Parable of the Sower (New York, 1993) by Octavia Butler is set in California and covers a period of three years, from 2024 to 2027. It is a grim nearfuture novel that exaggerates trends in American life that were apparent in the late 1980s and early 1990s, such as fear of crime, the rise of gated communities, illiteracy, designer drugs and drug addiction, and a growing gap between rich and poor. Climate changes brought about by global warming are also central to the novel.
The protagonist is Lauren Olamina, an African American girl who is fifteen years old when the novel begins. She lives in Robledo, about twenty miles from Los Angeles, which has become a walled enclave only partially protected from the rampant lawlessness and desperate poverty that exists beyond the walls of the neighborhood. When the enclave is completely destroyed by bands of arsonists and thieves, Lauren is one of the few survivors. She heads north, on foot, with a couple of companions in a perilous search for a better life.
Butler’s disturbing dystopia, written in the form of Lauren’s diary entries, is at once an adventure story, a coming-of-age story, and a thoughtprovoking exploration of some negative trends in American society that have become more pronounced in the decade that has elapsed since the novel was written.