not too long ago and actually only got one fiction book: Parable of the Sower by Octavia E Butler. Butler has a reputation for writing really thoughtful science fiction, but I hadn't read anything of hers. Some of her books are even in part of my mother's huge sci-fi collection and I just never had a chance to touch any of it. But I read the summary on the jacket cover in the library, and decided that this would be a good start for her work.
It's a great piece of first person. The main character, Lauren Olamina, is writing in a journal, which is what the reader is experiencing. The gaps in time actually work in the narrative's favor. The style is not trying to hard to be a journal, which in some way I appreciate more. Having a main character that is a good writer is actually a better idea than some other sophomoric attempts I have seen before (including my own in the past).
The general story is about how Lauren is growing up in an hostile United States that becomes more and more fractured over time. Drugs and crime are rampant, and the only defense people have against violent drug abusers is to hide within communities. Early on Lauren realizes her community is going to fall apart, she doesn't know when but she does decide to plan. The first half of the book you're waiting for everything to fall apart merely because Lauren is convinced it will. As things get worse and worse you keep on thinking it will be on the next page, and when it finally does happen you still kicked in the face with it, it still feels sudden. Lauren's journey, and her ways to cope with a violent world along the old highways of the west coast, becomes even more enthralling, and the end is bittersweet and befitting for the dystopia Lauren has lived in.
I don't want to call this a review merely because I know I enjoyed a book when I actually finish it. I'm really good at starting a book and never feeling compelled to pick it up again. That was not a problem with Parable of the Sower. I had to stop myself from reading it so that I could sleep. What that really means is the pacing is excellent. Pacing is key for my enjoyment of a story, and if it's not at the right equilibrium you've lost me. Not so with this story.
I appreciate how thoughtful Butler is with characters, and her honest with how cruel humanity could be. Everyone wants a future like Star Trek, but to be honest it takes a long time and a lot of work and luck to get there. As much as I hope Butler's world in this book is not the future, I appreciated how realistic government reactions and individual responses were. Butler know people.
There is a sequel, Parable of the Talents, that I'm not as tempted to read. The ending to Sower was so good and perfect in my head that I kind of don't want to touch it. Maybe in the future I can be convinced of otherwise.