Earthseed Series Review

60932I had never heard of Octavia Butler until I was assigned Dawn to read in a science fiction literature class I took in college. I read so much science fiction in that course, deeply enjoying most every one I read. I devoured Planet of the Apes, The Martian Chronicles (for a second time), and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Dawn is what affected me the most. That book got under my skin.

When I read Butler’s esteemed Kindred later on, I remember liking it but it was no Dawn. With Kindred, I could not revel in the same themes and penetrating ideas that Dawn had once offered me. Maybe I just liked Butler’s big science fiction worlds, not her more realistic stories. I was wrong.

The Earthseed series, consisting of The Parable of the Sower and The Parable of the Talents, seamlessly blends realism with the dread of the not so distant future. These novels play so well to a representation of our Earth that is popular in science fiction now: a desolate, barren world with the latest in technology. And it always feels too real. Just thinking about the wasteland of Mad Max: Fury Road becoming reality is terrifying, but with the way we continue to abuse our planet we know some version of this may be coming. That’s what Butler shows us in these books, but it’s more than just a destroyed land. The Parable of the Talents shot a dart right in the bullseye of present day America.

Butler’s world is only a few years ahead of ours, but it has so many allusions to the current political climate and eerie warnings of the future that it felt like reading Orwell’s 1984. No one is safe in America. Corporations are buying towns, people of all classes are struggling to get by, the literacy rate is pitiful, citizens must pay policemen for any kind of service, and a new president, preaching a good and Christian America is not doing anything to help. This president during his campaign uttered words that would send a shiver down my spine as I read them: “Help us to make America great again.”

While there aren’t overt threats of terrorism in these novels, President Jarret is interested in a Christianized America, one without the diversity of other separate religions, separate even from many sects of Christianity. This intolerance makes the life of the novels’ protagonist, Lauren Olamina, quite difficult. She has hopes to create this new religion called Earthseed. The reader thinks of Lauren as a sort of prophet because she speaks about Earthseed as certain truths she has been made aware of. She has compiled these together, creating Earthseed’s religious doctrine. The ultimate goal of Earthseed is to travel among the stars when you are still alive and make your new home somewhere out there in space. You don’t die, you just go to space to live your next life. It’s a pretty strange to religion and it’s exactly what President Jarret would consider a cult and call its followers witches.

The Parable of the Talents is the one that got under my skin most, like Dawn had. I really gravitate towards books that play with religion in interesting ways. But it’s the subtle warnings of what can easily become the state of our planet and our country.

The year has barely begun, but there are more than enough novel to real life similarities to cite.

Halts on funding concerning climate and the prominence of climate deniers.

The wall.

The travel ban.

Some of the intolerances of present-day U.S. seem to have reached their conclusion in The Parable of the Talents. People empowered under their own interpretation of President Jarret’s Christian America, seek change in horrifying ways. That’s something we saw after this January’s inauguration as well as after this past November’s election results were announced.

I don’t mean to bottle these novels into political propaganda at all. They are so much more than that. The best books reflect on those parts of ourselves that we don’t want to look at. Butler does that in novel ways that feel familiar. Butler implores us to be stronger than we believe ourselves to be, to choose kindness over hate. It’s amazing that anyone can be as strong as the characters in these novels, but we can certainly try.

“In order to rise
From its own ashes
A phoenix
First
Must
Burn.”

An Ode to Morning, Afternoon, Grocery Shopping, and Bar Hopping Commute

7916608184_0ecfb0087d_bMy recent move to New York City has caused a number of changes in my life. The sudden shock of living on your own and having to provide for yourself is arguably the greatest shift. In my day to day life, I am oh so aware of my reliance on public transit and its ability to transport me to a new world.

I knew that moving here meant giving up my car, and I couldn’t have been more excited. Don’t get me wrong I loved my years with my Prius, but mostly because it was my most sustainable option living in Miami. I dreamed about a day where I wouldn’t have to drive miles to that store or restaurant that I like. I couldn’t wait to skip the morning and afternoon rush hour to and from the office.

I hadn’t even thought about how this would impact my reading life.

Last year I was in a bit of a reading slump, as I have been during many periods in my life and I know many of my friends have been as well. My senior year of college involved studying hard, figuring out what the next step in my life would be, and getting my last fill of all of the wonderful people I got to know at university. So my reading fell by the wayside to make room for what I considered priorities at the time.

Even moving to New York and getting work in my career field of choice (yay!) didn’t catapult me into picking up various novels I had begun over the past year. My new life as a self-reliant adult had me pretty brain busy and I relied mostly on watching television for entertainment rather than reading. Especially after Netflix introduced their offline viewing and I realized I could fit a bite-size sitcom episode into my subway commute.

I finished watching all of Cheers and decided to pick up a book for my subway commute. It began with Dragonriders of Pern by Anne McCaffrey. It fit easily into my purse and because of its size and length I got through it pretty quickly. I started downloading longer form novels onto my Kindle and that really set a course for change. When I started joining a coworker for a quick 30 minute workout during lunch, I realized I could set the font size up and get some more reading in then too. And my trip to the grocery or meeting a friend in the city for drinks? Well my Kindle is already in my purse so might as well read then too. I just couldn’t put down the stories.

That’s one of the things I find about great stories. Even if you haven’t read for months or years, they can really set you back on a good groove of daily reading. Reading so often during those in-between times of my day influenced me to continue those stories at home and revive this blog and my love for book discussion. And just cause I’m reading more doesn’t mean I’m not watching Netflix. I still watch Netflix a ton, but I love indulging in all forms of media so Netflix will never really find its way out of my life. I’ve just found the ways to balance TV, film, books, art, and all the ways I bring outside knowledge to my life.

Get to Know Us

We’re new to the blogging thing so we thought you might want to get a sense of who we are before you commit to reading our stuff and being our friends. There should totally be screening processes before you start friendships right?

Let us know if we have the same favorites in the comments!

Diana’s Favorites

5 Films

  1. American Beauty
  2. It Happened One Night
  3. The Usual Suspects
  4. Before Sunrise
  5. The One I Love

5 Books

  1. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  2. The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  3. Dawn by Octavia Butler
  4. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
  5. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

5 TV Shows

  1. Gilmore Girls
  2. Twin Peaks
  3. Doctor Who
  4. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
  5. Twilight Zone

5 Places

  1. Barcelona, Spain
  2. Canterbury, England
  3. Boston, Massachusetts
  4. Oxford, England
  5. Seattle, Washington

David’s Favorites

5 TV Shows

  1. Firefly
  2. Pushing Daisies
  3. Community
  4. ATLA
  5. Doctor Who

5 Board Games

  1. Cosmic Encounters
  2. Castles of Mad King Ludwig
  3. Ticket to Ride
  4. Sushi Go
  5. Love Letter

5 Webcomics

  1. Gunnerkrigg Court
  2. Stand Still Stay Silent
  3. Johnny Wander
  4. xkcd
  5. Bad Machinery

5 Books

  1. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
  2. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
  3. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
  4. Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  5. Sabriel by Garth Nix