Octavia E. Butler’s science fiction tale, that follows a young woman of colour on her quest to understand herself, the ideas of god, and the destiny of humanity. Within pages of this novel, I was completely swept up in Butler’s storytelling style, her characters, and the world she created.
And here’s the thing, the world of 2026 and beyond that Butler delivers her readers to isn’t so far beyond where we are today, and is a believable looking piece of future forecasting, that would be terrifying if it came to pass. Wage slaves, drugs, disease, violence, racism, all of these things are with us today, so the leap to the reality Butler created isn’t a big step.
Lauren Olamina is the tale’s protagonist, living in a walled neighborhood with a community that realises it has to work together, to survive and thrive. Jobs are almost unavailable, and if they are, they only offer room and board, the poor, living outside the walls of tiny neighborhoods, are violent, doing what they can to survive, and a new drug has its addicts setting fires and reveling in it.
Through her journal entries, Lauren shares her life, her family, her preacher father, and her discovery of Earthseed a religion that posits that god isn’t a supernatural being, but is the change inherent in everything. Change affects everyone, and everyone affects it, it is the only constant, and can be shaped by humanity. A humanity that has a destiny, a destiny that should take us to the stars.
She believes in doing what is best for all, caring, compassion, all of which may have something to do with the fact that she suffers from hyper-empathy. She can feel others’ pain, and their pleasure.
When her neighborhood is burned to the ground, she begins a journey north, across California, anxious about the controlled state borders, roving gangs, and her travelling companions. She sees the way America has changed, thrown into contrast by the recall of one of her travelling companions, but also how so little of it had changed to those who had been living like that for their entire lives, suffering at the hands of racism and violence.
Through it all she attempts to share her thoughts about her beliefs, how she can see the change for better, if people can shape it as such, and how dangerous things are in a world where most people are only looking out for themselves, and corporations can own towns, and create and perpetuate wage slaves.
There are a wonderful collection of characters inhabiting Lauren’s world, and Butler makes it stunningly real, and despite the darkness that permeates the world there is the potential for change, for the better… God is change and change is god.