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This entry is handicapped by lapse of time. Most of these Butler blog posts have been written within a couple of days of finishing the book, and before reading the next one. This one got away. I finished it before Swecon in mid-June, and reading Fledgling since has undoubtedly influenced it, so it is not getting quite the standalone review it deserves.


Published by yet another new (for first edition) publisher, Seven Stories Press, "a novel" from the author of and five years after Parable of the Sower in 1993. The blurb credits all eleven previous books, specifying a previous Seven Stories edition of PotS. I have the beautiful first edition of PotT, and the publsiher tells me it "...celebrates the usual Butlerian themes of alienation and transcendence, violence and spirituality, slavery and freedom, and separation and community, to astonishing effect..."

The story is told in two voices: Lauren Olamina's journal gets most of the words, continuing the story from PotS; but with each section introduced by her variously-named daughter interjecting from an adult and divergent perspective. Both views are partial.

In PotS the Earthseed community led by Olamina established a fledgling village. In PotT the community first prospers, and is then destroyed, and Olamina loses almost everything. At the start of the book we find out immediately that she has a daughter. At the end we know about both lives, and the relationship between them.

I read this book as conceived in anger.

Butler is angry with Olamina and her idealism and her previous easy ride: she destroys the first Earthseed community; puts Olamina through hell (again, and this time it is more personal); and makes her spend her lifetime doing her early-life's work all over again.

Butler is angry with the brutality and hypocrisy of religion, and of men. And I mean men, not human beings. Female evil is notable by its absence from the book. (Are there any women at all among the group who invade Acorn?)

Butler is angry with the United States of America: As a polity it fosters brutality and hypocrisy and persecution of the powerless, but prospers despite allowing these elements to flourish and never holding them to account. There is no enforcement of the laws that protect Olamina's people and property in this United States.

But above all Butler is angry at the family.

Family - born or made - has been the focus of Butler's stories since the beginning. The Patternists make and break their families at Doro's or Mary's behest, and cannot rear their children in safety, but in doing so they do not betray each other. The proto-Clayarks need each other and feel an urgent need for each other. Kindred is in part an attempt to understand how members of a family can betray each other and still live together. The Tlic and the Oankali work with Humans to create mixed-species families that reconcile their differing interests in pursuit of survival. (And I'll discuss Flegling in the next post.)

Here in PotT is the family whose members betray each other and itself, and cannot live together. Here is the father who is absent, the mother who cannot nurture her child, the brother who cannot support his sister, the daugher who cannot love her mother. And these are not temporary betrayals: these are permanent; they cut very deep and the wounds cannot be healed. Butler is angry with all of them: father, mother, brother, sister, daughter. And finds nought for their comfort or for hers in community or religion or polity.

And perhaps Butler is angry at herself too. Perhaps she got very caught up in Earthseed, and thinking that she could rely on family and community to be part of her solution for the future.

There are no easy answers here. Butler writes out much of her anger through the book, and at the end there is a grudging acceptance that things are as they are: recovery without justice; hope without foundation; surivival without reliance on family as its bedrock.

This is Butler's 'If':

"Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools"


Caroline M

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