Octavia Butler originally planned Parable of the Sower (1993)
as the first installment in a trilogy, but only one more novel in the
series—The Parable of the Talents—appeared
Parable of the Talents
shifts perspective from Lauren Olamina to that of Lauren's and Bankole's
daughter Larkin, who tells her own story and reconstructs the
life and career of her mother (from whom she was forcibly separated) from
diaries Lauren left behind.
Larkin's attitude to
her mother is conflicted by the fact that Acorn, the
founded by her mother (and Larkin's birthplace), was destroyed
by heavily armed Christian fundamentalists, who killed Bankole and other adults and kidnapped the
community's children to be raised under the
auspices of "Christian America," a new government whose president
resembles a mix of historical President Ronald Reagan (1980-88) and evangelical
leader Rev. Pat Robertson, who ran for president in 1988.
"Christian America" (the new nation's name) is the only culture Larkin remembers, but its
repressiveness, reproductive anxiety, and sexual exploitation—like
Margaret Atwood's famous fundamentalist dystopia
in The Handmaid's Tale
(1974)—make her curious about her mother, who continues
(off-stage) organizing Earthseed's underground resistance.
Larkin learns that Lauren has attempted several times to
find and liberate her. Eventually "Christian America" disintegrates under its own stresses, and by the
novel's end Earthseed has revived as an alternative community that is
staging spaceflights to other planets in the Solar System.
Parable of the Talents faces the challenge of most sequels—in this
case, offering the same combination of
Dystopian distress and survival plus social-commentary that
made Parable of the Sower compelling.
Talents partly solves this challenge by shifting
the story's grounds and expectations. The continuing stories of
Acorn, Earthseed, and Lauren are told from a distance. Instead of Parable of
the Sower's journeys
and open-air adventures, the action in Talents is
more psychological and reflective. As a result, this novel is less of a page-turner
than Parable of the Sower, but its truths feel more
authentic, thoughtful, and intimate.
Parable of the Talents won the 1999
Nebula Award for Best Novel. The Nebula Awards are the most prestigious
for Science Fiction, organized by the Science Fiction and Fantasy
Writers of America.