March 7, 2021

Review: Parable of the Sower

Parable of the Sower Parable of the Sower by Damian Duffy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the graphic novel adaptation of one of the late Octavia E. Butler's best books, done by the same team who adapted her masterpiece Kindred. I'll admit, I wondered how the adaptors would approach this. Parable of the Sower, the novel, is written in a journal format and as such has a lot of interior monologue to establish the characters/setting and tell the story. But the graphic novel format actually proved to accommodate this rather well, especially in the first half. The creative team lifted most of the dialogue from the book, of course, but the snippets of description in the individual panels come directly from the original text as well. (The only quibble I have with this is that the overall red/brown color scheme sometimes makes those snippets hard to read, but that's the fault of my aging eyes, not the artist and letterer.) I also liked the incorporation of many of Lauren's Earthseed verses in the panels, so the reader can get a good idea of the effect of this religion/faith/philosophy the protagonist is developing in this crappy future.

Speaking of the book's crappy future, once Lauren is burned out of her walled enclave and is forced to go on the road, the art really brings Butler's dystopian societal collapse to life. Her world is prophetic in many ways--not perfectly, of course, such decades-old extrapolation never is--but the presidential candidate vowing to "Make America Great Again" and the earthquakes and fires sweeping California are rather too on-the-nose for my comfort. But then again, Octavia E. Butler is not a comforting writer, and never intended to be. I can see this world, or one very like it, happening all too easily in our reality (although perhaps not due to the drugs Pyro and Paracetco so much, but climate change). Butler knew when she imagined this future that its greatest burdens would be borne, as always, on the backs of black and brown people. I'm glad for the resurgence and renewed interest in her work, and still angry--as I know many others are--that this genius was taken from us all too soon.

But we've still got this excellent adaptation of her work for a new generation. It doesn't take away from the original novel, but expands on it. Reading both is well worth your time.

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