In this post-apocalyptic novel, there is not single earth shattering apocalyptic event. Instead, there is just a gradual breakdown of society brought about by climate change, corporate greed and social inequality (all interrelated anyway). Lauren Olamina is a relatively privileged teenager living in a small walled enclave. She’s privileged in that she has a home, her father still has a job with a salary, and she knows how to read and write. This is not much, but compared to the thousands, or maybe millions of homeless poor outside a few walled enclaves, this is a lot. Their community is small and there are some unlikeable characters, but they are close and have not yet succumbed to the barbarism, looting and killing outside the walls. Lauren’s father is a preacher, a professor and the leader of their community. She has a stop mother and little brothers, a boyfriend, and friends. But she has some ideas that go beyond the confines of their walls, and a debilitating condition that she keeps secret, and that makes her different.
The novel has a before and after. Before is the setting up of the world, and the preparations leading up to the destruction of Lauren’s community. The after is Lauren’s and some other survivors’ travels to find a safe haven. A running theme towards the whole journey, from the before and the after, is Lauren’s development of a religion that she hopes will guide them into making a life on the destroyed earth, and take their descendants to the stars.
It has been quite a while since I last read a book until 4AM. Age and eye problems prevented me from doing that. But this one, I could not put down. There are a lot of ideas and events that seem to be applicable of prescient to American society these days. There is certainly a lot of commentary on the black experience. But not being from there, i don’t feel I’m very qualified to talk about it. I think I learned a lot, and it offered a good perspective. On the other hand, the story also works purely as a post-apocalyptic adventure, a genre that I am very partial to. It is very dark and there is a lot of death and some gore. Considering how much of a post-apocalyptic, speculative fiction fan I am, I am ashamed to admit that this is my first Octavia Butler read. I am excited to read the sequel and all her other books. Suggestions as to the next one?