I've had a mixed experience with Octavia Butler. I read Wild Seed years ago and really didn't like it, mainly because of the female character's passivity. After meeting B, he had me read Fledgling and I loved it. So when my sci-fi reading group picked Parable of the Sower I wasn't sure what to expect. Sower is about a teenage girl named Lauren living in California in a not-quite-apocalyptic future. She and her family live in a walled subdivision. Her father and a few others leave the compound to work but most people stay within the walls. They have to grow most of their food and while there is a government, it does little to help people or stop the hordes of homeless from preying on those with a home. Lauren feels the future of humanity is in the stars and begins writing the scriptures of her new religion, Earthseed. When the community is attacked, Lauren and a few others escape and begin making their way north to find work or a place to settle.
I both liked and didn't connect with this book. Strictly plot- and setting-wise I found the book to be scary and believable. The time Lauren spends on the roads is harrowing but you can see how she becomes the leader of their band. While I liked Lauren, I didn't understand the motivation behind the Earthseed scripture. As a strong atheist who was never a believer, I find it hard to connect with characters who feel a strong desire for religion and spirituality. It is a need I just cannot fathom. Overall though, this book is well worth reading. a 6.
I went on to read Kindred, which is Butler's most popular book. I really liked it. The main character, Dana, is an African-American 20-something married to a white man in 1976. She suddenly gets thrown back in time to save a young boy. By the third time it happens, Dana understands she's going back and saving her white ancestor. It explores race and how people lived during slavery, but also feminism and marriage and ties that bind us, for good or ill, to other people. I can't stop thinking about it! a 7.