Book Review – Parable of the Sower

I read Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler at the same time I was reading Station Eleven (review here), a pairing that made for some strange parallels. Both books contain a near-future dystopia where the characters live under a constant threat of violence in a world plagued by scarcity and competition for resources.

This is the second book that I have read by Octavia Butler (the first was Kindred, which I have not reviewed yet but was one of the best books I read in 2021) and is the first in a series of two books known as the Parable (or Earthseed) series. At the time of her death, the author had been at work on a third book in this world. Parable of the Sower was nominated for a Nebula Award in 1995.

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Here is the blurb:

Lauren Olamina and her family live in one of the only safe neighborhoods remaining on the outskirts of Los Angeles. Behind the walls of their defended enclave, Lauren’s father, a preacher, and a handful of other citizens try to salvage what remains of a culture that has been destroyed by drugs, disease, war, and chronic water shortages. While her father tries to lead people on the righteous path, Lauren struggles with hyperempathy, a condition that makes her extraordinarily sensitive to the pain of others.

When fire destroys their compound, Lauren’s family is killed and she is forced out into a world that is fraught with danger. With a handful of other refugees, Lauren must make her way north to safety, along the way conceiving a revolutionary idea that may mean salvation for all mankind.


This is not a happy book, but Lauren Olamina somehow manages to persevere and exists in this story as a reluctant hero. Her struggles are chillingly realistic and believable. Her vision for an Earthseed community and an ultimate destiny for mankind is remarkable from where she begins.

While reading this book, I was surprised at how many of the themes — social inequality, drug abuse, climate change, authoritarianism, labor issues — are still relevant (and perhaps more relevant) today, almost 30 years after its publication.

Despite the grim themes, Parable of the Sower did paint a hopeful outlook for society. I enjoyed reading this novel and plan to continue on with the sequel soon.

Have you read any of Octavia Butler’s work? Let me know in the comments above.

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Book Review – The Ten Thousand Doors of January

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow is a book that intrigued me when it was first released in 2019. I finally had a chance to read it, and it is the best book I’ve read so far in 2021.

In the early 1900s, a young woman searches for her place in the world after finding a mysterious book in this captivating and lyrical debut.

In a sprawling mansion filled with peculiar treasures, January Scaller is a curiosity herself. As the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, she feels little different from the artifacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored, and utterly out of place.

Then she finds a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds, and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure and danger. Each page turn reveals impossible truths about the world and January discovers a story increasingly entwined with her own.

This book can be described as a portal fantasy – where Doors open into other worlds and the story follows the characters who travel through them. Yet it is also more than this and is not a simple adventure through one such Door. The novel is written as a book within a book, with January reading sections of the strange book from the blurb as she explores her own glimpses of these worlds. It becomes more complicated than that, but I don’t want to spoil how this book evolves as you learn what is going on.

The characters were believable and January has to struggle through situations made worse by her race and gender. Every time she is told to “know her place” I wanted to slap someone. But she has friends who stand by her side through everything, and her dog, Bad, who never willingly leaves her side.

The Ten Thousand Doors of January was nominated for both the Nebula (2019) and Hugo (2020) Awards, as well as the World Fantasy Award and Locus Award for Best First Novel. I’m sure this book will end up as one of my favorites for 2021.

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