but not nearly as lovingly as Parable of the Sower.

Really, all I am going to say about this book is this: it’s set in a near future dystopic world where people are poised to elect a boisterous, faux-religious, jingoistic non-politician that exploits American’s fears and bigotry. His name’s Jarrett, and his election slogan is (I’m not kidding):

“Help us to make America great again” (Butler 20).

Laura Oye Olaimina, the leader of the small community, Acorn, doesn’t trust this Jarrett fellow, and for good reason. Radical fundamentalists emboldened by Jarrett’s demagoguery soon enslave, torture, rape, and kill “heathens” and “witches.” Butler spares little detail in describing the monstrous actions of the “Christian Americans” (the self-given name of Jarrett’s followers) and, like Parable of the Sower, one could call large sections of this book outright grotesque and brutal. But like Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale or Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, the graphic violence and oppression are part of a larger social commentary that all good sci fi is engaged in.

I liked that this book calls into question some of the taken-for-granted goodness and laudable traits of characters we meet in Parable of the Sower, and that it doesn’t rehash all the same things (“tortured economies and ecologies”) that are highlighted in Sower. There’s plenty to delve into in considering religious extremists and demagogues.

Make reading great again! Read Parable of the Talents.

Availability: SMCM USMAI and COSMOS
Review Submitted by:  Shane D. Hall
Rating: Highly Recommended

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