This post contains affiliate links you can use to purchase the book. If you buy the book using that link, I will receive a small commission from the sale.Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler, Damian Duffy
Illustrator: John Jennings
Published by Abrams ComicArts on July 6, 2021
Genres: Comics & Graphic Novels / General
Buy on Amazon, Buy on Bookshop
2021 Hugo Award Winner for Best Graphic Story or Comic
The graphic-novel adaptation of Octavia E. Butler's groundbreaking dystopian novel, Parable of the Sower, the follow-up to Kindred, a #1 New York Times bestseller
In this graphic-novel adaptation of Octavia E. Butler's Parable of the Sower by Damian Duffy and John Jennings, the award-winning team behind Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation, the author portrays a searing vision of America's future. In the year 2024, the country is marred by unattended environmental and economic crises that lead to social chaos. Lauren Olamina, a preacher's daughter living in Los Angeles, is protected from danger by the walls of her gated community. However, in a night of fire and death, what begins as a fight for survival soon leads to something much more: a startling vision of human destiny . . . and the birth of a new faith.
The graphic novel, Parable of the Sower, hit me in the gut and gave me a few bad dreams. I’m going to preface this review by saying, I don’t know if I was quite ready to read a dystopian graphic novel yet, considering the times we are in. I’ve been avoiding dystopian novels since March 2020.
Why I Read It
I have actually had the original version of Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler on my TBR for a while. I’d seen a recommendation for it for AP English literature and wanted to check it out on top of wanting to read an Octavia Butler book. My For You page on Tik Tok has generated a few comparisons of Butler’s novel to Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. Basically everyone was saying that if you are going to read one of the two, read Butler’s book because that dystopian world was more realistic. They also said if you were going to read both, then read Butler first.
So being that I am impatient. It’s the end of the school year. Plus, I also had the graphic novel adapted by Damien Duffy on my TBR. I chose the graphic novel of Parable of the Sower to read first so I could find out what all the fuss was about ASAP. I don’t know if I made the wisest decision. It’s going to take me a while before I read the original version.
One thing I do plan to do when I read the original version or Parable of the Sower is to make comparisons with the graphic novel. I’m curious to see which details were emphasized and which were left behind.
This book is tough. It is realistic. It is VERY close to home. Before I go further, there are trigger warnings for sexual assault, violence, and abuse.
Reinventing What It Means to Survive
Lauren Olamina is a resilient 15 year old Black teenager when the story begins. She lives in a world full of fear, economic hardship, drug addiction and numerous other dangers that lurk outside her gated community. Her community is gated because it is necessary for survival. Environmental crises like wildfires have created a dreadful dystopian landscape of urban wastelands. Skills like shooting, gardening and husbandry are vital for her community to survive.
Lauren’s father is a Baptist preacher, but in a world that Lauren is trying to cope with, she develops her own religion known as Earthseed. When she is forced from her home, she and several survivors band together as she shares her thoughts and ideas from her new religion.
Lauren also suffers from hyperempathy. A condition she has had from birth because of drugs her mother took. She physically feels the pain of others and must hide that fact so she doesn’t appear weak. Drugs have a huge impact on Lauren’s world. One drug causes people to crave fire, something that is deadly in the drought-ridden California setting.
Speaking of fire, in this world you have to pay for the fire department’s services. You also have to pay for the police. Everything that we take for granted as a community service has a monetary cost. With all of the crime in the book, I actually wondered what was the point of the police. Crime is too rampant for crime prevention and murder and robbery happens so often that it has become an accepted component of life.
The scary part is that the older adults remember a time when things were “normal.” They are still hanging onto hope even as the clock ticks closer to society’s complete downfall. Lauren has a different perspective because this is all she has known. She is ready to prepare herself not just for the present, but for the future. She knows that her little community will not last forever as conditions worsen.
The illustrations were excellent. Considering the often gruesome subject manner of what the characters are enduring, I thought it was done in a manner that didn’t go over the top. The colors were vivid. Considering that the novel is set in California and one of the greatest fears is fire, I thought the prominence of flame-inspired colors was an impactful choice. There are lots of browns, reds, and yellows.
Too Close to Reality
Overall, I thought this was a solid graphic novel. Would I have had a different reaction if I had read this in 2014 instead of 2022, two years before the events of the book take place? Maybe. When you get down to it, this book tackles race, environmentalism, economics, survival, abuse and much more. Poor people and people of color are disregarded and given fewer opportunities. Women are seen as a commodity. Corruption is rampant in multiple levels of the government. Natural resources come at a high price. The eerie proximity to truth is what makes this story such a scary, but important read.
Now that I have admitted that this book scared the boo boo out of me… Will I be reading the next graphic novel adaptation of Parable of the Talents when it comes out? Yup. Lauren’s story was good. I read this book in one day.
If you are into film and TV adaptations, Parable of the Sower is currently in the works for becoming a movie.
Looking for more book recommendations? Check out my June Reading Goals: Summer Love is in the Air